Over the past several months, I’ve noticed a considerable surge in the number of emails I receive from people trying to sell me email lists. Today I received five. I’ve been encouraged, thinking that perhaps this intensified marketing effort is a sign that there’s new data supporting the viability of purchasing email lists. Wouldn’t it be great to buy a list of email addresses and suddenly multiply your avid subscriber base without much effort? So I decided to do some investigating.
What I found is that nothing has changed, only email list marketers have become more aggressive. Unfortunately, it’s still true that you can’t simply purchase subscribers. But I did come across several articles that provide useful tips on how to build your lists.
In the Bionic List Building Guide from Lyris we’re reminded, “Although there are many strategies for list building, the main thing to remember is that the possession of an email address does not mean you have the owner’s explicit permission to market to them via email. By law, you must get them to opt-in.” This guide goes on to provide a useful list of techniques to convert raw names into opt-in subscribers. You can subscribe to download it.
In his article Email Address Lists: Buy, Rent or Leave Alone? Mark Brownlow discusses the benefits of list rental compared to the risks of buying a list. This article is not new, but the content remains relevant. In reference to buying bulk email lists, Brownlow says, “At best, your messages to that list just elicit a poor response. At worst, you’re labeled a spammer, which has numerous practical consequences—all of them bad—for your brand, bottom line and ability to do business over the Internet.”
The challenge is to take a list of raw names, presumably people who are interested in your company’s products and services, and get their permission to send them regular marketing communications or newsletters via email. To summarize, the main tips are:
- Ask for opt-ins at every chance you get—in phone calls, newsletters, social media, home page of website, email signature, trade shows, direct mail, etc.
- Partner with complementary organizations to attract their subscribers to opt-in to your list.
- Offer incentives to motivate people to subscribe.
- Ask your subscribers to share the word and forward your message to a friend.
The bottom line is, there is no substitute for building your own email list of people who have expressed an interest in your company's products and services.