Buying an Email List for Marketing: Drawbacks & Alternatives

Published on: August 23, 2023

Last updated on: June 5, 2024

Buying email lists has been a long-standing practice. It is considered one of the oldest channels marketers use to reach customers. And the numbers speak for themselves: email marketing drives an ROI of $36 per $1 spent. Indeed, it’s a great way to generate leads through sales prospecting.

However, over time there have been some changes in how business email lists for sale are viewed. Buying email lists for marketing is generally considered legal in some countries, but it’s not the optimal approach for growing your business. Wondering why and what pitfalls it has? Read on to find out whether this strategy is worth it.

What Does an Email List Cost, and Should You Buy One?

There are a few factors that influence the pricing of email lists. Among them are quality, type, quantity, etc. These are determined by CPM — cost per mille, or in other words — cost per 1000 impressions.

Here are ballpark prices for buying email lists:

  • A consumer-based email list typically costs from $200 to $400 CPM
  • A business-based email address database will be more expensive. Be ready to pay from $300 to $600

Email list pricing varies from one company to another. Usually, you’ll be presented with multiple pricing plans. Some services even offer trials, so you can try before buying. Such trials might offer 5 to 25 free email addresses to see how they work and help you decide.

Is Buying Email Lists Legal?

Can you buy email lists, and is this legal? Whether acquiring email lists is legal for you or not depends on your geographical position. The main conditions are to ensure compliance and stick to well-defined guidelines.

Business email lists are allowed for sale in the United States. However, you should always know the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 guidelines.

In Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) mainly limits the use of email lists. But it’s important to note that renting an email list is legal in Europe if the owner has permission from the leads to promote content from a third party.

There might be better options than buying email addresses for you. Facing so many risks, you should explore other channels, such as organic ones. Read on to find out what they are and how to use them effectively.

If you want to learn more about unlocking consumer insights, activating audiences across channels, and leveraging AI/ML capabilities, don’t miss your chance to visit the Amplify webinar. Register here.

5 Working Ways to Build Your Email List Organically for More Engagement

Instead of wondering how to purchase email lists, you should ask yourself: how can I organically build my email list? Expanding your email lists this way will take you much longer, but it’s a proven solution to have a truly engaged audience on your list.

In the long run, this approach will influence your business more positively than buying email addresses.

We’ve compiled five best organic ways to build your email list.

  1. Rent a Third-Party Email List for Safe & Fast Results

Email list rental is a common practice that allows you to minimize or even exclude the risk of being fined for purchasing an email list. So, how does this work? The funnel is straightforward.

First, you contact a third party and pay them to use their email list. Next, the third-party provider emails the recipients on their list on your behalf. In other words, you’ll never deal directly with recipients or see email details.

  1. Create High-Value Lead Magnets to Attract Already-Engaged Prospects

Here, the reciprocity principle comes into play. Offer your customers something worthy and something that will make their lives better. You’ll be surprised at how many emails you may get using this approach.

You can offer such high-value lead magnets:

  • An e-book, a guide, a checklist
  • A discount or a coupon
  • A webinar invite or a recorded session
  • An app or product trial version

Check out HubSpot’s example below:

Source: HubSpot

3. Embed Sign-Up Links in Your Social to Re-Engage an Existing Following

Did you know Instagram has around 1.4 billion monthly active users? With these numbers in mind, consider paying more attention to your social media presence. How can you attract more customers to subscribe to your email list using social media?

Think of your Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter subscribers as a warmed-up audience. They already follow your accounts, comment, or share your content. Chances are your followers will be interested in subscribing to your newsletter list for updates.

So, how to collect emails from Instagram or other social media effectively? You can start by using these 2 approaches.

1. Promote sign-up in Instagram Stories

With over 500 million IG users watching Stories daily, you should actively promote your sign-up form via Stories. Create a juicy and captivating story and add a CTA inviting you to sign up for your newsletter, so it would be hard for your followers not to tap on that link.

2. Add a sign-up link to your bio on Instagram

Link in bio is an effective marketing tool for your business. By using 150 characters, you can describe what your business mission is. Also, you’re allowed to add up to 5 links to your bio. Add a sign-up link along with your official website. In addition, add a link using any of the links in bio tools available. Here’s how Zapier does it:

Source: Zapier 

4. Capture Data With QR Codes to Streamline the Sign-Up Process

QR codes are one of many things that come to mind when organically building your email lists. It’s a swift and convenient way to engage with your audience and gather emails.

Here’s how you can use QR codes to build email marketing lists:

  • Add your QR code leading to a subscribe form in places where your potential customers can scan it with their phones.
  • Use transparent and persuasive CTA, clearly explaining where scanning your QR code will lead your potential customers. For instance, use something like “Scan to subscribe to our newsletter.”
  • Make your sign-up form mobile-friendly. Make it easy to fill out the data.
  • Using QR generator services to create QR codes is an excellent idea. This way, you can easily update your code and track each QR code’s performance.

5. Add a Newsletter Pop-Up on Your Blog to Convert Your Readers

Are you a happy owner of a blog? Do you get organic traffic, or are you striving to? You can increase the number of emails on your email list organically. Consider adding a pop-up inviting readers to subscribe to your blog updates.

Here’s a great example of how HubSpot does it. When you are about to close their blog post page in your browser, you’ll see a pop-up on your screen inviting you to join the newsletters and subscribe.

In such a way, HubSpot is trying to make you stay longer on their blog. If the readers find the information they’ve just read helpful, only a few factors will stop them from sharing their email. You can go all creative with designing the pop-up and the CTA. For instance, HubSpot bets on impressing prospects with big numbers, and this approach proves successful.

Source: HubSpot

The Potential Drawbacks & Risks Of Buying a Third-Party Email List

Is buying email lists for marketing a good idea? Purchasing email lists carries a higher number of drawbacks than benefits. To make it easier to find the answer to this question, we’ve compiled a list of the pros and cons of buying email addresses.

Disadvantages of Buying An Email Address List

  • Spam reports: The primary association of purchasing an email list revolves around the risk of being categorized as spam by your recipients. Can you imagine getting 8 billion spam emails daily? The U.S. ranked number one on the list of countries with the most spam emails. Since people didn’t grant their approval or consciously chose to receive emails from your business, you will most likely be marked as spam from their email boxes.

Source: Statista

  • Irrelevant target audience: Buying email lists by industry only sometimes works as expected. For instance, some marketing companies might provide email addresses that won’t work for you, or people won’t be interested in your content. The situation worsens when you realize that many of the provided email addresses belong to cold leads only after receiving complaints.
  • Fines: You can face penalties if you violate consumer protection regulations like CCPR, CPRA, GDPR, etc. For instance, if you email people who’ve never given you their consent, you might lose a great deal of money instead of earning them.
  • Invalid emails: You might end up sending emails to the so-called “dead” or invalid emails. Email lists are usually gathered via various marketing campaigns. However, some companies vending email lists generate addresses using automated processes, which later reveal themselves as invalid or “dead” emails.
  • Poor email list quality:  Many businesses that buy email lists by industry complain about the low quality of such emails. The sellers present bad-quality email lists to you, which may result in low bounce rates, high unsubscribe rates, and next-to-nothing click-through rates.
  • Possible reputation risk: Nobody is excited to open another spam email in their inboxes. When your company contacts users who have never shown interest in what you offer, they might think of your brand as the one buying email lists. This can easily result in reputational damage. Your email sender reputation may drop drastically, and restoring reputable email marketing is challenging.

What about the advantages of buying email lists? Here are some of the pros:

  • Saving time: Getting people’s email addresses can be difficult because prospects only want to give them out for a good reason, like a coupon code or a PDF with valuable information. Compiling email lists is a time-eater. Buying email lists is a quick solution as it can save weeks or even months for your business.
  • Cutting costs: Email list pricing mainly depends on the number of addresses offered. Purchasing an email list is cheaper than hiring people to collect the same number of emails.
  • Boosting your brand visibility: Having an email list with valid email addresses at your hand can increase brand visibility and drive sales.

Should You Buy Email Lists To Gain New Customers?

No matter how long you’ve been in business, as a new or long-standing company, it has crossed your mind once or twice to purchase mail lists, right? It’s tempting to buy an email list by industry, for instance, and save time and money.

Looking to share valuable insights, trends, and strategies to foster growth and empower marketing professionals like you? Learn more about Amplify here.

But before researching and looking into how to buy email lists, you need to understand this — there’s no guarantee the recipients on that list will be interested in what you have to offer, no matter how personalized an email might be.

Consider organically growing your email list. Yes, it will take you much longer. However, ensure you’ll have a better-engaged audience on your list. In this article, you’ll find tips and tricks to help you grow your email list organically below.

How to Keep Your Email List Reputable to Achieve Effective Marketing Campaigns

Keeping your email list healthy can be done in 5 ways:

1. Be transparent in your communication: Avoid using headers, subject lines, or content that could deceive your recipients.

2. Offer an opt-out option: Simply put, it provides an easy way for your recipients to unsubscribe from your newsletter.

3. Send clear messages: Make sure recipients understand that your message is for advertising purposes.

4. Disclose your location: Mention your email address so people can reach out without any hassle.

5. Respect privacy: Do not email those users who have specifically requested not to be contacted. In addition, warn third-party providers from doing so on your behalf.

The Cost of Buying Email Lists

Whether to buy an email list for your business ultimately rests entirely on your shoulders. Due to the associated risks, we’d recommend renting email lists or using organic channels to generate them to ensure compliance with consumer protection requirements.

By investing a little more time and effort, you can achieve significantly better results by growing your customers organically or hiring a specialized lead generation company.

If you want to learn more about how to personalize the customer’s experience and unlock the potential of AI for your business, don’t miss your chance to visit the Amplify webinar. Look through the full agenda and register here

About the author


Owned and operated by Phonexa, MailCon is a global community that connects marketing professionals with the latest technology, trends, and strategies in email marketing, marketing automation, mobile and omnichannel marketing. Our fantastic team of content writers contribute to this blog with inspiration from the incredible community of marketers we are privileged to host.


We take your privacy seriously. In order to process your request we require your personally identifiable information (PII)


Say it ain't so — we'd hate to see you go!


    Please provide

      In order to process your request under the California Consumer Provacy Act “CCPA” we require you to please provide any two (2) of the following pieces of your information. This is required under the CCPA before we can fullfill your request

      Select one or more of the following requests



      You will no longer get marketing emails from us.


      Get your tickets before you leave

      Get Tickets