8bits Blog


Bad Mailing Lists

I recently received an email from someone trying to sell me a mailing list. The first thing that struck me was that they had just sent me an unsolicited email. I don’t know about you, but I tend to avoid buying anything from people that send me unsolicited email. In this instance they were trying to sell me an email list. I think there may be a clue there as to how they got that list.

The other thing about the email was the absence of a way for me to unsubscribe from their list. I had to reply to the sender directly and ask that they take me off this list and any others they have me on. Not surprisingly, I didn’t receive a reply. It’s illegal to send out mass emails without some way for people to unsubscribe. (See The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.)

I also pointed out the irony of them spamming me with an offer to buy a list so I could be a spammer too! No reply. Not even a “Oh yes, you’re right. Thanks for pointing it out. We’ll now review our business plan and get into something legitimate.” Some people are just plain ungrateful.

I share this story in case anyone reading has received a similar email. It’s tempting in these days of the GFC, bone crushing austerity and the Big Society to think “Yes, a great idea. I’ll buy a list of email addresses for people that have never heard of me or my business. That’s bound to increase sales.” If you did think that and bought the list, you’re in for a bit of a disappointment.

The Consequences

What will happen if you buy such a list and then send an email campaign to it?

  1. You’re breaking the law. Although you can legally buy a list, you can’t send a campaign to it without first getting permission from the recipient. Bit of a catch 22 there… (See The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.)
  2. Most people will mark your email as spam (what do you do when you get such an email?)
  3. Once people start marking your email as spam, ISPs and spam filtering companies will black-list your domain. This means you will start getting agitated when people aren’t responding to normal emails you send them. They can’t. They won’t have received them. Your email will have been marked as spam and quarantined as junk-mail
  4. You’ll get complaints and maybe even some threats. We had a customer that bought and sent an e-marketing flyer to such a list. As a result they were inundated with cranky emails and phone calls. People can get quite emotive about receiving spam
  5. It won’t do your brand any favours. People relate scams to unsolicited email. Ever had a n email from Nigerian Prince that needs YOU to help him sort out his cash problems in return for a handsome payment?

Apart from it being poor business practice and illegal to send out mass unsolicited emails, it can end up being quite costly. The damage it can do your brand far outweighs any perceived benefit you may have thought you would get.

The way to build a list is to make it easy for your customers and prospects to subscribe. Here are a few ways you can build a legitimate list:

  1. Make sure there is a sign-up form to your mailing list on your website
  2. Whenever you make a sale (online or offline) provide an opt-in for people to join your mailing list. If they are buying something on line a simple check box will achieve this.
  3. Use social media such as Twitter and Facebook to direct people to your sign-up form
  4. Ask. If you talk to your customers and prospects ask them if they would like to subscribe to your mailing list
  5. Give something away. Provide an e-book or something you can give away at little to no cost to you.

Legitimate E-marketing

If you would like help in setting up and sending out legitimate e-marketing campaigns, we can help. We’ve been doing it for a few years now and can provide you with everything you need to send out legal, good looking email campaigns that you can track.

For more information, go to our Email Marketing page

External Links


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