If You Take Short Cuts, you Get Cut Short

Gary Busey said, “If you take short cuts you get cut short.”  He has a point. 

It’s tempting to buy an email list. I get offers daily asking if I’d like to purchase a curated, targeted list. Similar to the $.99 candies at the checkout I also get offered – so easy to throw on the conveyor built and sneak them through with the fruits and veggies – but then you taste it and realize it probably has been on the shelf since 1995. That’s what a shortcut is – a candy bar from 1995.

There is always a problem with shortcuts - not the same problems you get from old candy – but equally regrettable. The time you save by not organically building an email list can hurt your sales, website and email reputation.

Much like shortcuts and old candy – you shouldn’t buy email lists.

On one hand, they save time, but the lists are rarely accurate, and your domain and email reputation are important tools for business - that likely aren't worth the risk. A proper email list is a powerful marketing asset, and much like anything else in life, something properly built takes time, dedication and effort. 

We’re all bombarded daily with emails, I currently have over 7K in my inbox, and in an age where we’re all terrified of hackers, I rarely open emails from businesses I’ve never interacted with – and it’s likely your potential customers won’t either. Making the countless hours you’ve spent curating content – worthless.

But – don’t just take my word for it, let’s look at some specific reasons, to never buy an email list.

  1. Contacts are cold and unqualified.

We all know where to buy a list, maybe you’re responding to one of those emails, or buying it from a referral site, but really all you’re thinking is that you don’t have to focus on inbound leads anymore. However, the contacts will be cold.

Qualified contacts are warm leads – they’re people familiar with the business and want to learn more – even if they’re not ready to buy quite yet – they’re still interested - and an interested lead is a lead that you want.

  1. SPAM

Spam is literally the kiss of death in email marketing. As soon as you get marked as spam – and thanks to many leading email scanning products – unknown marketing emails are easy targets for this – email clients will begin diverting emails directly to the trash, plummeting open rates and ensuring that none of these potential leads will see your emails.

  1. You’re not exclusive

That elusive e-word – exclusivity. When you buy an email list, you’re not the only one buying that email list. So that list of contacts is getting barraged from every company that purchased that list, including yours. In other words – your email list is dating a lot of people at the same time.

  1. Low engagement rate.

Metrics matter. In email marketing – engagement rates matter. With a cold list – you get low engagement. Let’s skip the very high bar of getting these cold contacts to open an email – now you need contacts who have never heard of you to click. It’s hard to get your warm leads to click and engage – let alone people you don’t know. Will a stranger be likely to read a blog post, take advantage of a discount, or check out a new product? Clicks are true engagement and cold contacts aren’t clicking. Besides, would you rather have 16% engagement rates on an organically grown list of 1000 contacts (160)? Or a 1% engagement on a 5,000-contact list (50)?

  1. Negative impact on brand awareness

No one leaves a review when they’ve had an okay time – but they always leave reviews when they’ve had a bad time – and the same can be said from people getting unsolicited emails.

Unsolicited emails work the same way as those restaurant flyers left on your doorknob each week, or the yearly copy of the 900-page phone book left on your doorstep. Things you don’t want, but somehow keep showing up. Contacts who have a negative email experience with your brand, won’t be buying your services, because they don’t like your methods.

Now that we’ve talked about all the reasons you shouldn’t buy an email list – what’s the alternative? How do you build an email list on your own?

In case you missed the earlier analogy – shortcuts are bad – because when you take short cuts, you get cut short. In effect, you don’t need a shortcut to curate a good marketing email list. Use inbound website traffic, convert visitors and keep them on the hook with great content and offers so your list is clean, and you have good metrics for open and engagement rates.

Below are some tips to get a good list going – the right way – so you’re not cut short.

  1. Figure out your audience.

First, who do you want to sell to? If your product is ideal for stay-at-home moms with toddlers, make sure your content and messaging is right for that audience. Get people to your site and get them to engage. You can use several different tactics for that – but be specific and speak to your audience. Another way to determine your audience is to look at your customer base and see who’s actually buying your product. From there, you can create buyer personas, which leads us to the next step.  

  1. Segment the Audience

Once you know who you want to sell to – segment your lists and audiences – creating specific content for each one - this differentiation will increase your open and engagement rates. Audiences will feel as though you know them, and you've spent time figuring them out. In other words, make them feel special. 

  1. Write great content

Content is everything. It’s what makes or breaks your website, inbound strategy, email marketing strategy, I could go on, but you probably know all of this already. Make it targeted, make it original, make it good.

Create educational content on your industry and overall product, create articles, videos, infographics, etc. Make your content better than the competition – so it’ll stand out and your brand will be known as a subject matter expert. Leads aren’t giving up their email addresses for nothing – they want original, useful content that will help them solve a pain point for their business.

  1. Use all your resources.

Your website, social media accounts, paid ads, SEO, etc. Use everything at your disposal to curate good content which will in turn capture leads and contact information. Engage with your leads, collect their information and market to them. There is an old adage, you get what you pay for – some of these things cost money – but that money is much better spent on paid ads, website improvements, SEO enhancements and better content, than purchasing cold lists.  The ROI is not comparable.

We at sell a WiFi Marketing product, which is an amazing tool to capture accurate first-party data, onsite, at the time of engagement, but it’s not the right fit for everyone, whereas the tactics above are. So, if you’re interested in WiFi Marketing – check out this blog - or take this quiz and see if it’s right for you – but definitely stop buying email lists.

At we’re passionate about WiFi Marketing, the capabilities of the software and what it can do for businesses. If you’re interested and want to learn more - you can contact us @

Topics: first-party, WiFi marketing

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