ESPs and Purchased Lists

Over on her Word to the Wise blog, Laura Atkins shares a wonderful list of links to almost every email service provider's policy prohibiting use of bought lists or purchased email addresses.

It's funny, working in this business.

A prospective client might say, "well, ESP X lets us use bought lists, they have no problem with it, so you have to be OK with it if you want our business." Then later, I might run into somebody from that ESP at a conference. I'll mention that interaction to them, and they'll usually laugh and say, "you know, we had some other customer come to us and say that YOUR employer was fine with using purchased lists, so we should be, too." Meaning, no matter where you work or where you mail through, somebody, somewhere is always going to have some sort of malformed understanding of what an email service provider wants to allow to be sent through their system. It's kind of like a game of telephone.

Do reputable email service providers knowingly allow clients to send to purchased email lists? No, they don't. Because, as Laura points out, using purchased lists tends to cause deliverability issues that basically can't be resolved until and unless you stop using purchased lists. In other words, you have to stop drinking the poisoned water before you can expect to get better.

Why do I use the word "knowingly" above? Because most email service providers are self-service platforms. It's not always easy to immediately figure out that a client has uploaded a list that violates an ESP's acceptable use policy or contractual opt-in requirements. Eventually it catches up with the client, but that happens later, after the complaints come in. Maybe after multiple mailings. After the damage of annoying uninterested email users has already happened.

(And if you're receiving spam yourself from some ESP, please report it! If you don't want to report it to the ESP, at least hit the "report spam" button if you've got one, so the spam gets noted by an ISP or spam filter. The more spam reports, the more active feedback you're providing to both the ESP and ISP to help them better police senders.)

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