This is always a hot topic for a number of EmailSnobs and recently there have been a number of heated discussions around the terms Email List Rental, Email Buy and Email Purchase with arguments from both sides ranging from “Don’t buy Ever!”, to “Buying works when it’s done right and well managed”… I’m on the side of the former “buying = spam”.

However, time after time I see the person say buy when they actually mean rent and that is a vastly different discussion. So to help I’ve put together a short list of things to consider when your talking about buying (and you actually mean renting).


1 – Say what you mean:

  • Don’t say: Purchase a list of names to send your message to, Email Buy/Purchase vs. Email Rental
  • Do say: Rent the content of a list to send your message to

2 – Target your email ad:

  • Don’t: Buy any list just to get a larger audience
  • Do: Find a complementary publication that can target to an appropriate audience for your message

3 – Accept a list of names:

  • Don’t: Let the agent selling the name push you to deploy the advertisements
  • Do: Have the agent send the mailing on your behalf

4 – Capitalize on your investment:

  • Don’t: Waste time (and $$) talking to these recipients like your normal email members
  • Do: Send an engaging message with a strong call to action asking recipients to subscribe, explaining the benefits of your email program – Remember they may not know who you are

List Owners:

1 – Who to rent to:

  • Don’t: rent to just anyone – messages should be valuable to your subscribers as well
  • Do: Consider the recency and the frequency that you will allow for third party offers to be sent to subscribers, build a schedule and stick to it

2 – Understand your member base:

  • Don’t: Assume that this message is good for all members.
  • Do: Think about the content and the potential recipients and find the value add and the right audience in your file to make this a Win, Win, Win for all parties involved (Renter, List Owner and most importantly the Recipient)

3 – Data control:

  • Don’t: Provide a list of email addresses to a third party for sending
  • Do: Manage the deployments for your partners – control the brand and vet the message to be inline with your policies and your subscribers expectations

4 – Provide choice to subscribers:

  • Don’t: Assume that all subscribers will want third party messages
  • Do: Maintain a separate opt-in and list for rental and house files so your subscribers can choose they types of communications they want to receive.

I’m sure there are a dozen other Do’s and Don’ts about list rental for both the list owner and the renter – Got one? Share it with us in the comments.