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buy an email list

Why You Should Never Buy an Email List (And How to Build Yours)

Email marketing can be an effective strategy for your startup.

But when you get it wrong, it can be a complete waste of money and time.

One of the wrong ways to do email marketing is to buy an email list.

Seasoned digital marketers all agree that it’s a bad practice.

If you’re new to the digital marketing world, you may be tempted to use this tactic.

Email list buying is a shortcut that seems appealing.

There’s nothing like a shortcut to success in email marketing.

Email marketing is the #1 way to sell anything online.

However, you must do it right.

An offer to buy an email list of 50,000 emails you didn’t build sounds attractive.

What you don’t know is that these subscribers know nothing or little about you and your company.

They didn’t give you their emails.

Perhaps, they are not interested in your brand and its products and services.

It’s not the right way to use email marketing.

There are eight reasons you should never buy an email list from anyone.

Reason #1: It’s a low-quality list

Email list sellers are in it to make money.

They’ll say a lot of nice things to make you buy.

Their goal is to get your money. They don’t care if you make money with the list.

That’s not value.

If you’re paying for something, you should be sure you’ll get value from it.

There are lots of issues with email list they sell.

  • Insufficient subscribers data (no first names)
  • Obsolete emails (subscribers no longer using those emails)
  • Getting emails through criminal means like harvesting

Getting tens of thousands of emails may sound awesome, but what’s their use if most of them are out-of-date?


You can’t sell to a list where most emails have been abandoned.

For example, below is how an email can be harvested from the web, especially from search engines. Note that email sellers automate this process.

how hackers harvest emails

Reason #2: Trying to sell to a list you bought will affect your reputation

Recently, I receive the email in the below screenshot.

I never remember ever coming across this brand, yet they are sending me emails.

When I visited their site, I realized that this is a real business that sells products and services that are relevant to me.

I can’t understand why they’ll want to buy an email list.

Well, they want fast results. Everyone does. But this is not the right way to get anyone to buy from you.

If I come across this brand organically, I don’t see myself buying their product or service because they have a negative reputation for buying emails.

No web shopper will want to associate himself/herself with a spammer.

Web shoppers are used to receiving and deleting emails from unknown companies. Don’t make your brand one of them.

Once you spam a potential customer, you have zero chance of converting them in the future.

Reason #3: Your email service provider will kick you out

If most of your emails aren’t getting opened and read by subscribers, your email service provider may ask you to move your business elsewhere.

Email service providers care about the performance of your emails as much as you do.

They don’t want their service to be used as a platform for scam and spam.

Email platforms such as Gmail, Apple iCloud, and Outlook watch emails coming from your email service provider.

A service provider with so many users with outdated or bought lists won’t be effective for new users.

So, providers want to have a good reputation with platforms like Gmail and Outlook.

What does this mean?

It means your provider will kick you out first when their automated system detects that you don’t have a good list.

In fact, AWeber went a step further by claiming that “they’ll close your account and you won’t get any refund.”

This makes an email list you bought almost worthless to you.

Reason #4: Many other people are buying the same list you have

The sites that sell email lists are selling the same lists to anyone who’s interested.

Imagine that you’re one of the 1,000 marketers who bought that list.

If all of you are sending one email each day, it means subscribers will receive 1,000 emails each day from companies they don’t know.

How will those subscribers find time to read a thousand unknown emails when they haven’t read all known emails?

Merchants who sell these emails are scammers.

They’ll sell those emails to as many marketers who want them.

For example, the site in the below screenshot sells 10,000 emails for $100.

Buying 10,000 emails for such a small amount looks like a great deal, but the truth is that you won’t see the return on your investment because most of these emails are useless.

Reason #5: Very few people respond to spammers

If you’re sending messages to people who didn’t give you their emails, you’re a spammer.

Web users have no love for spammers. They rarely open spam messages.

And when they do, they see this warning sign from their email platform, asking them not to read and click any link in the message.

Spam messages are associated with bad acts such as phishing and virus spreading.

Over 260 billion spam emails were sent out every day in 2010.

The number could be much higher today.

Almost every web user receives spam emails on a daily basis.

Email users don’t respond to spam emails.

They also don’t unsubscribe from spam emails because they didn’t opt-in to receive them in the first place.

Trying to unsubscribe from a spam email list is like telling a spammer you exist. That will only make them continue to send more spam emails.

Don’t expect subscribers from the email list you bought to respond to your messages. They don’t even know you in the first place.

Reason #6: Consumers trust your business less

Many factors lead to success in business.

You need a great product that’s in demand. You need an effective marketing strategy. You also need the tools that’ll help you implement your marketing strategy.

However, nothing is more important than trust.

In an age where consumers have so many options to choose from, you need trust to sell.

Selling online is getting more complicated each day, and competition continues to rise..

A potential customer who’s aware of your business may be taking their time to subscribe to your email list and buy your product.

For example, you didn’t start buying from renown brands like Amazon and Zappos immediately.

You’re well aware of many brands you can buy from. Now, assume you wake up one morning to find an email from one without subscribing to their list, you’ll be surprised.

This company you trust and know has now lost that trust.

You didn’t subscribe to their email list, but they are already sending you sales emails asking you to buy their products.

So if your company is already known, you shouldn’t buy an email list from anyone because of that.

Buying an email list can make you lose that trust you’ve built over the years.

For example, I know Dollar Shave Club. I admire the company.

I’ve mentioned them a couple of times.

The most surprising thing is that despite loving the brand, I’ve not bought anything from them. I’m not subscribed to their email list.

Now, imagine that I see their emails tomorrow advertising their product to me, that would shock me.

As a result of that, I may have less trust in the company itself.

Reason #7: You could get your company into a serious legal trouble

In the United States, there’s a law against sending out spam emails. It’s called CAN-SPAM Act.

Canada has Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL).

European Union has their own law called Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications.

Most countries have laws that prohibit email spam.

If your company is registered and you buy an email list, you could get yourself into a serious legal trouble.

For example, one of your email recipients could report you to the authorities.

Spam laws are complex as most countries have different laws.

If consumers from different countries report you, you’ll be dealing with different laws and cases.

It’s not a good situation to be in.

If you want to continue serving any country, avoid buying email lists from anyone on the internet and elsewhere.

Also, when you buy email lists, you can’t be so sure people from other countries you aren’t selling are not on the list.

For example, if someone from Europe reports you, while you may not be selling to Europe, you’ll have to abide by European laws.

Reason #8: Marketers don’t approve it

Email marketing gives the highest ROI. That’s why a lot of brands and marketers pay attention to it.

The days of email blasts are officially over.

Marketers see email marketing as a way to connect with their audience.

They want email readers to see them as friends, not marketers.

You have to know the people on your email list before you send a single message to them.

That is completely impossible when you buy email lists.

And of course, most emails in your list will be out-of-date when you buy them.

There’s simply no reason for learning about someone behind an email address when they’ve abandoned the email itself.

That is why experienced digital marketers will never recommend the act of buying an email list.

How to build a profitable email list

To succeed in email marketing, you have to take the first important step:

Building your OWN email list.

More emails don’t equal more opens, clicks and sales.

A list of 100 real emails you’ve collected from people who are interested in your business is more profitable than the 1 million emails you bought.

So how do you build an email list that makes sales?

There are 4 things you should do to build a profitable email list.

  1. Create gated content
  2. Create tools
  3. Publish high-quality content on a consistent basis
  4. Write emails that make people buy

1. Create gated content and ask people to give you their emails in return

What is gated content?

Gated content is any content a website visitor will only be able to access after giving his/her email address or lead information.

Chances are you’ve seen gated content many times on the web.

For example, when you visit a site that asks you to give your email address to download an ebook, checklist or watch a video – that is a gated content.

Gated content is a powerful way to capture lots of emails, which is why many sites are using them.

For example, a webinar is the gated content.

Before you ask people to sign up and receive a gated content, you need to ensure that the content is high-quality.

With a tool like GrowthFunnel, you can create a gated offer in popups on your site and use them to collect emails. It’s free to start using GrowthFunnel today. You can sign up here.

2. Create tools people want to use

Ask yourself.

What kind of tools your prospects use on a daily or weekly basis?

Can you create an even better tool and release it for free?

Google (Google Analytics), Facebook (React) and HubSpot (Website Grader) all create tools and give them away regularly.

It’s because it helps their business.

It raises interest in their business.

You can do the same thing.

Develop a tool your prospects will want to use and give it away in order to collect emails on your site.

CoSchedule created headline analyzer and let their prospects use it for free. Of course, they are using it to collect emails.

Popups created with GrowthFunnel produce amazing results. You can use them to collect emails before referring a prospect to the download or use page of your tool.

GoSmartSolar created a tool that calculates how much money solar power will save you. They collect prospects’ email and personal information using this tool.

3. Create content that promotes your gated content or tool

After creating a gated content or tool that will help you collect emails on your site, you need to promote it.

Because if no one is visiting your site, it’s almost impossible to build a list with it.

You need to have visitors. Lots of visitors on your site.

HubSpot doesn’t just wait for people to discover their Website Grader free tool, they take it to them through their active content creation efforts.

Where do your prospects hang out online?

Go there and promote your gated content and free tool.

Unknown to many, content creation is the key to success when building an email list.

4. Write emails that make people buy

Selling through emails is different from selling on your website. Yes, both are on the web.

But they are different.

If you’re a subscriber to many good sites like I am, you probably receive tens of emails per day.

Except you want to spend the whole day inside your email, it’s impossible to read them all.

But some great email marketers still manage to get my attention in my email every time I see their messages in my inbox.

They get me to read their messages and act on those messages.

These marketers have mastered the art of email selling.

If you want to sell through emails, you shouldn’t just know how to build an email list. You should also know how to sell to subscribers on that list.

How do you sell to your list?

It’s one word:

Use infotainment.

Infotainment makes subscribers look forward to your email each day or week they check their emails.

Infotainment means telling stories about yourself and others.

It’s a nice way to sell.

If you can capture anyone’s attention in their email and get them thinking about your brand, you can definitely sell to them.


Don’t think about buying an email list. It’s a waste of time.

Instead, spend your hard-earned cash on building your own list.

And if you’re really serious about building your own list, you need GrowthFunnel.

GrowthFunnel is an advanced popup technology that will help you capture emails on your site.

It’s free to start using GrowthFunnel. Sign up today.