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Should You Buy an Email List for Your eCommerce Business?

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In our Email FAQs series, we answer your email marketing questions! In this episode, Daniel Kohn, the Founder of SmartMail, answers this email marketing question he gets asked all the time by online retailers: Should I buy an email list?

The more subscribers on your list, the more email campaigns you can send out! But if you buy a list, will your “subscribers” be engaged and lead to more sales?

Watch the video below to find out! You can also read the full article or listen to the audio at the bottom of the post.

Hey, everybody. On today’s video, I wanna answer a really simple question, whether or not you should or shouldn’t be buying email lists.

Whether or not maybe you’ve got a friend who’s given you a list or you’ve left another company and you took the list with you…I’ve heard all the stories, I’ve experienced it all, I’ve tried it all myself. And I wanted to just sort of download onto you what I’ve learned from my experience.

Why You Should NEVER Buy a List (And What To Do Instead)

So, the first thing is that you shouldn’t do any of the above, none of it. None of it will serve you well in the long term.

You might get away with some of it in the short term, but firstly you’ve got the email platforms themselves to contend with, so if you’re actually going to take a list…

I hear a lot of people say, you know, “I left my last job, I took 20,000 emails from the list. Now I wanna start my own e-commerce business and market to those people, because I’m gonna be selling the same products.”

You know, that type of thing, it’s not gonna work because, what’s gonna happen is you’re gonna upload the list. You’re gonna upload the email list into MailChimp and then you’re gonna start sending some emails. Now, depending on how clever you wanna get, MailChimp are five times more clever. I’ll tell you why.

Don’t Try to Outsmart Your Email Platform

Because their entire business is based on delivering those emails into an inbox, so when legitimate people have legitimate lists and they’re getting penalized because you’re spamming people, they’ve become very, very sophisticated in figuring out who you are, what you’re doing and shutting you down as quickly as possible.

I think the spam rate is, if more than 1% of people hit that spam button on the emails that you send out, they stop sending your emails immediately, even in the middle of a send.

So, if you’re sending a list, even if you just send it to 100 people a day, you’re gonna get weeded out. I’ve had about 20 MailChimp accounts shut down.

Okay, not 20, but I’ve had a few in my time and I’ve tried all these different things, but at the end of the day, what I’ve come to realize is that it doesn’t serve you any well.

It’s a waste of time, and there are easy ways to really grow your email list, like properly. So, why wouldn’t you focus on that, as opposed to trying to shortcut the whole system?

And then the other thing as well is that, you know people don’t know who you are when you start emailing them, and unless you’ve got a really sophisticated way of…

Actually I’m not even gonna go there, because I don’t think there could be, and stealing from other people is not something that I would encourage either, because I just think it creates bad karma.

So, I would really stay away from doing that type of behavior.

Protect Your Domain

The other problem you’re going to run into as well, is on the client side, on the Gmail side.

Their spam filters are unbelievable and the second that they pick up, and they’ve got so many little triggers, that you don’t even know about, that will detect whether or not you’re spamming people, or you’re emailing people that aren’t meant to be emailing, they will shut you down very, very quickly.

And, the other problem as well is if you’re using a custom domain, if you’re doing this and you’re using specific custom domains, your domain will get blacklisted very, very quickly.

And if you start doing it inside a MailChimp account where you don’t actually have a custom domain, but you’re on a shared domain with other companies, and you’re just sending on a shared domain, by doing that it’s actually gonna affect your entire account.

So, when you actually do wanna blast your regular email lists, and when you wanna start sending legitimate emails, it’s gonna penalize your delivery of all of your other email campaigns.

Growing Your Email List Effectively

So, it’s something that, again, stay away from it. It’s bad news and I’ve got plenty of other videos that I’ve got in this series, and that I’ll be creating over time, that can help you figure out how to actually grow your email list.

We have a course as well called the ChimpExpress that talks about this in the course. I’ve got a whole module dedicated to just growing your email list. It’s never been easier to grow your own email list.

Just a quick story before I finish. I had a company come to me once, they told me they had 700,000 people who had bought from them, so that were actually buyers from their website, but they didn’t actually opt in to their email list.


Keep Your Subscribers Engaged With Consistent Email Campaigns

Now, that’s actually a very interesting area that you wanna really cover, when you’re signing…when people are actually going to buy something off your website, you wanna be able to also opt them in to your email list at the same time.

But if you don’t and then two years later you wanna add all of those people who historically bought from you, onto your list, you’re gonna run into really, really big problems.

And they commissioned us to try and help them do that, and we tried to help them in some way because we thought, you know, on some level, they are customers of these people.

And so, we put some strategies together, and we tried to sort of segment out, you know, a portion of the list, and we tried to really look at a lot of the data.

But at the end of the day, it didn’t work so well, because if you’re not emailing people on a frequent basis as well, you’re not in touch with them, that list becomes cold, and so when you try and start emailing them again, there are ways to warm the list up again, but it’s very hard to do that.

So, the other thing is, is once you start building your list, you need to keep the list warm and if you’re just gonna start emailing your list cold, I can guarantee, you’ll get shut down by MailChimp very quickly and you’ll get sent straight into the spam filter by Gmail, or, you know, any of the other email clients.

So, stay away from doing all that sort of behavior.

Leverage Emails To Increase Sales on Your eCommerce Site

And then the other thing around actually like buying a list and going to list brokers, you know, that is something that might work when you’re trying to target lawyers or doctors or plastic surgeons or, you know, I don’t know, family therapists.

But when you’re actually trying to sell your products online and you’re trying to build a brand, and you want to do it the right way, there’s no lists to buy.

You don’t wanna be buying lists. It’s not something you should be focused on at all.

You should really be focused on growing your own list because ultimately that’s gonna become one of the core assets of your entire business as you grow, because email marketing is the highest converting channel out of any other channel.

And once you’ve, you know, brought somebody onto your email list, you can market to that person forever and a day.

So, really put effort into doing list growth in a legitimate way, and really try not to, you know, cut corners, because at the end of the day, it’s gonna serve you better, you’re gonna make more money from it, and hopefully if you watch some more of these videos, you’re gonna learn how to send smarter emails, more intelligent emails, and make more money from your emails.

So, thanks for watching this video and hope you enjoy this series of eCommerce email FAQs.

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Listen to the full audio here: 

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