Should You Use Third Party Email Lists?

Some marketing fulfillment companies port their approach for direct mail marketing to email marketing. Since rented and purchased lists are the norm for direct mail, they reason the same approach is fine for email marketing. It is not. It is a disaster!

Do not allow a marketing company to rent or sell you a list of email addresses or to conduct an email campaign on your behalf with a third party list. No, no, no, no! DO NOT DO IT!

To understand why third party email lists are a bad idea, first consider how they are compiled. Next, look at things from the recipient’s perspective. Finally, consider the consequences.

How Rented Lists Compile Addresses

There are legitimate ways to collect email addresses and build a list where recipients have given permission to send them mail. These typically involve a trade-off or quid-pro-quo for the recipient. He gives permission when entering a contest or downloading a free giveaway item from a website. Recipients should have to opt-in again, to confirm a willingness to get mail (i.e., a double opt-in).

Of course the double opt-in step is often left out. In addition, many people unknowingly provide permission by failing to check or uncheck a box. Technically, these may be legitimate lists, but they are built on trickery, deception, and confusion. Do you want to use a list where the recipients were tricked into giving permission?

It’s hard to tell the difference between the legitimate, technically legitimate, and illegitimate list providers. All make the same claims. Why not? Do you expect honesty from a list provider who is in the business of offering illegitimate lists?

If you wonder how these lists are complied, sometimes the email addresses are harvested off the web. Sometimes, they are gathered through viruses and phishing attacks. Remember, providers of illegitimate lists are not constrained by ethical business practices. The only way to verify whether a list is legitimate, or not, is to get your hands on it and give it a whirl. It’s sort of like playing Russian roulette.

How Recipients View the Email

Unwanted, bulk email is spam. Period. Whether the mail is sent by you or by someone else on your behalf, the recipients did not give YOU permission to send them email. They don’t know you, which is why you are emailing them in the first place. It is spam.

Even if the list is legitimate, built through a double opt-in, and the recipient was not tricked into giving permission at any step in the process, recipients may still see it as spam. People forget they give permission. People get mad when they forget, and then receive an email. Add the third party complication and the picture gets uglier.

What are the Consequences?

The best thing that can happen when you use a third party list is nothing. You get few results and simply waste a little money. You should not expect much more. The best way to destroy a good list is to overuse it. No one who compiles a quality list will rent or sell it at an affordable price. Unless you are paying through the nose, you are probably getting an overused and abused list. Expect poor results.

Remember, an ineffective list is the best case scenario. Worse consequences include the generation of so many hard bounces that they stream into your server faster than you can delete them. Your email service provider (ESPs) may fire you as a customer. In fact, some explicitly state that they will not send mail to rented lists. You may find yourself blacklisted by websites that ISPs and spam software checks for their filtering. The result is you will not be able to email anyone and ESPs will not touch you.

The worst consequence is you can break the law. The CAN-SPAM Act governs email marketing. For each email in violation, you could be subject to a fine up to $16,000. $16,000 times 10,000 emails equals a bunch.

The Only Acceptable List is a House List

The only good approach to email marketing is to build your list in-house. It’s hard work and takes time. However, it does pay off.

Collecting email addresses may seem problematic. Some consumers are more willing to give out their social security number than an email address. A few easy approaches for collecting addresses include:

• Adding a place for customers to write their email on every form and invoice

• From your website, offer to email consumers a free report

• Offer to email a coupon just before a technician is dispatched

• Offering to email a photo and bio of the technician.

To get the coupon, report, or bio, an email address is required. You are giving people a reason to give you an email address. Just do not forget to use the double opt-in.


The Service Roundtable provides members with technician bio templates, a variety of coupons, and scripts that can be used to help collect email addresses. Service Roundtable Money Mail is a low cost, turnkey monthly email marketing program that makes it a snap for you to send timely, informative, and soft sales oriented emails to your list through Constant Contact. Call 877.262.3341 for more information.

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