They Never End: Another Bad List Deal
By Ken Magill
Yet another marketer has approached the Magill Report claiming to have been ripped off in an email list deal.
Anyone who has read this newsletter for any length of time knows I counsel against buying email lists.
Buying email addresses is not illegal in the U.S. and from what I have been told by multiple sources, purchased lists can work quite well.
But it is akin to playing Russian roulette with your email program.
I occasionally get calls from people who have been blocklisted by Spamhaus, thinking I’ve got some sway with the anti-spam outfit. I don’t. What I have with the folks at Spamhaus would more accurately be described as anti-sway.
I once got a phone call from two business-to-business marketers who had been blocklisted by Spamhaus. They asked what I thought they should do and if I’d run interference for them.
I asked if they had bought a list. Yes, they said.
So I began my usual spiel explaining how buying email lists is a bad idea because purchased lists tend to contained bad data and spam traps, and are a sure way to get the sender’s IPs blocked as sources of spam.
After a minute or so, one of the callers politely interrupted me and said: “But, Ken, we’ve been doing this for two years and it’s been working.”
And there you have it. These two particular entrepreneurs were able to profitably spam until they pulled the trigger on the chamber with a round in it. And now they were screwed.
Last week, I received an email from another entrepreneur who bought a bad list.
I’m going to include the important parts of the story here, but not all of it.
People who have read my work for a long time know I used to “out” sellers of bad email lists. But most of that work was done when I was at Penton Media where I had the advantage of corporate counsel.
I am no longer lawyered up and can’t afford a libel suit, so I will not be naming any person or company in any of the following.
Frankly, names are not important.
Here is an edited version of what I received:
“We were a startup with two new unique products ready to take the world by storm.
“We wanted to create awareness in the market for new products. We knew what we wanted to say. We knew who we wanted to say it to. We wanted to directly contact owners and decision-makers in target customer businesses.
“We decided to start our new product launch by purchasing an email contact list. We hadn’t purchased an email contact list before, but (name redacted) at (name redacted) answered our inquiries with the promise of tens of thousands of personal email contacts in our target market.”
The following is the guarantee the list seller provided, according to the entrepreneur:
“95-98% on all information about contact name, job title, company/business name, complete mailing address, telephone number, fax number and web URL.
80-85% on business emails (above industry standards).
Our lists have 95% inbox hit rates.
We have 1 to 1 replacement policy for bad contacts within the guaranteed numbers.
Replacements if any will be done within 3-4 business days.
We purely provide business emails and NO generic IDs like info@ OR sales@ etc.
If any additional information is found incorrect, we would replace the lead with new one.
We don't accept credit cards. We accept only Check/Wire/ACH transfers.”
Sure smells fishy to me, especially the part about no credit cards. The non acceptance of credit cards rang warning bells with the entrepreneur, as well. But he went ahead with the purchase anyway:
“Still blinded by optimism, we proceeded to purchase contact lists for several NAICS category codes. Payment was issued with a wire transfer to (name redacted’s) parent company (name redacted) in (location redacted.)
“At this point, our optimism begins to turn sour. We approved and sent our wire transfer payment on January 16. The following Monday, (name redacted) sends me the first data files and I import them into our email campaign software. The campaign software reports 6,104 duplicate contacts!
“I complain about the duplicate contacts and (name redacted) responds with 6,000 new contacts for me. But… if these new contacts are inside the contact categories we ordered, why weren’t they included in the original data files? I am beginning to see that the world of ‘purchased email lists’ is not the haven of efficient sales leads I believed it would be.
“We send our first campaign – with a 45 percent bounce rate (7,478 emails bounce as undeliverable). My email campaign service puts freezes our account until we can verify that our contact/subscribers are verified.
“With no response from (name redacted) or anyone at (name redacted) or (parent company) we decide to pay for a third-party email verification service so we can try and salvage some benefit from our maligned contact list. I also I found several categories of contacts inside the list that don't actually belong in this category. I made a list of 75 words and used it to search and remove these contacts.
“The results were alarming.
“Total Email in List: 77,743
“Verified or Sent Valid: 26,883
“Manually Eliminated: 1,405
“Invalid or Undeliverable: 52,265
“A full 67 percent of the contacts (name redacted) and (name redacted) sold to us were invalid!”
And there you have it. The rest of the entrepreneur’s story involves attempting to get a refund and failing.
The lesson here is simple, folks. Buying email lists is simply not worth the risk. I have lost count of the number of people who have contacted me claiming to have been burned by email list vendors. Safe to say, they’re just the tip of a very large iceberg.