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Should You Buy Email Lists To Kickstart Your Contact Strategy?

by Simon Spyer on Jul 18, 2017 8:02:00 AM

Think Carefully About Your Audience & Marketing Objectives

Should You Buy Email Lists To Boost Your Contact Strategy?

Email is a popular marketing channel. But there is a distinction between email marketing to your customer or earned prospect base and email marketing to a list that you have bought from someone else.

The latter can be tempting for businesses looking to quickly grow a customer base.

But it can also be fraught with issues and risks so should you market to a bought email list?

Below we make the case for and against.

Generally we would urge caution if you are thinking of buying an email list so we have also included some key considerations.


  • Speed. Buying an email prospect list gives you a headstart. Rather than having no one to talk to you can quickly buy an audience and start sending messages to them.
  • Targeting. A reasonable level of targeting is possible from most email vendors. Targeting is normally based on geography and demographics but can also include factors like interests and lifestyle. You can normally screen out prospects without telephone numbers or those who have registered with bodies like the Telephone Preference Service.
  • Reach. There is a high volume of emails available. Depending on your marketing objectives you can buy a huge list and start marketing to it.
  • An effective channel. Email in general (not to bought lists specifically) is an effective channel. Econsultancy report that email performance has been increasing since 2014 and over half of marketers report that their email campaigns deliver good or excellent performance.
  • Measurable channel. Email is a highly measurable channel so you will know exactly what response you are getting from your campaigns at an individual prospect level. Connect your website with your email engine for detailed tracking.



  • Expensive. Depending on your audience and targeting, it's not uncommon to see data fees of 50p per record. Factor in the cost of creative development and email broadcast and the cost can be expensive compared to other channels like PPC.
  • May struggle to find an ESP. Many email service providers have stringent constraints on using purchased lists with their technology.
  • Permission. Your email list vendor should have the necessary permissions from individuals to allow you to contact them. However, doing so may also be perceived as unsolicited email by your recipients. With GDPR being enforced from May 2018, this is only going to become more important.
  • Interest. Remember, you don't know if the audience is interested in hearing from you. Although your email marketing might reach them, they may well not be interested. Another channel may better connect you with audiences who have a specific pain point and are actively looking for your solution.

Free Contact Strategy Guide

Key considerations

We urge caution if you are considering using a bought email list:

  • Be clear on your objectives. What are you trying to achieve and why? Answer these questions first and then decide if this is the right approach - for your business and for your prospective customers.
  • Serve don't sell. Think about how you want to start a relationship. If people don't know you or aren't aware of your brand then think about how you can help them and start the relationship on this basis rather than hammering price or promotional messages at the first opportunity.
  • Build content to engage. Tell you story and be useful. Don't offer a one dimensional experience.
  • Plan carefully to minimise costs. Target carefully and segment wherever possible.
  • Test on a small sample. The ultimate word in caution: test on a very small sample as a first step to check that you aren't creating issues and are going to meet your marketing objectives.
  • Balance with other channels. Pursue an omnichannel approach that leverages multiple channels so you can measure what works best and develop your marketing programme accordingly.
  • Buy only from a reputable vendor. Only buy data from established vendors. Reputable vendors will normally indemnify you against issues like high bounce rates and some will offer to let you use their email engine to mitigate any risks.
  • Grow your subscriber base. This should be a key objective. Be relevant and helpful and build your own subscriber base. You can then communicate with an engaged audience on your terms.


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This post was written by Simon Spyer

Co-founder & Insight Partner at Conduit, professional insight-monger, dad, lover of all sport and Spurs.

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