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Purchasing data - The Bad, the very bad and the ugly

Last updated by Brandon Hewitt-Hunt on March 27, 2019 11:55

We often get asked the question about people wanting to buy data, send out a campaign to clean it up and then use what is left after the fallout….this is a big NO NO in the world of email marketing!

The common misconception is that email marketing is the same as all other forms of marketing such as direct mail and you can buy a list of people in your area/industry, etc and bombard them with your marketing in the vain hope that something will stick. This is not the case and has never been the way.

Besides the technical/logistical issues that come from using lists to do email marketing without permission, you face the negative image that is given to your company and brand. Your brand will get associated with the millions of spammers out there communicating in the wrong way and illegally. It raises questions about your company such as “how have these people got my data and who have they passed my details to?” as well as “how can I trust this company?” – do you want people asking these questions of you and your company/brand?

We all know how tempting it can be to purchase data and then email it out, let’s face it, list companies make it sound so good!

“I have 1 million businesses you could be promoting yourself to!!!”

But the question you need to be asking is, “what permission do I have to communicate with these people via email?” That is the real question. Now, this data has been collected from websites and companies who are passing on other people’s details who THEY might have permission to communicate with but you have NO PERMISSION to contact them and if you start sending them emails it will be you that has to deal with the consequences.

To give you an example of the dark places purchased data will lead you to: -

  • A company paid a subscription fee to have access to a data website of leads that had been gathered by various companies all with “permission” to communicate with every single contact. When campaigns started rolling out the company not only found that 25% of the lists they had “permission” to communicate with were dead email addresses that bounced but they also started to suffer the fallout with their day to day emails not getting through as ISPs had blacklisted them.
  • Another company “Borrowed” data from a friends company in order to launch themselves. Seemed like a good idea at the time but again there were negative results because they didn’t have ANY permission to communicate with someone else’s database so they suffered from lots of Complaints which the ISPs took notice of and again added them to blacklists which meant that communications to their actual customers got blocked because of a one off action to boost business.

Those are just 2 examples or the countless thousands of companies who purchase, rent and borrow lists to communicate out to without fulfilling the all important criteria of actually having permission to communicate with the end contact.

The UK law on email marketing is that you must have permission to communicate with that person; so it has to be OPT-IN rather than blasting out a communication and expecting them to opt-out. While the ICO (Information Commissioner's Office) says that if you are communicating B2B (Business to Business) then it is ok to communicate with them and harvest their addresses, they don't actually send any emails. It is the ISPs, the likes of Hotmail, Yahoo, Googlemail, etc who DO deliver these emails and their rules aren't broken down by B2C (Business to Consumer) or B2B, they are just emails going from one person to another - So it is their rules which we have to play by.

So how is this OPT-IN got?

  • Permission has to be actively and knowledgeably given - i.e. the person must tick a box or actively OPT-IN by performing a specific action with the knowledge that they are giving permission.
  • If you have had a previous trading relationship you may be able to communicate with them about a similar service/product/topic.

Once you have got the all important OPT-IN you then need to make sure that you cover off the CAN-SPAM act criteria:

  • You must clearly identify the sender of the message.
  • You must provide a valid reply address.
  • You must give a valid postal address.
  • You must make it easy for recipients to unsubscribe from future communications.

So the moral of all of this is this:-

Buying, Borrowing, Leasing, Renting, Purchasing Lists is bad for business and can lead down very dark paths if used for email marketing.

If you don’t have permission, Don’t communicate with them - your reputation is not worth the risk!