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Buying an email list is the act of paying a company to send you relevant leads' contact information so you can cold email them. Lead generation is a vital part of sales, and it’s important to continuously find new contacts. While purchasing email addresses can be an effective first step to generate leads through sales prospecting, it doesn’t come without risk. For this reason, it's vital to understand the legality, cost, and purchasing options involved, plus alternative methods.
Before we dive into everything, we want to note how we feel about buying cold email lists. While the practice is usually legal, it isn’t the ideal way to generate leads for your business. Typically, the best practice is to find emails for targeted leads. However, if you're interested in learning more about buying lists, read on for additional information.
This one is tricky, and it depends where you are. In the United States, for example, it’s generally legal to purchase or rent an email list as long as you follow specific guidelines. In Europe, it’s legal only to rent lists, and in Canada, it’s essentially illegal to do both. The best way to confirm whether you can secure and use email lists is to consult a lawyer. Let’s now take a closer look at the regulations in each region:
In short, the US does allow you to buy email lists. However, the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 established rules that you must follow when contacting them:
For more detailed information on these rules, including potential penalties and frequently asked questions, see the CAN-SPAM compliance guide.
Buying and utilizing email lists is essentially illegal throughout Europe. Where it isn’t outright illegal, it is so difficult to navigate that we do not recommend attempting to jump through the hoops required.
Now, you are able to rent email lists legally in Europe, and the owner of the email list must simply ensure that they have the leads' consent to promote a third party. While this may make it a less desirable option, it still makes it possible. This usually comes in the form of a subscription plan that allows you time-restricted use of an email list as long as you pay. We'll talk more about renting email lists later in this article.
For the most accurate and up-to-date information on email marketing regulations throughout Europe, visit the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)’s website.
Canada has the strictest rules regarding sending emails to a third party list. You can’t buy them in Canada, and renting them is much more difficult there, as well. They're available to rent in the same way they are in Europe, but hosts have to use even more caution in obtaining and maintaining customer consent, and therefore the supply is smaller. Check out the government page for Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL) for info.
Email lists can vary widely in cost, and it’s important to understand how they’re priced. Email lists are usually priced in CPM (cost per a thousand emails). Typically, business lists cost more than consumer ones. Below is the typical price range for these lists:
There are also services that use subscription models, but they don’t tend to move the needle as much. Be careful when jumping into a subscription contract, as the fine print may leave you locked into a long-term agreement unknowingly.
If the price of a list seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you’re thinking about buying an email list to save time that you’d otherwise have to spend collecting the emails yourself, remember that you get what you pay for, and consider paying the extra cost for quality lists. Just make sure to properly vet the seller first and make sure you've weighed all your lead generation options.
Given the legal complications and cost involved, is it even worth buying an email list? To help you decide, we’ve put together a list of pros and cons to keep in mind. Top benefits include the speed and ease of finding contacts to email, while common drawbacks include vague legal requirements and paying for lists that are not targeted or verified.
Let’s now take a closer look at each benefit and drawback in detail.
Since so many companies sell and rent out email lists, there is obviously a market for them. There are some good reasons for this, despite the many valid warnings you will find across the internet. For those who do use them and are not deterred by the risks, here’s why they can work:
Oftentimes, the companies that experience the most benefits from buying email lists have found legitimate, trustworthy sources. They've also diversified their lead generation process to include other methods to find email addresses, as well as other ways to identify leads altogether.
Since so many warnings are out on the internet, there are clearly some cons to consider. For many businesses, especially those in Europe and Canada, these drawbacks make the practice of buying or renting an email list undesirable. Here are the reasons that usually lead businesses away from purchasing email lists:
Ultimately, these drawbacks all share a common theme: risk. When you buy email lists, you risk wasting money and running into legal issues, so it’s important to decide how comfortable you are with these risks and figure out ways to avoid them before diving in and purchasing lists.
Overall, we would say the cons outweigh the pros. We recommend that you avoid buying email lists, and instead dedicate time to other lead generation efforts, such as renting lists or using a database like ZoomInfo. For more on the alternatives to buying email lists, jump down below. For those still interested in purchasing, however, keep reading for a list of reputable places to look first.
If buying email lists seems like an attractive option to you, you’ll need to know where to look. We’ve put together a list of reliable websites that directly offer or help you find email lists to buy. Read about each below, then visit their websites to get as much information as possible before moving forward with a purchase.
Exact Data is a well-known consumer data service that sells lists of email addresses and physical addresses. They have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (which is rare in their niche) and are the best-reviewed email list company on Google Reviews. They can be a good all-around option and are constantly offering 10-15% off on their website.
Doubling as both a list-building and list-selling tool, Book Your Data is a good way to attack a hybrid approach to lead generation. They sell email lists and mailing lists just like Exact Data, and are used by marketing teams at massive companies like PepsiCo and Allstate Insurance.
BuyerZone is a website that suggests and compares companies that sell email lists. They are BBB accredited and boast an A+ rating, though they do have recent complaints that you may want to check out before choosing their tool. They also offer buying tips so you can be informed about what to look out for when choosing a seller.
When deciding where to buy email lists, consider price, ratings, email address accuracy, and how long they’ve been around. In particular, check whether they have a list that’s highly relevant to your business to make sure you find the best value possible. Buying email addresses can be a risk, so it’s important to do your research.
Besides purchasing email lists, there are many ways to generate leads. Most businesses operate without buying these lists at all, and we’ve created a write-up of the best alternatives.
Sales prospecting tools are a great way to find leads’ email addresses and other information about them. The top prospecting tools either offer a database where you can search a lead’s name and company name or have browser extensions and website tracking tools to help your search. Below are some of the best sales prospecting tools available and their use cases:
If you search leads in a quality database, you’ll receive their email address plus other available data that can help round out your research — ZoomInfo will show buyer intent and an ideal customer profile so you can confirm whether they’re a good fit, and UpLead will tell you what technology the lead uses and even verify their email address in real time. If you prefer to track your website visitors, Leadfeeder is a great choice, as it identifies and even scores them for you.
Renting email addresses, or sending a “dedicated email," is when you write a message and then pay a company to send it to their subscriber list on your behalf. While you don’t ever see the list of email addresses, this type of promotion can still be a good way to get new leads interested in your business and opt in to more contact from you. Here are the steps to send a dedicated email:
You can reach out to a company with an audience similar to yours and ask if they’d be willing to sell you a dedicated email send, or you can choose a company that specializes in dedicated sends. The main benefit of working with the former is that you’ll increase your chances of leads responding with interest, but these companies could also be pickier about your email copy to protect their own brand. Be prepared to modify your verbiage or design if needed.
This is the most labor-intensive way of gathering email addresses, but it's also the most targeted. Through tools such as social media, email verification software, or a search engine, you can find most relevant leads' emails. Here are the best ways to find email addresses:
These ways can work well individually, or you can combine them to ensure you find the correct email addresses. For example, you can find a lead's email through social media and then verify it with an email verification tool. This will help you avoid sending too many emails to invalid addresses and damaging your email domain’s reputation.
Lead generation companies take away the headache of strategizing altogether. These companies will take into account your business model, and develop and deploy a campaign themselves to get you quality, targeted leads. If your business is too large for you to do it all yourself, this is the choice we would recommend over buying a list of emails. Here are a few well-regarded lead gen companies:
With any of these options, you are off to a great start in your new lead generation process. While all are reputable, trustworthy companies, the right one for you will depend largely on your business.
Ultimately, while email lists can be an easy way to gather email addresses, attracting inbound leads is often the best way to generate new leads for your business. You'll have more control over the type of leads you gather when you do it yourself, and they'll have voluntarily provided their email address to you. By taking the following steps, you can ensure that you gather online leads from people interested in your product:
When done right, online lead generation can provide you with a steady stream of inbound leads, which can lessen the pressure on the sales team to gather new contacts.
Short answer: No. The process of gathering and maintaining contacts can be long and expensive. Reputable email list vendors will always charge, and for good reason. Not only do they collect lists and attempt to target them to specific markets, they also do their best to maintain consent from those contacts to ensure you don’t risk breaking any laws by using them.
You can buy emails by zip code, though this will limit your options. By doing it this way, you limit yourself to data services that gather both email and physical mailing information. So, if you have to stay local, you can. It is recommended, though, that you cast as wide a net as possible.
When you buy an email list, you own all of the contact information you receive and can use it as you please. When you rent a list, however, the email provider company owns the emails and sends out a message on your behalf. Leads that are interested in your message can then opt in to receive more information and additional messages.
Although we don’t recommend buying lists, the advantage of buying over renting is that you can email leads individually if you’d like, personalizing your message for each one. When you rent emails for a dedicated send, those leads receive an email blast on behalf of your company, so there’s less opportunity to tailor the email to them. However, renting emails is the safer option, as it’s more likely the list will be relevant to your business offering.
At the end of the day, whether you purchase an email list for your company is a choice best left to you. We would caution against buying third-party email lists for cold emailing to avoid the risks involved. With a little extra financial and/or time investment, you can get a much better result by doing it yourself or enlisting the help of a lead generation company.