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As you’re building your small business, promoting your products and services through email marketing campaigns is an excellent way to establish brand awareness and acquire new leads. When you’re just starting out, though, it can be tempting to purchase a list of emails from email list providers to expand your email efforts quickly. While this will give you some immediate satisfaction, your best bet for building an email list that benefits your business is to build a list organically.

5 reasons it’s better to have an organic email list than a purchased list
1. Your emails are more likely to be opened and read

When you purchase an email list, there’s a high probability that many of the email addresses are fake or no longer in use. This means your email service provider will flag your emails as spam when you try to send campaigns, as valid email addresses are not for sale. So while you may have purchased 2,000 email addresses, only 10% may be delivered, which isn’t great for garnering brand awareness and new customers.

Secondly, if emails are not delivered, they can’t be opened. We know there’s a big drop-off from delivery rates to open rates (how many people on an email list view a particular email campaign), with a 25% open rate being the standard in 2016. And if you use purchased email lists, you’re going to have an even smaller chance of having a good open rate.

With an organic email list, your email addresses are viable, meaning they can be delivered because a real person is using that account. What’s more is that the likelihood of achieving the 25% open rate is much better than with purchased emails because the recipients elected to receive your email marketing campaigns. This not only impacts your open rate but also your click-through rate (how many readers clicked the link included in each email sent) of your emails.

2. Organic email lists allow you to accurately measure return on investment (ROI)

This second reason is directly related the first. If you’re sending emails to people who didn’t sign up for them or consumers outside of your target audience, your delivery, open, and click-through rates will be inaccurate. Since those people are not at the core of your target audience, their interactions (or lack thereof) with your emails will skew your ROI and by giving you bad intel on which to make future marketing decisions.

When you have an organic email list made of people who opted-in to receiving your emails, they self-identified and showed proactive interest in your business. These are the people whose opinions you want to inform your future email marketing endeavors. Their delivery, open, and click-through rates mean much more than someone who does not know or care about your business.

An email list acquired through opt-in is the best way to truly measure your return on investment and give you a barometer for what your audience responds to. You can determine what worked and what did not regarding design, copy, and call to action; the list goes on and on. When you take the feedback from your organic list, it will save you time and money later on because you’re applying relevant learnings from your previous campaigns to your new marketing efforts.

Conversely, you can see how with purchased lists, you may be throwing you time and money out the window because you’re marketing to people who are uninterested. Regardless of how great of a campaign you create, they’re not going to have the best (or worst) reaction because they’re not invested in your industry or brand.

Slowly building your email list takes patience, but in the end, it will save you and your small business an incredible about of time, energy, and resources.

3. You can quality-control your email list when it’s organic

A huge benefit of building an organic email list is that every person on your distribution list chose to be there. They gave you their email address, and for the most part, the email addresses are real and active.

When it comes to purchasing lists, you (the purchaser) have no control over the quality of the email addresses you receive. It’s very typical for purchased lists to have old and unused email addresses in them; which basically means you paid for nothing. If there isn’t a real person checking the inbox of the email address you’re targeting, then what’s the point?

4. Purchased lists can result in your email getting marked as spam

As mentioned above, delivery rates dwindle with purchased email lists because as an unknown and unauthorized sender, your emails will likely go straight to the spam folder. What’s worse is that if you have a strategic email marketing plan where you communicate regularly with your email list, then your business is likely to be flagged as spam due to the volume of unsolicited emails. You can probably guess that this isn’t good for your brand’s reputation.

People are highly protective of their inboxes and privacy, and when unknown addresses begin contacting them, they’re quick to mark them as spam so they never come across your messages again. This is hardly how you want your email marketing efforts to pan out.

5. Purchased lists mean your messages end up in unsuspecting inboxes

When you purchase email lists, your marketing emails end up in strangers’ inboxes, which can be jarring and unwelcome. You wouldn’t like it if someone showed up at your doorstep without an invitation; the same goes for email. This can leave people with a bad first impression of your business and signal to them that you’re untrustworthy.

When you use organic email lists, people have already invited you to contact them, and by following up and proactively communicating with this opt-in email list, you’re building rapport and credibility with your target audience.

As you can see, the benefits of building an email list far outweigh the short-term gains of purchasing email addresses. Keep these five reasons in mind as you establish your email distribution list. Your recipients and your reputation will thank you for taking the slow and steady route to email marketing success.