Email Marketing: Build or Buy an Email List?

Email marketing has become a staple in today’s marketing world, especially with internet-based businesses. It involves personal communication with customers through email. You craft newsletters, articles and sales pitches and send them to targeted recipients through email. This of course requires that you have a mailing list that contains the contact information of potential customers. There are many ways to do this: You can build one yourself or you can buy it from an email list-broker or another company. This article looks at the pros and cons of each to help you determine which way is best for you.

Advantages of buying an email list

  1. It’s quick. Assuming that you have found a well-built email list for your particular purposes, you need not spend any more time determining how to find your targeted customers and convince them to share their contacts with you.
  2. You benefit from experts. Again, presuming that you’ve done your homework on finding good providers, one advantage of buying a list is that you benefit from the expertise of a marketing expert. You don’t need to go through trial and error in order to find out which strategies work best to target your niche customers. Someone more qualified already did it for you.
  3. It is less labour intensive than building your own list.

Risks involved in buying an email list

  1. The biggest risk involves scams. It’s difficult to know whether the list you’re buying is a real one. Considering that email lists can be quite expensive, it’s possible to experience real substantial loss through having someone take advantage of you and sell you rubbish.
  2. You might get a list that is completely irrelevant to your business purposes. Imagine getting the list of a business that sells dating and relationship products when you’re targeting customers in the food industry. A total waste of time and money.
  3. Sometimes you can get a list that targets the right audience, but which has not been updated for quite sometime. You try sending emails to these people only to discover that most of the emails do not work.
  4. Buying a list comes with the risk of associating your business with some bad history. Perhaps the company you’re working with sends too much spam or otherwise mishandles its subscribers and you are unaware of it. You buy the list only to have the account closed soon after and ruin your reputation to your customers.
  5. If you send mail to customers who have not been acquainted with you, they are likely to treat it as spam. This means that your money and efforts will be wasted.

Possible Solutions?

You can avoid these potential problems by:

  1. Paying only for actual subscribers, rather than a whole list. Have an arrangement in which you provide an option to the subscribers of that list to sign up for your own list. Undertake to pay for only those subscribers who end up signing up for your list. This way, whatever you pay will be worth it.
  2. Use reputable companies and list brokers to avoid getting scammed or paying for worthless lists. This in itself requires quite some effort. To save time and effort, use the same companies that are trusted to provide direct mailing lists for your email lists as well.

Advantages of building an email list

  1. If you build your own list, you will be certain that only those customers who are interested in your product will sign up. Your emails will always go to people who already know you and are interested in your product.
  2. There is also no risk of a bad history because you’re building your own list from nothing.
  3. You control all your dealings with your customers and you can be certain about the status of your account and your reputation at any point in time.

Problems involved in building an email list

  1. Clearly, it takes time, effort, technique and expertise to find your targeted audience and to convince them to subscribe to your list.
  2. Lack of marketing expertise poses a real challenge for a person who is completely new to both technology and marketing strategies. It can take too many trials to get it right.
  3. If you decide to hire an expert, it can also be expensive to plan and implement marketing strategies that will get the relevant audience to sign up for your list.

Possible solutions?

  1. You can hire experts to help you create an effective email marketing strategy. The investment may prove well worth it in terms of saving time and effort.
  2. Research quick and effective strategies. There are many resources readily available on the internet. Educate yourself sufficiently before you undertake the project.
  3. Make use of software to make work easier.


If you are more interested in maintaining control of your list and do not mind the slower but safer process of gradually building up your own list, then this may be the option for you. The sense of accomplishment, peace of mind and the community you build, of customers who willingly sign up for your emails will be well worth it. However, if you are interested in a quicker process and prefer to buy a list, be sure to do your homework first. Find reputable companies and list brokers and stick to them for all your business once you find them. They certainly are not easy to come by. As in most marketing strategies, an integrated approach is always best. Both options are effective for their intended purposes if approached with due care and preparation.