The Ultimate Guide to Buying Opt-In Email Lists

Email List Sellers
Are you looking to grow your B2B marketing database by buying an opt-in list? This is everything you need to know:

If someone offers to sell you an opt-in email list, don’t even respond. Just walk away.

It’s that simple.

You have the only list of people who have opted in to receive email from you. They don’t!

No one opted in with a random list company to receive emails from you. Period.

It doesn’t matter if the email address was collected legally, or even if the privacy policy connected to a form they filled out saying their information would be freely shared with anyone who asked for it. They certainly were not opting in to receive emails from you.

When you send marketing emails to a purchased list, it doesn’t matter how the list was created, you are spamming.

What Are You Really Buying?

When you buy an “opt-in” list, at best you are buying a list of email addresses that opted in to receive emails from some media company, newsletter vendor, event organizer, or similar. At best.

But with no trail back to the original opt-in request, why would a vendor bother to purchase a list of people who ever opted-in for anything? It’s far less expensive to purchase addresses in bulk. Or to scrape them from forums. Or to manufacture them with a dictionary. The list is then tested, bounces are (hopefully) removed, and its sold to you with a nice round deliverability guarantee.

No, not every list provider builds their lists this way. But if they already claimed it is an opt-in list, how much are you going to trust them?

I recently responded to a few of the offers from list providers, below is an excerpt from one of the exchanges:

Vendor’s initial email: “we have built over 40 million+ contacts with permissions” and then “all email lists are fresh and opt in.” The email then listed a number of sources, including websites, public records, corporate & executive registers, and SEC listings.

Me: “how do you get opt ins from all the sources you list here?”

Vendor: “We are business data compilers… all information is derived from proprietary, self-reported data or sources of public record.”

The response didn’t mention an opt-in or permission process, despite the initial claim. None of them did, because they don’t do it.

List sources like public records or SEC listings indicate they are collecting free data from sites or documents, and then selling it to you as an opt-in email list.

You are spamming if you gather email addresses from sites, forums and public documents and start sending marketing emails. Buying the same list from someone else won’t change that.

Just Say No

When you get an email from a company claiming they have millions of opt-in B2B email addresses, your spidey sense should kick in. Where did the data come from? Did you opt in to their mailing list? How did your email address end up on their list anyway?

You can’t buy an opt-in email list. Stop before you get burned.

Photo Credit: Anonymous9000 via Flickr cc

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Your email address will not be shared or sold. I hate spam too.

  • Couldn’t agree more Eric.

    It amazes me how many “marketers” (or business people who have no clue about marketing) still regard buying email lists as a great way of reaching lots of people whom they otherwise couldn’t reach to promote their wares, never once considering how spamming innocent masses might damage their own reputation, not to mention the reputation of Email as a respectful and legitimate marketing channel.

    I’m also amazed that there are still groups on LinkedIn dedicated to those who are interested in buying mailing lists! Crazy.

    In my mind, anyone who thinks that buying an email list is a good idea is often so clueless about Email Marketing (or marketing in general) that they don’t even realize that they are contributing to the world’s SPAM problem (and if they do realize it then they are just plain evil).

    So it’s those who prey on the gullibility and stupidity of those willing to buy lists (in other words, the sellers) who are the real cause of the problem. If there were no lists available to buy, then marketers would have to acquire them the hard way (but the right way), i.e. by building their own opt-in lists.

    Renting lists is only mildly less offensive than buying them, because although rented lists only include subscribers who agree to receive emails from “partners” of the sender they are subscribing to during the signup process (their “agreement” making such mailings “legal”), many times they don’t realize that the permission check box for these “partner mailings” is ticked or what it means when they tick it, so they too receive emails they probably would have preferred not to receive. It’s a good revenue generator for senders who are willing to rent out their mailing list though, so list rentals will probably still be around for a while.

    Anyway, good post, and a good cause. I’m all for ridding the world of SPAM and spammers.

    • Thanks! Obviously we are in agreement on this. Given your comments on list rentals, you might find this the stats in this older post to be interesting… I was floored by how much email some publishers sent.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

    • I agree with your response. I prefer to make Real Time connections…and build Real lists. Everything I am doing now relates to Real Time Bidding. I am interested to know your thoughts about this revolutionizing digital technology? RTBME.COM

  • Hello Eric. I have recently become a Regional Sales Rep with RTB International. I was wondering if there was a way to connect with you via email or phone? My email is Thank you!

    • Sure. There is an email link under my brief profile in the sidebar. Feel free to send me an email with more information.

  • Nygel Rose

    informative article. Read this recently: Unilever partners with Genesis
    Biopartner to make energy out of expired food in Romania. Check it here:

  • rabbi
  • Seo

    Email marketing works better than any direct ads, 100% verified personally – it is better and much cheaper! + can always send the product news (If client not interested in the product today-tomorrow it may be the first of the buyers) I have ~ billion filtered emails peoples and companies (for any topic) skype – seopromomailer – gmail

  • email database

    Yes, Good email lists are really very difficult to get. But mailing lists is the most important thing to do email marketing.

  • Kapil

    This article is very right in saying that opt-in E-mail list can never be bought. Opt-in is a method where people provide their e-mail details themselves with their consent after relating themselves to the products or services.

    All India Institute of Digital Marketing. Connect with us on

  • Antony

    Hello brother, anyone can sell opt-in email lists..its legal and SPAM is legal in USA as per CAN-SPAM Act. Learn more from here

    Everyone needs to follow LAW

    I heard somewhere on internet articles that back in early 2000’s some so called A*L and some major corporates purchased millions of email lists from Inf*USA and later they created monopoly and started promoting a word known as SPAM so people need to advertise using them

    Moreover….. Why you people won’t write against PORN, MUSIC PIRACY, MOVIE PIRACY ???? Why don’t you encourage writing blog posts against banning of pirate sites and torrents because you like them and there are millions of people like them downloading and watching free porn stuff and if you write against them then people won’t love your blog

    Do you know many movie and music producers died becasue of piracy worldwide every year ?

    People watch PORN but when you ask them they say NAY…i dont like that shit
    People download pirated music and movies but when you ask them they say NAY… its not illegal..everyone does that

    every person who downloads pirated content is a CYBER CRIMINAL

    So what I’m about to say is its how people believe, behave based on environment, intention and emotion

    If you goto Silicon Valley and ask 1000’s of startups how they are getting paying customers they will tell you that they rely 80% only on Cold calling and Cold emailing which is known as Spamming (communicating with unknown prospect)

    Sorry bro…. Its just my intention

  • Vincent Snijders

    You can also consider to buy quality b2b email databases.

    B2B Email Database

  • Katie

    I’d have to disagree – purchasing a targeted
    email list specific to your needs has proven to be a successful email tactic to
    add to your marketing plan. A purchased email list is an excellent way to boost
    your email campaign ROI and fill your sales funnel with more qualified leads.
    Here’s a great article that outlines the misconceptions about buying email

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  • Neil Andersonn

    I’m not sure if this makes sense, but may be a little consideration on the facts might help us understand permission types better.

    Permission type can be implicit and explicit.
    implicit permission refers to businesses wanting to connect with end users for mutual trading/services. Every website has contact information and they are meant to be used. Linkedin hold 32 million profile who willfully create profiles to network with others(implicit permission)

    On the other hand, the world only focuses on explicit permission, wherein a needy customer(s) signs-up on a website and opts-in to receive communication from the brand.

    From my perspective, both permissions are okay to apply. Isn’t it?

    When implicit permission types are applied, one should know who they are communicating with!
    * Do they have the necessity to use our product or services?
    * And to get relevant in communicating the value through introductory email(s).
    * Taking control over the frequency of communication.
    * Allowing them to opt-out and honoring their rights to move out

    If one does the above, the probabilities of an email being classified as spam might drastically reduce.

    What do you think, does it make sense? I’ve just share my 2 cents… hope it helps.

  • Michael William

    Good article for marketers that make them to think before buying an email list and get rid of spam. But one can also consider to buy accurate and verified b2b databases that can meet your needs.

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