Email marketing is the king of online marketing because it can be extremely effective. Email is cheap to send: once the content is written, sending a thousand emails isn’t much more expensive than sending one. The right email list and properly targeted content can produce conversion rates that other marketing strategies can’t hope to match.
It’s easy to understand why businesses embrace email marketing. But for those embarking on an email marketing campaign, there’s an obstacle that must be overcome. To send email, you need a list of email addresses. If you’re starting from scratch, building an effective list is time-consuming and expensive.
Building an email list is a chicken-and-egg problem. Email is a great way to build interest in a product and generate traffic, but without interest and traffic, how do you go about building an email list?
One way is to prime the pump by buying an existing email list. If you visit marketing forums, you’ll find any number of people willing to sell you an email list.
But buying an email list is almost always a bad idea:
- Sending email to people without their permission is spamming.
- Bought email lists are less valuable than opt-in email lists.
- Using a bought email list can impact the deliverability of your company’s email.
Although building an email list from scratch takes time, the resulting list is orders of magnitude more valuable than a purchased list. When you build a list, everyone on it has expressed an interest in your company and its products. They have volunteered to receive email from you. That’s enormously valuable. An opt-in email list is an asset in a way that a bought list never can be.
By definition, email sent without permission is spam. It doesn’t matter how you dress it up or how “valuable” you think your marketing messages are: without permission, you’re spamming. If you send email without an opt-in, recipients are likely to mark it as spam, and that can degrade your business’ ability to send any email.
Email providers and ISPs have many ways to find spam in addition to reports from email users. One of the most effective ways to spot spam is the honeypot address. Honeypot addresses are created by ISPs and email providers and deliberately posted across the internet on blogs, forums, and social media. They are then harvested by the automated bots that populate spam list. When email is sent to honeypot addresses, it’s a clear indication of spamming — there’s no other reason email would be sent to those addresses. The sender IPs are swiftly added to blacklists, and the spamming company will find the deliverability of their email severely curtailed.
When you buy an email list, it’s a near certainty that it has honeypot email addresses in it. The people who sell email lists aren’t fastidious about where they find email addresses.
Finally, in many countries, sending email without an opt-in is illegal. In the US, the CAN-SPAM Act allows the sending of unsolicited email if the sender makes it easy to opt-out. But in Canada, it’s illegal to send marketing email without an opt-in—the recipient must have given prior permission. Although there are some exceptions, the EU’s Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications establishes a similar opt-in regime. If you buy an email list and send email without permission, you could expose your business to legal action.
Building an email list is hard work, but an opt-in list is more effective than a bought list, your company’s ability to have email delivered won’t be at risk, and there is no chance of falling foul of anti-spamming laws.
Author: Ciara Noonan works as a tech writer for MailChannels, a provider outbound email filtering and email delivery solutions for service providers. Follow MailChannels on Twitter at @mailchannels and check out their blog, http://blog.mailchannels.com/.