If You're Going to Buy an Email List...
We all understand the temptation to buy a list. It’s quick, it’s easy, and if you believe the sellers it’s the perfect way to reach tens of thousands, maybe even millions of new people in your target market. Of course whether or not you can actually reach people with a purchased list is debatable. After all, are you really reaching someone if they never open your message? These are people who have never heard of you and are probably wondering how you got their email address. That said, purchasing an email list is legal. But the question you have to be concerned with isn’t “Can I send the email?” but “Will they even open the email?”
Buying a list is not the most effective or strategic way to build your audience. But if you’re going to purchase an email list, then it is more important than ever to be strategic about your content, and that means you must acknowledge that your audience has no existing relationship with you. Don’t pretend that these people are just like the other members of your audience, and certainly don’t just throw them into your existing contact list. Send an email specifically for these people, who don’t know who you are or why they shouldn’t just hit the spam button.
A best practice for this email is to have a very clear opt-out. Your first email to your purchased list should explain what the recipient can expect from you in the future as far as content. Open rates depend largely on content expectation, so tell your new contacts what information, deals, etc. they can expect from you, and let them know that if they are not interested in that content, they can opt-out. This first email will leave you with is the most effective contact list. A smaller list than what you bought, yes, but a list of people who are listening and now know what to expect when they see you in their inbox. This is the list you can fold into your existing contact list. It’s the old quality vs. quantity cliché. And in this case, strategically speaking, you want quality. Because what you don’t want is to risk your brand, your reputation, on trying to communicate with people who aren’t going to listen.
As with all communication, the key is to be strategic. So, if you’re going to buy a list, use your first email as an opportunity to sift through that list and find those subscribers who want to listen, who will interact with you. In the end, asking for permission is better than buying it, but if you’re going to buy a list, you must tailor your message for an audience who has no idea how you ended up in their inbox.