3 Reasons to Forego Purchased Lists in Email Marketing

by Chad Carpenter | 3 MIN READ


Email marketing remains one of the most successful digital marketing strategies available.

Thanks to low costs and easy set up, marketers with any budget can take advantage of promotional emails designed to drive web a visitors and customers. But, as is the case with all marketing efforts, successful email marketing is only possible when done right.

Naturally, simply sending email blasts to irrelevant audiences will do little in helping your business grow.

Purchased email lists are a common culprit that, while seemingly offering a quick and effective way to reach your target audience, can actually harm your business in a variety of ways.

Depending on your industry, you're probably familiar with the concept of purchased lists. Through professional associations or other entities, you can buy names and email addresses within your target audience. The idea is simple: rather than having to build up a contact database yourself, you can take advantage of an already-existent recipient list.

But as mentioned above, the downfalls of this strategy far outweigh its benefits.

If you are truly looking to grow your business with email marketing, here are 3 reasons to stay away from purchased lists.

Bad Email List Quality

Above all, you have no control over how accurate the list you buy actually is.

Contacts may have been in the database for years, with outdated email addresses or interests. Because each name will impact your budget regardless of accuracy, you will spend money on names that either no longer show interest in your industry or don't have the contact information necessary to reach them.

Lack of Results

Purchased lists consistently perform worse than organically grown email lists for two reasons.

  • First, the list quality mentioned above naturally impacts your delivery rate.
  • Second, recipients who have never heard about you are much less likely to show interest in your products or services than those who are already familiar with (or have opted into) communication from you. Studies show just how much email open rates, click, and complaint rates rise for purchased lists.

Email Spam Issues

email-marketingThat last factor, complaince, deserves further consideration.

As it turns out, purchased email lists don't just perform worse - they also negatively impact your email marketing efforts as a whole. Because a larger share of your recipients will report emails as spam, you're more likely to be added to automatic spam filters by their email clients...wrecking your domain and IP address reputation. (You can test yours using this free checker by

Similarly, an unnaturally high bounce rate as a result of bad list quality will negatively impact your spam rating.

If you want to avoid landing in spam filters of potential customers, avoid purchased lists.

Understanding the Alternatives

Fortunately, purchased lists are far from your only option when growing your business through email marketing.

The alternatives take more initial effort, but will pay off significantly in the long term.

We're talking, of course, about organically growing your contact list through opt-ins and inbound marketing. If you send emails to contacts who have actively agreed that they are willing to receive communication from you, the negative aspects of purchased lists simply do not apply. Instead, you will experience improved success statistics and a lower likelihood of being reported as spam.

You can grow your contact list in a variety of ways, such as promoting newsletter subscriptions or offering gated content that web visitors can only access after signing up via a form.

Regardless of your strategy, you should have a reliable system in place that catches and organizes your newly created contacts. That way, you can categorize and segment your contacts to make sure that you only send relevant emails to your target audience.

Without a doubt, the best way to grow and organize your contact list is through inbound marketing. By focusing on gaining leads through relevant content offers rather than buying names, you can ensure that your emails are both read and appreciated.

For more information on successful and sustainable lead generation as part of an inbound program, download our complimentary resource guide, The 30 Greatest Lead Generation Tips, Tricks & Ideas.


Originally published May 5, 2016. Updated November 28, 2017.