4 Reasons to Avoid Email List Rentals

You will have heard this from us before, but it’s worth repeating: Email marketing generates a return on investment of $44 for every $1 spent.

Only if it’s done in the right way.

This means sending emails to a healthy, engaged list of subscribers who want to hear from you. They will have signed up through your website, bought your products, and are familiar with your brand.

As a marketer, you will have pressure on you to grow your email list, and increase the reach of the brand. This could lead to a temptation to rent, or buy, an email list.In fact, renting an email list is even worse than buying one because you’ll never own the list. It will always be out of your control.

Resist it. Whatever you do, do not do it.

Let us explain why:

1. Poor Quality Lists

Email list providers tend to promise their lists are vetted and checked for quality. The truth is the vast majority are not. The data is often incomplete, filled with old, inactive addresses that could have been illegally gathered.

Email marketing is subject to legislation from governments around the world. In the United States, your business could be fined up to $16,000 per violation under the CAN-SPAM act. This means if you are caught sending to just one illegally gathered address you a liable to a big penalty.

Poor quality lists can also lead to a high-bounce rate, which affects your sender rating.

A poor sender rating then affects your deliverability. Before you know it, you’ll end up in a vicious cycle that’s difficult, if not impossible to break out of.

2. It’s a Waste of Time

It’s important to remember that people on rented or purchased email lists didn’t sign up to your business. They are far less likely to open an email from you than someone who has directly subscribed.

Email list purchasing companies gain email addresses from people who ticked “Yes” to the box that says: “Opt-in to share your details with similar companies you might like to hear from.”

This is important because the question is so vague and most people on a rented list probably never even heard of your business. So, even if you crafted a high-quality piece of content, it’s irrelevant.

You have just burst into a person’s inbox without their express permission.

Even if you get through to the inbox, you’ll still get a much lower open rate and unlikely to see any return on your investment.

3. You Could Get Reported for Spam

Most people simply ignore emails they do not have any interest in. However, some recipients could go one step further and report your email for spam.In most cases, the spam report will go to your email service provider (ESPs), including DirectIQ. And in line with most reputable ESPs, we have a zero tolerance policy towards spam. We actively monitor and investigate spam reports.

Any client found to be using our service to send spam emails will immediately be cut off.

We also forbid the use of rented or purchased lists. Any client found to be using one will also be cut off.

We do this not only to protect ourselves and other clients but also because it’s bad practice to spam.

You could also be breaking the law under the CAN-SPAM Act and subject to hefty fines.

4. Competitors Could be Using the List Too

The reality is that your competitors could have the same idea as you. Anxious to reach out to as many people as possible, they will have already emailed the very same people. And annoyed them too.Therefore, those recipients could be even less receptive to your emails than they would have been.

Some will have already acted and put filters in place to block the very emails you’re sending. So not only are you sending emails that are irrelevant to most of the list, they may not make it into the inbox at all.

What Should You Do Instead?

By now, you will have got the idea that renting email lists is a terrible idea. It offers no value and can do far more damage than good. It will lead to a cycle that’s almost impossible to break out of.

So you should look to building your email list naturally. Here’s how you can do it:

Work With a Reputable ESP

ESPs who take care of their clients and reputations will look out for you. The way filters work means that if one sender from an IP address is caught for spam, every sender from the same address is affected.

So it’s in the ESPs interests to protect its reputation as much as possible. Fortunately for you, we are one of the ESPs that care.

Content Upgrades

Search engine optimization specialists Backlinko reported a 785% increase in conversions from content upgrades alone. So they are clearly a potentially powerful tool, but what are they?

Content upgrades are essentially supplementary pieces of content to a blog post or article. They are gated so when the reader wants to find out more, they need to input their email address. You should be clear that you will be using their email addresses for marketing purposes.

It’s a great way to gain high-quality email addresses, because they will have already demonstrated a strong interest in your brand. They were even prepared to share their precious email address to get that extra bit of content.

Personalized Subscription Process

One of the best ways to keep an engaged email list is to give new subscribers as much control as possible. This is something automotive brand Mercedes do extremely well:

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(Source: Mercedes.com)

Given the list of choice, subscribers are able to select exactly the content they want to know about. For example, I chose “Vehicles” which led to this further drop down menu:

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Source: Mercedes.com)

And a few days later, I get my first email about vans:

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(Source: Mercedes.com)

Mercedes enables the subscriber to retain complete control of their interaction with the brand. It will leave them feeling confident about signing up and more likely to be engaged.

Customer Incentives

For whatever reason, many of your loyal customers may not be on your email list. This is a missed opportunity to build a relationship with hot leads who could become advocates for your brand.

Consider offering 10% off a purchase when a customer signs up to a new account or subscribes to your emails. It can also just be a content upgrade or an e-book. Whatever it is, there has to be a reward for the customer giving you their valuable email address.

After all, retaining existing customers is five times more effective than gaining new ones. A well-organized and structured email marketing strategy is the number one way to retain and build relationships,

Work With Your Sales and Support Teams

This is another in-house, and therefore, cost-effective solution. Your support and sales teams interact with your customers on a daily basis. They will know more about your market than anyone else.

So utilize your customer support and sales teams. Work with them to encourage keen customers to sign up to your email list.

Then the customers will have benefit of a personal relationship with a representative and get all the latest news from the brand. Do it right, and those keen customers could soon become advocates.

Cooperate With Complementary Brands

Organizing events or partnerships with complementary brands is an excellent way to grow your email list. The idea has been around for a long time, because it works.

One of the most successful co-marketing partnerships is between GoPro and Red Bull. On the face of it, this is not a natural pairing – a personal camera manufacturer and a soft-drinks maker. However, it works because the two brands operate in similar young and adventurous markets. GoPro were the initial winners as it catapulted into fame on the back of a more established brand. Red Bull also benefited from the dramatic camera shots of stunts with its logo appearing all over the world online. The pinnacle was the highest ever skydive by Felix Baumgartner in 2012. At the time, it was one of the most watched internet events in history.

Though this level of success may be beyond the reach of most of us, the principle remains true. Co-marketing partnerships are a great way to target similar audiences that you may not otherwise reach.

Create High-Quality, Relevant Content

There really is no substitute for this. All of those previous steps will be a waste of time if you do not create high-quality content that your subscribers want to read. The key is to keep the content focused and with one clear message.

Ensure the emails are easily scannable and engaging. Avoid exclusively promoting your products and share news from across the industry. Also, give out useful information on how to get the most out of your products.

Subscribers will always come back for more useful and interesting content, as well as spreading the word.


Whatever you do, avoid renting an email list at all costs. It’s a one-way ticket to Spam Town with no escape route. The list will be littered with inactive, old, and just plain wrong email addresses. And when you do make it through the inbox, you could be liable to a $16,000 fine. Per email.Ask yourself is it really worth it? When you come to the obvious answer, look at the alternative and far more rewarding ways of growing your email list.

There’s no shortcut. Yet, it’s not rocket science either. It takes time and a little bit of innovative thinking to build a highly engaged, profitable email list.

The first step is to join a reputable ESP like us here at DirectIQ. We offer full protection to all our clients and subscribers who follow good practice. Our zero tolerance policy on spam means your marketing emails will have the best possible chance of succeeding.Next, look at how you can proactively grow your email list using detailed sign up forms, content upgrades, and customer incentives. Then deliver the high-quality, relevant emails they signed up to.

Never resort to renting (or buying) an email list. Just don’t do it.