I can’t believe that this is the third post in a row about how purchasing email lists is a bad thing.  Yes, that’s right, the third.  It’s not like I’m working off of some editorial calendar or anything; it’s just that for some reason it’s been topical for the last month.  And quite frankly, I don’t understand – with all that’s been written about it for years – why so many people are, as Al Iverson puts it, “permission challenged”.

Anyway, not the last “don’t buy email lists” post, but the one before it, The True Beauty Email Test, challenged email marketers to not sit idly by when the subject of buying email list comes up, but to step up and call it out for the bad (and dangerous) practice that it is.   And as if on queue, iMediaConnection earlier this week gave the opportunity to do so….  I’d love to link you to the live post, but for some strange reason it was taken down.  Not to worry though, thanks to modern science I was able to keep a copy….  I’m so bad…. 

The first thing I did when I saw the following tweet was to look at my calendar.  I thought maybe I’d lost a few months and woke up on April Fool’s Day, but nope, it was just June 29th….

As much as I sometimes enjoy beating a dead horse (thanks, mom!) I’ve now moved beyond that in regard to buying email lists and am going to start – metaphorically, of course – hoisting heads on stakes in an attempt to dissuade others that think promoting list buying might be a viable option.  It’s not that I’m a bad guy so much as it is that being “nice” and “considerate of the [ignorant amateur’s] feelings” just doesn’t seem to work….

As you can see to the left the comments the article brought were more (and better thought-through) than the actual post itself.  Go ahead and click the post if you’d like to see it in it’s entirety.

I must say that it was pretty impressive to see so many industry leaders stepping up and calling “bullshit” on the “buy an email list” post.  Results of The True Beauty Email Test:

and even though I wasn’t able to capture his comments….

Of all the comments I think that Simms really drove an important point home with, “this is the kind of article that gives email marketing a very bad reputation.”  Luke Glasner and I were talking about this while driving him the the airport yesterday, and he made the same point when he said something to the effect of, “It’s because of articles like those that when I tell people what I do for a living they say, ‘Oh, so you’re a spammer'”.

Think about that for a minute…. 

Moments after iMedia took the buy-an-email-list post down (more on that in a minute) while in a meeting with a cool new client, one of the participants said something along the lines of, “We can just buy a list for that, can’t we?” 

I glanced over at Luke wide-eyed and sitting very still not knowing if I was going to lunge across the table breathing fire to rip the person’s throat out, then smiled and simply said, “no, we don’t buy lists.  The secret to the success of email marketing is that it is permission-based.  People give you their permission for you to market and communicate with them.  You cannot legitimately buy someone else’s permission any more than I can buy yours from someone else.  People that buy email lists usually find themselves blocked and blacklisted so much that it takes months and months to be able to deliver messages to the people that asked for them.”

The person then said, and I’m paraphrasing, “Oh, I thought people bought lists all of the time.  Now that I know better, let’s move on.” 

I didn’t adapt my language and the person wasn’t offended or all butt-hurt.  They were glad that I pointed out the correct terminology so that they can fully understand what is being discussed and not look foolish in conversations with other; and that we did our job in protecting their best interests rather than co-signing something that they didn’t know was a bad thing.  Then they gave us a big fat check….

Personally, I think iMedia owes the email marketing community an apology for that post.  I’m not sure how I feel about them taking it down, and I really don’t know why it was.  Was it because of the amount of crap the article was getting?  Was it embarrassment over not vetting the columnist or the post?  Did one of the companies the writer disparaged in trying to back-peddle justify and/or excuse get pissed and make a call?  I don’t know, but I think that it would be a pretty cool thing if iMedia let us know when making their apology.

And just in case you wanted to comment on that article and didn’t get the chance before it was removed, well, here’s your chance to take The True Beauty Email Test and let your voice be heard.