Building an Email List: What Can Go Wrong?

Vladislav Podolyako
Jun 22, 2021
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Email marketing is a solid way to gain your prospects’ trust and build up a friendly conversation that can be converted into an appointment and, later, into a sale. But what are the main foundational components of any email marketing? Your domain and inbox? Naturally, but that’s not all. It’s also the addresses you send to

A lot of beginner senders tend to omit the part where they scrupulously go through prospect data, fishing out email addresses, verifying them and choosing the right title to connect with. After all, as long as the email finds at least someone in the company, it’s a win, right?

That kind of logic is harmful to your outbound marketing. Building an effective seed list is a tough yet rewarding task. You will be tempted to take an easy way out: Use an existing database, take your competitors’ database, pester your loyal customers for contact data, etc. However, when it comes to compiling a list of emails, an easy way out is a way to nowhere. 

If you want to know how not to make an email list, we got your back. After reading this post, it will be much easier for you to focus on the most rewarding parts of your task and avoid making bad decisions such as:

  • buying an email list;
  • not segmenting your list;
  • ignoring data enrichment;
  • letting your email list go stale.

So, this is the outline. Let’s dive into the details. 

Buying an email list

It feels like such an easy thing to do. No tediously long research hours, no mind-numbing data-checking and verification, no trouble at all. After all, what if someone else has already bought that list? It’s unavoidable that your prospects get contacted by multiple vendors. You just have to win them over with your compelling message! You just need a bunch of email addresses, that’s all. 

However, if everything was that simple, we wouldn’t need outreach platforms and tools for tackling deliverability issues. 

Sure, it seems that buying an email list will let you speed up your outbound marketing. But in reality, it will topple your campaigns and, unless you take measures, destroy your sender reputation.

Why would your recipients hate you for using a purchased email database?

  • You’re unwelcome. Whenever you send an email to a newly-found email address, you send an unsolicited message. It’s already enough for your recipients not to like you, but it’s possible to soften them up by introducing yourself properly and explaining how you got their address and why you contacted them. When you know where your email addresses come from and how you obtained them, it’s not a problem. When you work with a purchased email list, you can’t provide a satisfying explanation, so your recipients are more likely to grow distrustful and send a spam complaint. 
  • You’re unaware. When you get a list of email addresses without any context, you’re vulnerable to multiple pitfalls. First of all, you don’t know which one of your email addresses is a spam trap. There can be several spam traps in your database, but you will remain dangerously oblivious to them until it’s too late. Second, you have no idea whether the list you purchased has been updated since its creation — it means that at least 40% of email addresses there may be abandoned and can jeopardize your marketing. Third, you can’t segment your list properly by industry, titles and priority, i.e., personalizing your messages will be much harder. 
  • You’re unethical. It’s not prohibited to use publicly available data. But how can you be sure that all those email addresses in your purchased email list were obtained legally? It’s one thing to work with an email marketing company that knows how to glean data from open sources and get a list of contacts obtained through black-hat techniques. By not taking part in the process of building an email list and relying on obscure third parties to do that job for you, you may find yourself an accomplice in data security violations. Not the best way to start an outbound marketing campaign, isn’t it?

If those arguments managed to ruin the seductive image of a purchased mailing list, our mission in this paragraph is complete and you have one less setback to worry about. Moving on to the next one.

Avoiding list segmentation

Sometimes, beginners mess up their handcrafted mailing list by lumping all email addresses together and keeping it like that throughout their campaigns. Even if you target just one industry or niche, you’re still missing out on many opportunities for squeezing as much value from your target audience as possible. 

How does email list segmentation boost email deliverability?

  • Analysis. If you want to know how your prospects respond to your emails, it’s much easier to go through them one group at a time instead of plunging into a chaos of addresses and titles and wasting hours of precious time. When you segment your prospects, you manage to structure this chaos, differentiating your target prospects by title, goal or any other qualifier that is relevant to your business. 
  • Targeted campaigns. There is no such thing as a one-fits-all template. Your prospects have different goals, values and priorities. That realization should start at your email list, with you breaking your contacts down into groups unified by a common feature. Otherwise, you’ll have to figure out the best approach to each prospect on the go, which can put your entire campaign on hold. 
  • Email flow scheduling and automation.  Even such things as the time when your prospects prefer to read their email matter. When you use email marketing automation for sending your messages, having a segmented list with established time slots will facilitate your work and help you build momentum. 
  • Dynamic performance. Email lists are static. They only possess information about your active recipients and can either grow or shrink in size. But, if you pay attention to the way your prospects respond to your emails, you can inject more engagement and nurturing into your email list. For example, you can segment your email list into such groups as “Contact later”, “Searching for vendor”, “Engaged” or “Cross-sell” and gain more visibility into the ways of attracting and retaining potential customers. 

Modern approach to sales and marketing respects details. The more detailed your mailing list is, the easier it is for you to put this puzzle together and get a clear view of your progress.  

Ignoring data enrichment

The reason why building an email list the right way takes so much time is that the more information about each contact you have, the better. If we’re talking about cold outreach, you will be venturing into the inboxes of people who aren’t waiting for you. They don’t like to be disturbed by random senders, so they will treat your incoming message with suspicion and a dash of animosity. 

Knowing your recipients before you connect with them helps nip their animosity in the bud and increase email deliverability. Spammers and overall careless vendors usually can’t be bothered with researching their target audience, addressing concerns and appealing to needs. They use the “spray and pray” approach, expecting to hit at least someone and be on their way. Therefore, they don’t use data enrichment. 

How can data enrichment help your email delivery service?

  • Improved nurturing. It’s not enough to know your prospects’ titles and where they work. The more you know about their small victories and big wins, the more value you can insert into your templates and the more strategies you can come up with. It will also eliminate your chances of reaching out to the wrong person.
  • Increased ROI. The time and resources you invested in your research are guaranteed to come back to you threefold thanks to personalization and more polished nurturing. Naturally, prospects won’t get instantly converted into customers, but they will be a lot more inclined to continue the conversation and schedule an appointment with you, increasing your chances of closing a deal while reducing sales funnel leakage. 
  • Transparent buyer’s journey. It doesn’t matter whether you sell to B2B or B2C customers. In both cases, you must map the buyer’s journey for them. You must know how your conversation should start, how it must continue and how you finalize it. When you’re confident about your pace, your prospects feel at ease and are ready to trust you. 

How do you enrich your mailing list? By keeping a detailed Excel database, where each email address comes complete with additional information. For example, your enriched database should look like this: 

Taking notes guarantees that you’re never at a loss for words when it comes to contacting your prospects for the first time. Also, such extra attention ensures that every email address on your list is valid and belongs to the prospect that matters

Letting your email list go stale

Sometimes, when a sender manages to build a huge list of verified email addresses all by themselves or with the help of an email marketing company, they let their success get into their head. They are happy and sure that they won’t have to go through database scanning and email verification any time soon — they’ve got a thousand contacts, it’s enough for a year or two! 

If you see yourself in this description, kudos to you! Getting a large list of emails means that you did a lot of work, and that’s amazing. However, the last thing you want is your effort going to waste. Sadly, that is what will happen to your list in a year. If you notice that some addresses added to your list don’t send any responses, others issue a spam complaint, and your bounce rate keeps growing, there is a high probability that your email list got obsolete. Why? Because data changes faster than you might have imagined

Many things can happen in a company within a year: Some people leave, new people arrive at their place, new emails appear, old emails are removed, abandoned or turned into spam traps. If you’re not in tune with these changes, you’ll never know.  

How should you update your list of emails?

  • List cleanup. You should check whether all addresses on your list are valid at least once in six months. Once you locate obsolete or abandoned emails, remove them instantly, so your campaigns won’t be affected. 
  • Ask for updates. If you have been in touch with a title for years, you can use it to your advantage by sending them an end-of-the-year email, asking them to provide some information on the updates and shifts within a company. Are there any new additions to the staff? Some promotions? Don’t ask for corporate secrets and information protected by NDA, only for something that is important to your company. In exchange, you can give your recipients some insights about your plans for the next year. 
  • Kick out inactive recipients/subscribers. If some of your conversations with prospects froze and stopped moving forward, or your blog subscribers haven’t been opening your newsletters for a while, you shouldn’t keep them around. Send a couple of emails asking to reconnect and let you know if your prospects are still interested. If you receive a firm “No” from them or don’t receive any answer at all, remove their name from the list. 

The bigger your email database is, the more thoroughly you must maintain it. This effort will be rewarded by an increased value and a positive outcome of your nurturing campaigns. 

Key takeaways

When you start building a list of emails, you start building interaction with your prospects. Skipping a stage or being lazy is not an option.

  • Don’t buy email lists. You risk buying dangerous data and spam traps as well as breaking outreach guidelines and invoking your prospects’ wrath. 
  • Don’t neglect list segmentation. Make your work easier by breaking your contacts into groups of leads and tailoring your message to their liking. 
  • Don’t abandon data enrichment. There is a person and a success story behind each email. Respect that information, and your prospects will trust you. 
  • Don’t forget to update your email list. Time doesn’t wait for anyone. Information grows obsolete incredibly fast, so check your list every now and then to remove inactive prospects. 

Be attentive to details and ready to dedicate hours of your work to hand-picking and validating contact data — and you will be rewarded with pleasant conversations, increased appointment rate and a productive emailing system. 

We hope that this information will help you build an email list capable of meeting your goals. In general, email lists are quite an extensive topic, the one we will dedicate many posts to. Therefore, stay tuned! In a while, you can check out other posts on our blog and unveil even more outbound marketing secrets

Vladislav Podolyako
Vladislav Podolyako
Founder & CEO
Vlad’s decades of entrepreneurial wisdom and business building experience have allowed him to successfully mentor a diverse group of business owners, entrepreneurs in growing their companies. A recognized expert in the areas of transforming organizational culture and leadership development, B2B Sales, Marketing, spent more than 10 years building technology products, with a background in communication networks and electronic device engineering.

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