Purchased lists and ESPs: 9 months later
It was about 8 months ago I published a list of ESPs that prohibit the use of purchased lists. There have been a number of interesting responses to that post.
ESPs wanted to be added to the list
People reference the list regularly
I’ve had a lot of ESP deliverability folks send thanks for writing this post. They tell me they reference it regularly when dealing with clients. It’s also been listed as “one of the best blog posts of 2015” by Pardot.
Some 2016 predictions build on the post
I’ve read multiple future predictions that talk about how the era of purchased lists is over. I don’t think they’re wrong. I think that purchased lists are going to be deliverability nightmares on an internet where users wanting a mail is a prime factor in inbox deliverability. They’re already difficult to deliver, but it’s going to get worse.
Not everyone thinks this is a good post. In fact, I just recently got an comment about how wrong I was, and… well, I’ll just share it because I don’t think my summary of it will do it any justice.
It seems as though you are just disguising your real intention, by giving the reader a misguided title, that allows your sponsors to be noticed, and you to make money from their advertising dollars. Let’s be clear that the attack on purchased lists is an attack on small business. Not all companies have the resources to build a list in the “proper” way, one way to cost effectively jump start their business is through starting with said “improper” methods.
Your article’s title is misleading and directed to the politically correct business environment ruining this country. It would be nice to publish an article about ESP’s that allow purchased lists, as your title implies.
I will bet we never see that article, considering that you will lose sponsors and the intent of yours or any business, making money.
It is equivalent that if our Lady Liberty had a marketing message “give me your well, rich and privileged marketeers, the rest of you wretched refuse, need not apply”
Do the right thing! Write the intended article!
I do know there are ESPs who allow purchased lists. Most of the time I know of them because they, or their customers, come to me to fix deliverability issues. There is a limit to what I can do. ISPs expect opt-in mail. Business filters expect opt-in mail. Purchased lists are not opt-in. Some filters and ISPs specifically state that senders should not use purchased lists when sending to those ISPs.
I do my best for clients, and for one or two I’ve helped them create programs that get to the inbox at least some of the time. Our rare successes are in very specific, small, niche markets where our forensic approach to deliverability creates a mailing program that works for the senders and doesn’t annoy recipients enough to cause delivery problems. More often, though, there isn’t a fix. Clients aren’t willing to stop buying addresses or even undertake the hard work to transition to an opt-in program.
For ESPs the it’s even a more difficult business model transition. Some ESPs discover early on that purchased lists are a problem and stop allowing them. Others end up relying on the revenue and can’t disconnect customers using purchased lists. The result is predictable, and I’ve watched multiple ESPs go through this.
- ISPs start filtering or blocking mail from the ESP IP addresses or mentioning the ESP anywhere in the email.
- Good customers start looking for new solutions, as their deliverability is suffering. Revenues start dropping.
- Spamhaus lists some or all of the ESP IP ranges on the SBL.
- More customers leave for better ESPs.
- Customers who are purchasing lists can’t move, so the bulk of revenue now comes from companies using purchased lists.
- ESP notices the significant downturn in revenue and hires outside help (me!) to fix the problem.
- I work with ESP to try and maintain revenues enough to keep the business running while getting rid of the bad customers.
At this point there are basically two places the ESP can go.
- Bite the bullet, go into debt, clean up and start attracting back good customers.
- Decide they can’t manage the change and continue mailing purchased lists and accepting their poor deliverability.
The reality is purchased lists are hard to deliver. They cost more than just the initial purchase price. They’re problematic for most ESPs. Some ISPs specifically call out purchased lists as no-nos for inbox delivery. The best managed purchased list programs get to the inbox some of the time. But it’s only going to get harder and harder to reach that purchased inbox moving forward.