Bought or Built: Should You Buy Data To Grow Your Email List?

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Email marketing is a hugely profitable way to grow your business. It’s low cost, low risk and – despite what some people may tell you – hugely effective at converting sales. 

But there’s one problem… 

You can’t send emails if you don’t have anyone to send them to! If your list is small – or non-existent – it can be tempting to give it a quick boost with bought data. 

For a couple of hundred pounds you can buy the names and email addresses of potential prospects and add them to your list. 

Sounds like the ideal solution! But it’s not…

I’d love to tell you that with a few clicks and a little investment you can grow your email list and give your sales a quick boost. 

But sadly, bought data is a bit of a no-no. Let me explain why…

Rules & Regulations 

The first thing you need to know when you’re considering buying data is that most email marketing apps actually prohibit you from using it. 

Mailchimp, ActiveCampaign, ConvertKit, Hubspot and all the big players in email marketing and automation clearly state that purchased lists are prohibited. And if they find you using them they can shut your account without warning. 

Why such a hard line on bought data? 

Well, firstly, the legality of bought data can be a bit of a grey area. Even before the introduction of GDPR in Europe, data protection laws meant that companies had an obligation to ensure that purchased data was legally collected. GDPR just ramped up the regulations and made the criteria even more strict. 

So is bought data ever GDPR compliant? 

It’s hard to know. In theory, a bought list COULD be GDPR compliant – if the people on the list were made aware that their data would be shared and that they would be contacted about other services that may be of interest to them. 

But the chances are that the data is dirty and in GDPR terms you, as the data processor and/or controller, could be the one to take the penalty. 

Add into this the fact that bought data tends to convert very poorly, it becomes clear that it’s just not worth the risk. 

Bigger Isn’t Always Better 

So why does bought data offer a poor return? Quite simply, because the people on the list don’t know you and they don’t care about what you have to offer. 

You’ve got to think of emailing a list of cold, bought data a bit like door to door selling. You know the guy who knocks on your door and tries to sell you gutter cleaning? That’s you. 

Your prospect is sat a home, minding their own business. They’ve never heard of you. They haven’t asked you to contact them – but all of a sudden here you are in their inbox disturbing their day and pitching your products. 

It’s just not a good strategy. 

But that’s not the only problem with bought data. Having a big, unresponsive list can also harm your deliverability and stop your emails from reaching the people who really do want to hear what you have to say. 

Damaged Deliverability 

Email deliverability is something that’s not talked about nearly enough. To explain it in simple terms, email deliverability is the likelihood that the emails you send will actually reach the people you are sending them to. 

Lots of things can affect deliverability, but one of the biggies is engagement. If people don’t open, reply to or click the links in your emails then Gmail, Yahoo and the likes start to notice. The result is that your emails get filtered before even reaching your reader – shoved into the promotions folders or worse – the dreaded spam box. 

Cold, bought data is going to result in fewer opens, replies and clicks – because the people you’re emailing don’t know you or want to hear from you. This dilutes your overall engagement score and reduces your deliverability to everyone on your list – even the hot leads who have genuinely opted in. 

Built Is Best 

So should you buy data to grow your list? No. It might be a quick way to bump up the numbers but it won’t give you an engaged list of hot prospects who want to buy from you – and could cost you the deliverability of your list. 

Building your list using opt ins and permission-based marketing can be slower, but it will pay off in the long run. 

Want to learn how to grow your list without buying data? Keep an eye out for my next blog post…

Nathan Littleton

Nathan Littleton

Nathan is a marketer, professional speaker and author who specialises in helping businesses to grow by attracting and winning more customers. Having started his first business at the age of just 12, he has become one of the UK’s best and brightest young business figures, with more experience than most people twice his age. More than a decade on, he’s worked with thousands of businesses across the UK and around the world to transform their online marketing and help them to generate better results. Each year he sends more than a million emails on behalf of his clients, and his proven track record has led to him working with businesses ranging from small accountancy firms to international franchises. As an in-demand conference speaker, he also speaks regularly on different aspects of online marketing.

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