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Email list rental vs. buying third-party lists

Every business hopes to grow its email list so it’s as large as possible. The more people you can send your well-designed email marketing campaigns to, the greater chance you have of achieving success.

So how do you increase your email lists? There are good ways of going about it, but there are bad ways, too.

The best way to grow your email contact list is, not surprisingly, to do it organically over time. It might take longer than you’d hoped, but organic sign-ups have subscribed to your content because they want to receive messages from you and therefore they’re far more likely to open and engage with your email content.

However, there are some email campaigns that require a large audience right from the get-go, such as a new product launch or an upcoming webinar. So what should you do then? Should you look into rented email lists? Or should you buy third-party lists from a data company?

In this article, we cover the email list rental vs. buying third-party lists debate and explain the pros and cons of both.


Table of contents


What is email list rental?

You might think that email list rental means that you’re given access to a list of contacts that you can reach for a certain period of time. Actually, this isn’t the case.

Email list rental is when you pay a third party an agreed amount in order to use their email list for a particular email blast on a one-time use basis (or several uses, depending on the rental deal). By leveraging third-party email marketing, you could be a featured business or sponsor the next newsletter of the list owner company.

The people on their subscriber list have opted in to receive messages from business partnerships, meaning they’ve agreed to be emailed on certain topics periodically by companies other than the one they signed up with. However, you’ll never actually be in possession of the contact email addresses or contact names yourself.

Instead, the third party (who owns the contact list) will send out your email to their list on your behalf. You’ll design the email in-house and create its content, subject line, call to action, landing page etc., but the email list broker you’re renting the list from will send it for you and report back with open rates, click-throughs, response rates, etc.

Before you rent an email list, the email list broker will present you with data cards showing you the demographics of the contacts on the list, so you can be sure they align with your target audience. Always inquire with list providers about which other brands have rented their email lists before and how much success they had using their list services.

The difference between rented email lists and third-party email lists for sale are huge. The former is a smart way of doing business, the latter is a murky path best avoided.

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Should you ever buy third-party lists?

Perhaps you’re thinking: “Why would I rent a third-party email list when I could just buy one and use it over and over again?”

It’s a good question. After all, when you buy a third-party email list from a data broker, you actually get the names and addresses of the people on the list. By getting your hands on a purchased email list, it might feel like you’ve instantly increased your email list size and success is just around the corner.

In reality, it’s a very bad idea, and could land you in legal trouble. That’s because it’s unlikely that the people you’ll send emails to will have opted in to such a list. Even worse, the email addresses you end up buying could turn out to be invalid, resulting in terrible email deliverability and hard bounces as email service providers reject the email as spam.

Yes, you now have a large email list to send your campaigns to, but chances are most of the recipients won’t know who you are or why you’re messaging them as they haven’t subscribed to your emails, nor are they expecting them. They’re probably not your target audience. This will only turn potential customers against you and result in a mass of unsubscribes (not that they were ever subscribed in the first place).

Then there are the potential legal implications of emailing hundreds or even thousands of people who have not given you permission to send them marketing messages. This breaks various local laws, including the US CAN-SPAM Act and the European GDPR laws.

The truth is, buying third-party email lists doesn’t work.

Spam complaints are highly likely and your brand could be severely damaged if you send unsolicited emails. Sending spam can be a death sentence for a business, and it’s very unlikely you’ll see a return on investment.


How to partner with a third party to “rent” email lists

While buying third-party lists isn’t a good idea, email list rental can be an effective method for reaching more people in a short period of time.

Some of the benefits of email rental include:

  • Good value for money

  • You can reach a variety of new audiences

  • You can get results quickly

The price is the first indicator that they’re more likely to work. Depending on the nature of your emails, an email list rental containing 2,500 to 5,000 recipients will cost an average of $300 per 1,000 impressions for a consumer list and $450 per 1,000 impressions for a business list, according to 2022 research from costaide. These prices are relatively cost-effective when compared to other direct marketing avenues such as direct mail or telemarketing.

When renting an email marketing list, you can also customize it in order to send different messages to different demographics and job titles and experiment with segmentation by sending different subject lines until you get the desired results.

After your email is sent, you should receive data from the email list broker outlining all the important email marketing metrics (open rates, click-through rates, etc.) so you can determine whether your campaign was successful. You can then make any necessary amendments before your next email campaign.

Final thoughts

Always avoid buying email lists, no matter how good the offer sounds.

While email list rental can be an inviting option, it probably still won’t be as effective for lead generation as growing your email list organically.

Instead, build your own reliable and highly profitable lists and get new customers by:

  • Encouraging users to sign up on your website

  • Encouraging users to sign up through your social media channels

  • Getting opt-ins during account creation

  • Partnering with other businesses for email campaigns

  • Running promotional campaigns in store

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