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Growing Your Contact List for the Holidays – What Not to Do

By November 12, 2010 No Comments

This time of year is very tempting for marketers looking to grow their list fast in time for those Holiday promotions. The C-class executives are quite often breathing down your neck to get your email campaign out the door to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible – but this can often end in disaster. This is part one of a two part series that will arm you with the facts so you can educate those involved, avoid potential conflict and damage your sender reputation in the process. This will also be included in our up-and-coming whitepaper on delivery best practices which is scheduled to be released next week (!) so stay tuned…

Every marketing campaign begins with an audience, which is who your email message is tailored to. Of course, you can’t send email to just anyone—you need interested recipients on your lists that have opted-in or have given their consent to receive messages from you. Without the right consent from your subscribers, the email you send them can only be classified as spam. So before you go buying a list for the holidays, it’s important to know what will happen if you do:

don't do it!Affiliate Lists

Affiliate lists are the results of one company sharing an email address (or a list of addresses) with other partners or affiliates. If a person signs up to receive email from Company A, they should only receive emails from Company A. If they also receive email from Company B, because they signed up with Company A, they are more likely to complain. Often this will appear during a signup process as something along the lines of “Yes, please send me information from Company A and relevant partners”.

don't do it!Purchased Mailing Lists

Purchased Mailing Lists are lists of email addresses that have been bought from someone else for a price. Many companies contemplate buying lists as a means of building a mailing list quickly, but consent is not transferable and these types of lists are a marketing worst practice. Not only have subscribers on that list not opted in to receive emails from you, they are likely going to flag your email as spam, and you have damaged your marketing relationship with the receiver before it has even started. This will also direct affect the delivery of your existing clients that have opted in to receive these mailings.

don't do it!Rented Mailing Lists

Rented lists are similar to purchased lists, in that the sender has no relationship with the intended recipients and are usually used for a one-time mailing to help grow your list quickly. Often the marketer never sees the list, but simply provides the content and is at the mercy of the list vendor to send the message on their behalf. This can result in a high bounce and/or complaint rate and the reputation being tarnished is shared between the list owner and YOU (the sender). The recipients may also learn that you’re adopting bad marketing practices.

Regardless of who sends the email, if the content is yours, you’re responsible for what others do on your behalf: the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says that “even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law.“

don't do it!Harvested Lists

This technique is employed by spammers who acquire email addresses by harvesting or “scraping” them off the Internet. They search for anything that resembles a valid email address, like or run Directory “Dictionary” Harvest Attacks that find valid addresses using a process of trial & error. These attacks are more effective for finding email addresses of companies since they are more likely to have a standard format (ie,,, No one on a harvested list has opted to be there or has a pre-existing relationship with the sender. It goes without saying that harvested lists generate a high volume of complaints, a lot of bounces and very poor email deliverability damaging your reputation in the process.

Important Note:

Using a Harvested, Purchased, Rented, and/or Affiliate list is a bad marketing practice and a violation of the CakeMail Anti-Spam Policy. Clients incorporating these techniques risk termination of their accounts.

This is Part 1 of a two-part series by Kevin Huxham, CakeMail’s Director of Deliverability talking about growing your list for the holiday marketing season. Stay tuned for Part 2, which we’ll be posting on Monday, November 15th. In the meantime, you can follow Kevin on twitter @cakemail_kev.

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Author Kevin Huxham

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