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  • Buying email addresses doesn’t make sense: the reasons why and alternatives
Andrea Serventi
13 July 2016
Reading time: 5 min

Buying email addresses doesn’t make sense: the reasons why and alternatives

We are often asked: “Does MailUp rent and sell email lists?”. Our answer is always the same: “No, MailUp helps you to better manage the relationship with customers you already have e-mail addresses for, but we don’t sell or rent lists of email addresses”.

For us, the starting point of any email marketing activity is the collection of email addresses that are obtained with the recipient’s consent, in his full willingness to receive communications from a sender he has demonstrated and explicitly provided interest in. It is not only a best practice for converting emails into business opportunities, it is a code that is ethical, moral, and bound to specific legal provisions.

Web resources are endless, for better or for worse: it is easy to find package offers with millions of email addresses, at an affordable price and ready to use. Giving in to the temptation to use them is all too easy, especially for those who are new to email marketing and want/need to grow quickly, who ignore the ethical and legal complications of using lists that are not their own. Before explaining this phenomenon better, we’d like to emphasize two key points:

  • every email address must come with the consent of the person who will receive your business communications;
  • lists that are purchased or rented from external suppliers must also include the consent to receive communications from other companies.
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Without going into the purely legal issues – for which we refer you to the Legal & Privacy section of our blog – we want to shed light on this fundamental issue of email marketing, demonstrating the disadvantages that come with the use of purchased lists, to then offer you some solutions and techniques for building a database in a healthy and effective way.

The disadvantages for those who buy email lists

There is one main assumption here, and we want to be as clear as possible: the number of email addresses in a database, by itself, is not enough to establish its value. Indeed, even a database with a million contacts can be harmful, as well as useless, if it is of poor quality. Quality is the only variable to consider in the evaluation of a database. Let’s look at the risks involved in buying a contact database.

Poor recipient involvement

If the contacts in your database have never expressed an explicit desire to hear from you, how can they be interested in your campaigns? Poor engagement has an immediate effect on statistics: the rates of opening and clicking in your email campaign will rank below the sector average.

Detiorated sending reputation

A high number of spam complaints has an impact on the sending domain’s reputation, which in turn affects deliverability, or the messages’ delivery rate in inboxes. Specifically, the factors that influence reputation are:

  • the percentage of bounces, or the email addresses that returned an error following a sending;
  • the recipients’ behavior (openings, clicks, responses against abuse/spam reports);
  • the way lists are constructed and the collection of consensus.

A campaign is only effective if it reaches the recipient’s inbox. If the email goes straight into a spam folder, all the work done previously is completely undermined. This is why the purchase of a large list of email addresses can be counterproductive, since it also affects future mailings that could be conducted following best practices.

Compromised brand identity

The sending domain’s reputation and brand reputation are intertwined. A company’s identity is built over time with work and dedication, creating a relationship of credibility and trust with actual or potential customers. By sending emails to those who haven’t explicitly requested to receive your communications, the risk of being labeled a spammer is very high, with a heavy impact on brand identity.

Risk of sanctions

The most concrete negative effect can be found in fines: people who receive spam may submit reports, complaints, or appeals to the Guarantor, exercising their rights under the Privacy Code, including the request for sanctions against those sending unsolicited messages, which in severe cases can reach up to about 500,000 euros.

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Our best practices for building databases

You need creativity and the appropriate tools to create, even from scratch, a legal list of addresses based on the free, specific and informed consent of the recipients who will receive all your communications.

Promote your newsletter

A website is a brand’s virtual home that represents a decisive link between the first contact and a sale. Those who come to your site have already shown an interest in your products and services, in addition to already being profiled if they have come through an Adwords campaign. While they may not show an immediate propensity to buy, it is very likely that visitors are willing to subscribe to your newsletter to be regularly updated on offers and news. So make sure that your website has a clearly visible box for subscribing to your newlsetter – or even more than one: multiple entry points are always a good idea! With MailUp’s integrated drag & drop editor, in just a few simple steps you can create a custom form for subscription with headers, fields, pull-down menus, buttons and check boxes.

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Activate a subscription pop-up

In addition to integrating a subscription form on your website, you can create a pop-up (or lightbox) with just a few essential fields to request newsletter subscription. A simple, non-invasive, and highly configurable tool that you can easily create with MailUp, thanks to the integration with PadiAct.

Create quality content

Blog posts, white papers, ebooks, guides, how-tos, but also presentations, infographics and case studies. Your editorial plan is an added value for attracting visitors and prospects who you can pay homage to with quality content and different material in exchange for the subscription to your newsletter.

Add a subscription form to your Facebook page

Social networks are an important channel for generating traffic and adding to your database. MailUp has developed a Facebook App: a handy tool for inserting a subscription form in your Facebook page in a few simple drag & drop operations. You can create a form by selecting fields, choosing the MailUp platform list for targeting new members, and customizing the background, header, and logo.

Collect contacts on your iPad

Not just online. Trade fairs and events (even your own shop) can be turned into opportunities to fuel your database of new members. Jade is a simple and intuitive application created by MailUp that lets you create a custom subscription form on an iPad that is linked to your MailUp account. With Jade, the entire contact collection process is digitized and is even available offline, which lets you eliminate the long and treacherous process of transcribing names and addresses from paper to the MailUp platform.

Take advantage of contact points

In the relationship with a customer or prospect, there are many occasions that can be exploited to request subscription to your newsletter: access to a restricted area, at the same time a quotation is requested, during a purchase, or commenting on a blog post, for example.

Wrap up

MailUp provides you many tools to build your contact database across all channels, online and offline, from social networks to the site. Activate a MailUp 30 days trial for free, and the advanced features of the platform.


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Andrea Serventi

I was born in 1986 in Milan, where I graduated in Modern Literature and started writing for online newspapers, magazines and TV news programs. Having now converted to marketing and the digital world, I am a Content Editor at MailUp: I read, listen, collect ideas, and write about what email marketing is and how to use it strategically.

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