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Inbound Marketing

Why Purchased Email Lists Are Not Compatible With Inbound Marketing

The concept of inbound marketing is to provide great content to attract visitors to your site, convert them into leads, create a relationship with them, close them as customers, and then delight those customers. I have seen this methodology provide significant and powerful results across all different industries. Committing to an inbound marketing methodology, however, can require considerable manpower and time. It can also be a slow process in the beginning, which can be frustrating.

It usually takes 3-6 months to start seeing the benefits and results. So when companies are eager to get leads for their sales team during this beginning time period, purchasing email lists starts to look pretty attractive to them. Great idea, right? Think again.

This is all too common of a strategy for companies and unfortunately what tends to happen is that marketing departments waste thousands of dollars on useless leads that are cold and old.

Here are some common results from using purchased email lists from bad to worse:

    • Low open ratesZero (or close to zero) percent click through rates
    • Large bounce rates (which is usually a flag to the email service providers the list is bad)
    • Spam reports (which is also usually a flag to the email service providers the list is bad)
    • Your email service provider requiring you to put everyone on your purchased list onto an opt-out list (keeping you from emailing any of them ever again - even if they are already customers)
    • Getting locked out of your email service provider software completely (Hubspot, Constant Contact, MailChimp, and the list goes on)

Purchasing email lists is essentially an outbound approach, which explains these commonly seen results. You are contacting people that have never opted into your company and quite possibly have never heard of you before. Even using a more inbound tactic with them, like offering a whitepaper, will seem intrusive.

While purchasing email lists usually ends badly, there are ways to augment your inbound marketing process and reach more people in the beginning or during a slow season for your industry.

Here are some ideas I've seen work well:

Offering a whitepaper or eBook through purchased banner ads on highly trafficked industry sites (such as LinkedIn, publication websites, and professional association websites)

    • Offering a whitepaper or eBook through sponsored emails from publications or associations (the publication or association sends out the email for you to their list)
    • Offering a demo or consultation through paid search (Google, Yahoo, Bing)
    • Co-sponsoring a webinar with a publication, other industry leaders or professional association (both parties promote the webinar to their database)
    • All of these ideas can help you reach a different set of leads you weren’t reaching before. By offering content and sharing it where your buyer personas are already, you will often see some powerful results. And by approaching people in a non-intrusive, helpful way, the results tend to be more conducive to your goals. 

An even though I’ve cautioned you about purchased lists, don’t be afraid to try new methods and places to reach additional people. The key is to always ask yourself, “am I being intrusive or helpful?” This question always helps me see if something is outbound or inbound.