Purchased Lists and Why They Suck Ass
A detailed step-by-step use of a purchased list and why you shouldn't use one
If you’ve ever been tempted to purchase mailing lists for your business, I want to tell you to take heed from my experience. I learn from doing and if you are not going to take my word for it, do it on a limited scale to find out for yourself.
Because that’s exactly what I did.
Spam and Porn, Same Difference
I’ve never come across someone who openly admits to spamming. I’ve also seen way too many spamming practices by big and small companies alike. Each have their own way of doing it. Some are brazen, others get technical about it where the lines get blurred. Much like porn, everyone does it but we’re all appalled.
Ok fine, it’s an exaggerated analogy, but the point is the same. It’s far more common than people would admit to. It’s kind of “dirty”. But I have to get started and I have to look at all the possible options. Some things, I recognize, are temporary measures to get the ball rolling.
Purchased lists present themselves as the perfect way to get started while you build a real list. So, I found a list of 2500 emails of users of competitors for $600. The list appears to be legitimate.
Sanitation: Safety First
If you plan to work within the main existing ecosystem of internet services, then you will have to maintain a minimum level of indiscretions. For example, mail service providers will put a pause on your account if a lot of emails fail to be delivered. It will raise questions about the origins of that list.
An easy and quick way to weed out the bad emails, older emails, deleted email accounts and the likes is to use a an email verification service, like kickbox. You upload your list and they give you back your list in groups, based on risk.
Generally speaking, “Risky” is an acceptable level to use, but anything above that is untouchable.
Now that you have a clean list, it’s time to figure out how to send out emails to them. Don’t use your primary marketing email provider. When dealing with the unknown, you don’t want to ruin your relationship with your current provider.
It’s not just your mail provider. You don’t want your domain to be blacklisted because of being flagged by recipients. Find a similar-sounding domain and use it. It doesn’t matter what. Think of it as a domain you’d use if you had a branded URL shortener.
Running the Campaign
Read this from the bottom up. You will notice that the number of recipients keeps dropping, this is a result of bounced emails and unsubscriptions. Also, notice how the open rate also continues to drop, despite removing all the bounced emails and the drop in unsubscribes.
Ignore the clicked stats as they don’t reflect page loads and are mixed with server side queries. What is notable is that generally speaking, it’s a pretty good list for a purchased list. Clearly, recipients find it relevant.
But then what? What does it translate to? 2. It translated to 2 registered accounts. So, let’s do the math real quick. It cost $300 per user, all while acting like a total douche spamming people.
Thins You Can Do With Your Useless Purchased List
So now that we have demonstrated what a clean list of your target audience looks like; and what a spectacular failure it is, here are some ideas of what to do with it:
One last ditch to opt-in: Email the list asking them to opt-in if they wanted to continue to receive emails. If they don’t, it’s over.
Test bed for email subjects/copy/etc.: Keep the list around and periodically use it to test open rate, click rates and other metrics.
Purge it: Just delete the list.
Today, I am proud to be fully GDPR-compliant, because it makes sense. I think that there are people who want to hear from you, and they will let you know. But, if you want to let people know about you, spamming them is not going to get you the results you’ve hoped for.
Much like diet pills and weight loss, the simple truth is that there are no shortcuts. Your list has to grow from people who voluntarily want to give you their contacts. Your time is better spent figuring out how to do that, than trying to get a purchased list to produce any meaningful returns.
Say it with me: purchased lists suck ass. Don’t do it.