Study Proves Paid Email Lists Are Worthless

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

The biggest challenge for small business owners who want to use email marketing is getting a list of people to receive the message. There are a lot of legitimate ways to build an email subscriber base but most of them take some time. Some business owners have tried using paid lists for email marketing, but there is no real benefit. New research from MailChimp clearly shows that paid email lists are worthless.

It’s understandable that business owners would want to use paid lists to increase the audience of the email marketing. First, almost all direct mail marketing campaigns are based on mailing lists from paid data, so many older business owners are surprised to learn that email marketing doesn’t work the same way. Second, many rationalize buying a list by saying that even though more than half of the list may ignore the message, they would still get enough response to make it worthwhile. It’s this second line of reasoning that the MailChimp study addresses.

Like most legitimate email marketing programs, MailChimp doesn’t allow its clients to use email lists that were bought or scraped from websites. Regardless, many people still try to sneak these kinds of list by MailChimp and they may get away with one or two messages being sent out until the MailChimp anti-abuse system kicks in and disables the account. Using the data obtained from the campaigns that used these lists, MailChimp was produced strong evidence that paid lists are worthless.

“If we look at campaign performance versus the percentage of a mailing list that’s purchased or scraped, we find that positive engagement falls off a cliff as purchased correlation increases,” wrote John F (no last name given) in a blog post on MailChimp. “Since most folks have to open an email to unsubscribe, unsubscribes die off too. The only thing that does go up? Complaints.”

MailChimp-Stats-600x600The graph of this data is equally compelling. When using a paid list, email clicks plummet and unsubscribes skyrocket. With such horrendous numbers, it’s hard to imagine a situation where this sort of response would have a net gain for the advertiser.

There are other ramifications of using a paid list that MailChimp didn’t mention its report. A company that tries to beef up their email audience with paid lists may hurt their email efforts with legitimate customers. Most email clients and some associated web programs, block email messages from servers associated with sending unsolicited spam. So if a customer signs up for emails but they have a web service that blocks spam servers, a marketer may have cut themselves off from an audience that wanted to hear their message.

End the end, no matter how strong the temptation to get a bunch of emails for a low price, don’t do it. Just about any campaign based on bought list is doomed to failure. Remember, no matter how awesome a email marketing message may be, if the person receiving didn’t subscribe to a list, they’ll probably view it as spam. For more tips, check out this article with five stats that will help small business owners be better email marketers.


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