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April 25, 2017
Email Marketing  |  11 min read

Why You Should Never Buy Email Addresses

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Shaun Whynacht

It’s Sunday morning, you’re laying in bed relaxing from the exciting night you just had when all of a sudden, “DING DONG,” the doorbell rings.  

“Who could that be?” you think. As you drag your over-tired carcass from your down-filled bed and slither to the front door, you let out one last stretch of energy to try and look a tad bit more enthusiastic to the surprise waiting behind the door. 

You open the door with skepticism and a wee bit of anticipation to only be greeted by….

“Hi, I’m Jason, hope I didn’t wake you, I was just passing through the neighborhood spreading the word about these wonderful vacuum cleaners, do you currently have a dirt sucking problem in your house.” (Probably not the sales script he was taught, but a good effort.) 

What? Wait...you got out of bed for this? Some schmuck standing on your property trying to sell you something? You don’t even know this guy named Jason, who is blatantly pretending like he is you the guy down the street and like that is supposed to bring your guard down.  

What happens next?

He doesn’t even let you have a moment to talk, he continues with his rehearsed sales pitch about cyclonic action and triple brush heads. You’ve zoned out because of the fact that there is no relationship there. You don’t know him from a hole in the wall. He interrupted your day, your life, and depending on how you felt about that, maybe even the rest of your day. Did you invite him to be on your doorstep? No. Did you expect to be woken up in the morning by his presence? Absolutely not.

When we as business marketers and business owners make a conscious decision to break the code of ethics of email marketing and push ourselves on a group of unsuspecting consumers by purchasing an email list which we had no consent to receive, we become the Jason on the doorstep.

This practice I strongly warn you to stay away from for several reasons.


Let’s start with the most impactful reason that should deter you: Obtaining email contact information is considered personal information. If you have purchased these contacts, you have in fact breached a privacy law of many. You need to prove that you have implied or given consent from your contacts in order to import them into your application. This is obtained by having them opt-in through a web form or landing page, or if you’re moving your contacts over from another CRM you have which they opted-in from 

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Here in Canada, where I’m from, there is a CASL (Canadian Anti-Spam Law) law rolled effect on July 1, 2014. Basically stating that if found guilty of spamming an email address without being able to prove you have consent to email them can carry a fine of $1 million for a personal email and $10 million for a commercial offense. 

Now how does this compare with the United States Anti-Spam Legislation as rolled out on December 16th, 2003? Basically stating USASL covers an opt-out policy, while CASL enforces the opt-in policy. If you’re in the United States, you have the ability under the law to email unsolicited marketing messages as long as you have a way for the recipient to opt-out at the bottom. In Canada, this is required also, but the recipient must have consented to receive this email from you.   

If you’re a company outside of the Canadian jurisdiction, CASL does not impact you the same way, unless the computer used to send the message to the recipient is located in Canada, regardless of the business registered address.

Email deliverability

We all strive for increased email deliverability in what we do. We tweak copy. We adjust graphics. And we play with the time of sending. All in the search for the holy grail of email marketing: “the open.” 

But how does purchasing a list impact your deliverability? For one, you run the risk of having a high number of invalid or non-existing addresses. You also run the risk of increasing your spam complaints.

When you have a list that isn’t “clean” your broadcast can experience throttling, which is where Infusionsoft will halt delivering emails for a set period of time once a certain level of bounces occur. If this continues your broadcast will stop completely. So much for productivity.

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Lead quality

Lastly is lead quality. When you’re obtaining a list of contacts that you know have not self-identified that they are interested in learning more about your solution, product, or service, you are guaranteed to have contacts who are not really leads. You will use resources whether it be emailing, phone follow up, or targeted PPC ads based on emails you’ve built custom audiences with to reach out to them. This all costs you money, time, and energy.

Even if your contact does take lead scoring actions in your app, you may find out the initial barrier to the conversation will be, “How did you get my information?” If you’re honest and tell them, then you run the risk of hurting the relationship out of the gate and not making a sale. If you lie, then your ethics and code of conduct comes into question.

Take a few moments is ask yourself, “Is the money I would spend on purchasing a contact list be better spent on my marketing efforts?”  If you said, “Yes,” then you’ve paid attention.  

How do you build your list the right way?

Oh, the timeless question that ranks right up there with how they put the Caramilk in the Caramilk bar. But nonetheless, it’s a great one to ask. 

What I can tell you is focus on the solution to what you provide. Create great content, put it out there, and those who are needing that information will want to consume it. Easy, peezy, right?  Well, there is more to it than this. 

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While this is a big topic to take on, I’ll break it down to a few things you should consider when making a lead-generating offer.

  1. Be Specific: Find one problem that your product or service can fix.

  2. Make it tangible and manageable: Create content that they can consume immediately (report, e-book, podcast, video, etc.) and that will not take a long period of time to see a result. I like to tell clients that they should be able to have a result, even if small, in less than 24 hours by taking your advice.

  3. Make it enjoyable: Don’t be immediately salesy after the delivery of your content. Rather, give them more and more value. They are the most important person in your database (at least they need to feel that way). You’ve created this content with them in mind so you have to be genuine and caring in your correspondence.

  4. Pop the question: Not the question about buying, but sharing. It’s said that “sharing is caring,” and it’s true. If they care about what you provided them, they will want to share it. Chances are they have other people in their network with the same problem who could use the same solution. If they are not doing it on their own, don’t be offended.  Simply asking them to share if doesn’t hurt. I’d phrase it like this, “If you enjoyed the content I have provided and feel others may have positive results from it, I’d love for you to share it on your social network”

These are just a few ideas on growing your leads. Of course, you will need to have your follow up and pipeline in place for after you get these leads.

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Shaun Whynacht.jpg

Shaun Whynacht is the founder of Blue Cow Creative in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia, Canada. His company has grown by leaps and bounds since he put the creative cow in the pasture. Working closely with their clients in Canada and the US to develop tools for marketing and promoting their businesses. Whether it's been developing engaging video productions or fully integrated digital marketing plans, Shaun is tapped into what's current in the digital space. As a father, Shaun enjoys the work/life harmony that being an entrepreneur has to offer. Shaun is not only a certified digital marketing consultant but also a licensed display fireworks and pyrotechnician (another passion of his).

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