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Ken Magill

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How to Tell You're About to Get Ripped Off in a List Deal


By Ken Magill

[Note: This article is for beginners, part of a service I’m going to attempt to provide on an ongoing basis. Long-time readers will find little value here.]

I could have told Heresy Email principal Randy Macdonald he was going to get ripped off when he bought an email list from Data Depot.

And it’s not that I’m all that bright.

But over the years I’ve been writing about email marketing—longer than anyone else in the world, I think—I have learned one sure-fire trick to tell if an email list deal is a rip off in the making.

And, quite frankly, I’m surprised Macdonald got scammed with the purchase of an email list that contained 60-percent bad data. Watching his YouTube videos makes it pretty instantly clear he’s an email marketing expert.

Yes, he engages in and publicly condones practices most email marketing experts do not recommend. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He simply draws different conclusions than most of the rest of us.

In any case, how could I have known Macdonald’s list deal was a stinker? Because Data Depot let him take possession of the addresses, took the money up front and had a no-refund policy.

No reputable company will let a third party take possession of its email list.

If the list is permission based, those names are gold. But they’re gold only to the marketer who received permission from the address holder. Permission is not transferable.

If Data Depot’s business model involved emailing its list an offer from Macdonald on behalf of Macdonald—a perfectly legitimate business model—then we might have a different outcome on our hands. But that is not how the deal worked. And the deal between Data Depot and Macdonald is not how email works.

The first question people new to email marketing tend to ask is: “Where can I buy email lists?”

The answer is nowhere. At least nowhere and not have big problems on your hands.

Not only do purchased lists tend to have a lot of bad data on them, they also tend to include spam traps, and in particular honey pots.

Honey pot spam traps are addresses published on the Internet that have never been subscribed to anything. They are designed to catch spammers.

An emailer who hits a honey pot has either been scraping addresses from the Internet or has bought addresses from a firm that has been scraping addresses off the Internet.

Hitting honey pot addresses is one way to get the attention of Spamhaus, an anti-spam blocklisting outfit that maintains a list of emailers it deems are sources of spam.

Most of the major inbox providers use Spamhaus as at least part of their formula for identifying and filtering incoming spam.

As a result, a listing on Spamhaus will result in serious delivery issues.

The lesson: Don’t ever, ever, ever buy email lists.


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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Stefanie Pont
Date: 2013-06-04 20:41:47
Subject: its back!

Ah, I missed the Data Depot stories! Considering how many times this happens - you should run this once a month!