If you’re a marketer, you’re likely juggling several tasks at once such as feeding the sales funnel, increasing brand awareness, driving engagement, and creating valuable content pieces. And if you use email as part of your marketing program (and I seriously hope you do), you have likely been solicited by companies that want you to buy an email list.

In this post, you’ll learn why buying or renting email lists:

  1. Won’t help you achieve your marketing goals
  2. Could get your email account shut down
  3. Damages your sender reputation, decreases recipient engagement, and negatively impacts your sender score

Sounds scary, right? Don’t worry; there are plenty of alternative email marketing list building strategies you can use to grow your email lists that are covered in this post too!

Purchased vs. rented email lists

A purchased email list comes with email addresses, names, and potentially additional data about people who have opted in to receive affiliate emails at some point in time. A rented email list is one that the owner has complete control over. The renter never actually sees or enters into his or her email list but rents for a predetermined amount of time.

Both purchased and rented emails lists are offered by companies that claim to have thousands of “legitimate” emails that can help you create more leads and make more money. And it’s as easy as entering in your credit card.

But like most things in life, taking the easy way out rarely benefits you in the long run.

1. You won’t achieve your email marketing goals

Ask yourself what you hope to achieve with a purchased email list. Are you trying to increase engagement and drive more leads? If so, purchasing an email list often has the opposite effect.

Purchased or rented email lists almost always consist of low-quality emails (often including incorrect or out of date contact information). These contacts may have, somewhere along the line, checked a box that they were OK with receiving emails from affiliate businesses.

But, these people have not specifically verified that they want to receive emails from your business or organization.

This is a problem for a couple of reasons:

1) If somebody receives an email that they’re not expecting, they’ll likely ignore it or worse–complain. Now you’re annoying recipients and damaging your sending reputation.

2) A poor reputation will lead to decreased inboxing and can even put you on a deny list which means your emails will not be delivered.

It’s tough to meet your marketing goals if no one sees your content. And it’s not always the inbox providers (Gmail, Yahoo!) that stops you.

2. Reputable ESPs will shut down your account

Email Service Providers (ESPs) can’t follow through on business promises like having the highest possible delivery rates if some of their senders are sending email to a purchased email list. If you’re not sending email through a dedicated IP and sending high volumes of email, you’re likely sharing your IP with several other email senders.

So, if one email sender is put on a deny list or has a low sender score, this affects all other senders on shared IPs. And so ESPs, including SendGrid, don’t allow email campaigns to be sent to purchased email lists.

There are a lot more details that explain why this is the case that is covered extensively in our 2022 Email Deliverability Guide.

3. You damage your sender reputation, engagement, and online presence

Every email domain has a reputation that can be scored and here’s how you can find out how your email program fares. Even if you can still send email after you’ve sent emails to a purchased list, many times purchased email lists also include emails that have long been shut down or are just plain fake.

Email addresses known to be old and unused (i.e., have not given permission to receive email) are known as a spam trap. When email is sent to them, it’s a clear indicator that the sender is spamming and almost always results in the sender landing on a deny list.

Make sure you’re not sending email to spam traps by educating yourself about how to avoid them.

Even if you avoid falling into a spam trap, your engagement rates will likely plummet after you send an email campaign to a list that includes purchased emails. This is a compounding problem for your email program because decreased engagement rates will negatively impact your sender score and make it even harder for even engaged recipients to receive your emails.

Grow your email list from scratch

Don’t cave to the temptation to purchase an email list! Not only is the practice dangerous, but there are better alternatives out there that improve your sender reputation, help you reach the right people, and convert more leads.

Starting an email list from scratch isn’t easy, but it sure beats the consequences of buying or renting a list. Plus, beyond legal regulations and brand reputation protection, build a list also gives you a genuine opportunity to create profitable relationships with your customers and prospects.

Generate irresistible content

First, you’ll need to consider ways you can provide additional value in the form of content. Think about guides, blog posts, case studies, or downloadables that your audience would be willing to trade their email address for.

Create multiple places for people to sign up for your email list

Give your audience multiple opportunities to sign up for your email list. These could be homepage forms, page-specific add-ons, footers, pop-ups, sidebars, or even social media CTAs. Check out our 12 Tried-and-True Email List Signup Forms and Tips article for more ways to organically grow your email list.

Drive traffic to your signup forms

Most of your audience won’t randomly stumble upon your signup forms—you’re going to need to drive them there. That could be through webinars, SMS campaigns, paid social ads, PPC, SEO, or more. Use a variety of marketing channels to drive traffic to the irresistible content you’ve created.

Nurture your subscribers

Gaining a subscriber is just the first step—now it’s time to nurture them. That means you need to anticipate, plan, and execute a journey for each of your subscribers that takes them from prospect to customer to repeat customer.

First, welcome your new subscriber in the best way possible with a stellar welcome email. This email will set the tone for all the emails you send, so kick things off on the right foot with a well-branded, friendly, and helpful email. Don’t worry about making a sale yet—focus on creating a relationship with your subscribers.

Deliver value

Don’t focus on making a sale—prioritize providing value. You’re going to need to give away things for free in order to make a sale down the road, and those things could be:

  • Information
  • Expert advice
  • Laughs
  • Behind-the-scenes
  • News
  • Downloadables
  • And more

Give your subscribers a reason to open every email and stay far away from the unsubscribe button.

Provide an email preference center

An email preference center will help you maintain a healthy, engaged list. Your subscribers may want to receive less (or more) emails or different content—let them choose with an email preference center rather than a flat-out unsubscribe.

Preference centers also take much of the guesswork out of your segmentation by allowing your subscribers to do the customized segmenting on their own. If possible, allow your subscribers to set their email preferences from the get-go in your welcome email or other initial interaction.

Maintain your list

The quality of your list isn’t determined by its size—it’s determined by factors like engagement and deliverability. Over time, you’ll need to remove subscribers from your list if they stop engaging and don’t respond to re-engagement tactics. Follow these 5 list hygiene tips to keep your email list clean and in tip-top condition.

Before your deliverability begins to be impacted, ensure you’re following all the email deliverability best practices. Download the latest copy of our Email Deliverability Guide to make sure you’re up-to-date on the latest practices and regulations.

Use a reliable Email Service Provider (ESP) 

If you don’t have the resources for a dedicated IP, it’s important to use an ESP that holds high standards and kicks out bad actors who send spam email. That way, you won’t be putting trust in strangers’ email programs and tactics.

For a deeper dive into how you can grow a healthy email list or if you’re ready to build an organic, high-engaging email list, download our guide to learn how to authentically build your email list.

As a senior content marketing manager at SendGrid, Kelsey oversees the SendGrid Delivery blog. Her downtime is dominated by either her mountain bike or skis (depending on current weather forecast)–and mixing up a salty marg afterward.