Every once in a while we come across clients who want to purchase lists. While this might seem like a quick and easy way to grow their contact list, in most cases it will cause more damage than it will benefit the client.
Everyone wants a rich contact list. More contacts means more potential income. While this seems like a valid statement, if getting more contacts means buying lists, you will see your bubble burst sooner than you think. It might just have the opposite effect.
First, let’s take a look at the legal aspects. The European law states that commercial emails may only be sent to recipients who have given their prior, explicit consent (also known as an Opt-in) and only until they unsubscribe (Opt-out). You can only email those users who you have previously done business with without an explicit opt-in, again, only until they've requested to be opted-out. Since this is a European law, all European countries have to follow it. These countries are not allowed to apply a more lenient version of the law, but they certainly have the right to implement a stricter policy (the German law for instance).
In the case of a purchased list, it is only the vendor who collected the email addresses that (possibly) received the opt-in. Many of these companies will ask their subscribers to give them consent to share their email address with their partners, but usually, the subscriber has no idea who those "partners" are.
The users in these lists will all of a sudden receive emails from an unknown sender. In this day and age, a little red flag will probably pop up in the eyes of the recipient who never requested that email, never did business with that brand and maybe never even heard of it. Honestly, I wouldn't trust emails like that either. First thing you do with fishy emails? Move them to the spam folder!
While this might seem like a harmless move, you do have to take into account that when users throw your emails into the spam folder, they are also seriously damaging your reputation. Bad reputation means your emails (even the ones sent to legitimately acquired email addresses) will never see the light of the inbox and will be placed instantly into people's spam folders or worse, be blocked entirely. You will see your revenue drop like a brick. Even the small percentage of users from the purchased list who do open your email, will not make a big difference.
Besides the risk of spam complaints, there is also the risk of hitting spamtraps. It is not always clear where the “list” vendors get their data and it's very possible that their lists contain scraped addresses (spamtraps). Of course, these vendors will never tell you that and there is no way for you to verify that there are no spamtraps in the list as they can't be identified. This also means that there is no way to proof that you were blacklisted because of a purchased list. You will not have a case against the vendor if you ever find yourself in this situation. Spamtraps can lead to immediate sanctions by the providers, which can take weeks or even months to resolve.There are no quick fixes in this case.
That being said, please don't purchase any lists. Marketers need to focus on creating good acquisition programs to organically grow their lists and share interesting and relevant content to keep their subscribers excited so they keep opening those emails and continue engaging with their brand.