What Happens if You Buy an Email List

We’re sure you’ve heard that email marketing generates $42 for every $1 spent, or maybe you didn’t know that before, but now you do. It’s a whopping 4200 percent ROI. Some people have it even better than others.


Maybe you’re planning your next email marketing campaign and considering buying an email list; STOP! Don’t do it; kill the idea already. We’ll explain why shortly. If you already own one, keep reading, we’ll tell you what to do.


Procured Email lists: Harm or Benefit? 

According to a recent report, 306 billion emails are exchanged every day by 4 billion people. Other data revealed that 81% of small businesses use emails as their major customer acquisition tool, and 80% use it for customer retention. The truth is, email marketing is still very effective, and any serious-minded business owner should have an email list.


Admittedly, building an email list is sometimes not a quick and easy process, which is why many people choose the quick and easy route of buying a list. But going the easy way and using shortcuts for email list building is always detrimental in the long run. It would only be a waste of resources with the list ending up in the bin. From having an unresponsive email community to risking a ban, the problems associated with a procured list are more than the time required to build your list. People that offer email lists aren’t always trustworthy. They may make a variety of assertions regarding the list, but there’s a good possibility you’ll find it to be riddled with flaws, including:


  • Obtaining email accounts from the internet illegally
  • Incomplete or missing data
  • Information that is inexistent.


In simple terms, purchasing an email list will be harmful to your business and productivity. You may even be violating some laws like the CAN-SPAM Act of the United States or the European GDPR law, which may see you slammed with regulatory penalties or a suit.

Here is what happens when you send emails to procured receivers


PS: These are facts, not hearsay!

You’ll have a poor email delivery rate

A Deliverability Benchmark Report has stated that about 20% of commercial emails never get to their intended destination; they get blocked or moved to the spam folder. Even worse, market research asserts that 75% of advertorial emails are never read, especially from an unfamiliar source. The bulk of these email delivery failures affect people who procure email lists more because they send unsolicited emails to people who never opted in.


If you buy a list, you cannot validate if the emails have been secured against spamming and unsolicited messaging, and even if this happens, you will be flagged as a spammer. Similarly, spam traps are also developed to recognize spamming activity; they are programmed to reject emails and flag the sender as a spammer. These spam traps are usually the email address that is old or not functional but gets regular emails.

Your email provider may sanction you

Most email service providers have expressly proscribed the act of purchasing or using a procured list on their platform. Even renting or borrowing the list is as condemned as buying the same.


You’ll soon irritate your email service provider if too many of your messages are designated as spam. That means your account might be suspended, you could be penalized, and your email provider could take legal action against you. This is why service providers that are not concerned about email list sources have a low deliverability rate.

You’ll face GDPR restrictions and sanctions

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a data protection law that became enforceable in 2018. This regulation aims to protect the digital privacy concerns and data breach concerns of people, especially in the European region. From its provisions, procured email lists are non-compliant and illegal.


The GDPR has changed how a marketer uses client data across media platforms in Europe. You don’t have to be resident in Europe or have your business situated in Europe to acknowledge and follow the dictates of the GDPR. As long as you have clients in any European country, you are bound by the GDPR.


You’ll get a poor response rate

By default, email response rates aren’t so great, especially when the email is from an unknown source; in fact, research has indicated that 75% of marketing emails are never read. It could be worse if it is from an unfamiliar source. So if the average access rate is between 20 – 25% for opt-in and legally generated lists, procured lists would definitely have lower rates. What this tells you is simple; when you send emails to addresses from a procured list, you become a stranger sending emails to other strangers who do not know who you are, and if at all you get a response, it will come from only a few people.

You’ll be identified as a spammer

Even if your email is resourceful and packed with life-saving tips or the secret to eternal life and unquantifiable wealth, If your receivers do not know you or have not consented to receive your mails, you’re just another stalker that has flooded their inbox. And with all your value, your mails would most likely end up in the spam folder.

When your emails are flagged as spam too frequently, email service providers begin filtering all of your emails to recipients’ spam folders. Instead, naturally, expand your email list. Only send emails to folks who are interested in hearing your message. Because they’re interested in your brand voice, they won’t waste your time spamming.

You’ll eventually end up with no lead

When you buy a list, you end up with no lead, no sales, and no profit! So at the end of the day, you lose. With qualified leads, it may take some time to convert them into paying customers, but you’re sure you are making an impact every time you send out messages, and you get a response or a click. With procured lists, you’ll be lucky to get leads, and even if you do, it would be insignificant.


If you already bought a list, here is what to do

  1. Take it to the trash

You really should consider taking out the list, maybe burn it or trash it, just do something to it but don’t use it. Organically build up a new list; it could take your time and resources but will be worth it in the end.

  1. If you don’t want to trash, validate the list

Assemble a team of five or more people who are research inclined and manually validate the addresses. Ensure all the information therein is correct, and the recipient exists.

  1.   Do a test mail-out

You can randomly select a few addresses from the list and send out emails just to measure the deliverability and response rate.

  1.   Follow the first suggestion.


Purchasing an email list is unnecessary and detrimental to your overall productivity and marketing objectives. Rather than buy, build your list organically and patiently, it is exciting and insightful. It helps you understand your target market better. Already made-up lists can tarnish your brand, diminish email deliverability, and cause you some legal issues.

Author avatar
Eugenia Kuzmenko