True Stories | Email List Building

Tonight I joined a good friend and co-worker, and one of his friends (we will call him Dave for this story), for dinner and drinks after work. As per the norm with many conversations (I’m sure you can relate to this) the conversation eventually drifted to email where a recent event story came up.

Dave told me about a recent phone call with an email list vendor where they were offering services to Help build a contact and mailing list. The offer sounded great – little to no work was needed by the publisher to jump start a list building program, names would flood into their email program and success was just on the horizon.

Wow sounds like a great offer right?! so I asked a few questions (answers paraphrased).

EK: Where do the names come from?
Dave: They have a program the pings out to mail servers and confirms user names based on common formats. There was also talk about contact trading to build credits.

Strike one – Automated harvesting and dictionary attacks
Strike two – Contact sharing/trading for new contacts

EK: How do they communicate with subscribers when sending?
Dave: They send mail over a number of mail servers in “Short Bursts” to help improve delivery to users inboxes.

Strike three – Snow Shoe spamming to avoid filters

It’s a good thing I met Dave tonight I think I may have saved him a major headache in the future – I quickly filled him in on:

  • Automated Harvesting issues, both from a Privacy and Legal point of view under CAN-SPAM and PIPEDA
  • The dangers of contact sharing with third party providers, “How would you like it if some one shared your info”?
  • And the proper way a mail provider (ESP or in-house) should send email on their behalf

After this short education Dave asked me – “How do they get away with this?” – To while I said… Frequent and rapid name changes of the companies. Direct Mag tracked a number of these types of services for a number of months and a half dozen name changes were uncovered as marketers were continuously duped into using these services.

Don’t fall for these types of offerings – when in doubt ask around and see what other are saying about the provider.

Do you have a true story? Share it with us.

Author: Matt V - @emailkarma

Matthew Vernhout is a digital messaging industry veteran and Certified International Privacy Professional (Canada) (CIPP/C) with nearly two decades of experience in email marketing. Matthew is 250ok’s Director of Privacy, and he is currently the Vice Chair of the eec, after serving for several years as the Chair of their Advocacy Subcommittee. Matthew was recognized as the 2019 eec thought-leader of the year.

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  1. This is shocking but such stories are not rare. I work for a Lead Generation firm myself and in our client interactions we’ve often found that the main reason for dissatisfaction with past vendors has been related to their unethical means of list building. By the time they realized it, enough damage would’ve been done already and that’s where they would bring us in. I strongly recommend that companies should prepare an internal checklist while hiring a Lead Generation firm. Importance of asking the correct questions during the shortlisting stage cannot be undermined, especially to determine the quality of lists. Hope to spread more word on this. However, for those managing lead generation in-house, here’s an article from our blog which discusses the basics for quality lead generation-

    Post a Reply
    • Karan,

      Thanks for the link… It’s sad that vendors are able to get away with these types of activities and put legitimate mailer at risk by using their services. Stories like these will hopefully save at least one or two people from making this mistake in the future.

      Matt V

      Post a Reply
  2. The issue unethical list building has always hounded the genuine guy. Unethical list building should become part of everything educational about list building itself. This would help discourage the practice.

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  3. Any tutorials out there how to become expert in List Building ?::,

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  4. Years ago I was offered a very attractive marketing contact with an up and coming business. They were prepping for the launch of a new product and needed my help with the details and buzz building with their list.

    One of the first questions I asked was how large their email list was. They said around 7,000 subscribers. I asked where the subscribers came from. They said past clients and partners. Surprised by the size of their past client list (this company employed 2 people) I started working with them. I soon discovered that the emails they had were not in fact past clients of THEIRS but past clients of all sorts of companies and sites they had harvested. In fact, the “list” wasn’t even organized, it was just a huge file full of random email addresses.

    Needless to say, our partnership did not last very long.

    Post a Reply


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