By Syed Balkhi, founder of WPBeginner

Email marketing is, without a doubt, one of the best ways to reach out to interested prospects with the hope that they will become paying customers. A consumer report by Campaign Monitor revealed that over 50 percent of consumers in the United States check their email 10 times per day. Talk about an excellent opportunity to sell your product. However, due to our nature, we also have a knack for looking for shortcuts when it comes to long-term projects.

One such shortcut used by some marketers involves buying email lists from third-party companies. We have all seen the checkbox when agreeing to terms that state your information may be shared with similar businesses. This method is usually how email lists are made. What's worse is that some individuals illegally harvest essential information like names, addresses and phone numbers from unsuspecting people to sell to businesses as "legit" lead lists.

We are going to take a look at four of the main reasons you should never buy a lead list for your email marketing campaign.

The list is likely recycled and incomplete.

The first reason to avoid buying email lists is that they are likely recycled leads and contain incomplete data. Think about it this way: Do you think you're the only one who has access to the list you purchased? Probably not. In most cases, people selling lead lists provide this information to countless other businesses who want to market their product or service to a broader audience. There's a good chance that by the time you get to them, they are sick and tired of receiving marketing emails.

There's also a chance that the leads are incredibly outdated or incomplete. I've heard of instances where call centers obtain lead lists that contain people who have been dead for upwards of 15 years, rendering the information useless and leaving a negative impression on the surviving spouse or family when you call.

You could tarnish your reputation.

It goes without saying that if someone is getting spammed with hundreds of emails per week, and a few of your emails are tossed into the consumer's growing list, they will associate your company with the others that have sent them unsolicited emails.

The result is consumers may have a harder time trusting you if they land on your website after an incident such as this one. Things could snowball quickly if the consumer is angry about the emails and take to social media to express their annoyance. The last thing you need is a PR nightmare when you're simply trying to market your products or services.

There may be legal consequences.

The biggest takeaway from this piece is that there could be legal repercussions for buying an email list. Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM) was established to help consumers who were receiving obscene content or a ridiculous amount of spam emails despite objections to the source companies.

When you consider that you're not sure where these prospects come from when you buy an email list, you could put yourself at risk for paying some pretty hefty fines. Each violation of CAN-SPAM results in a $42,530 fine. To reiterate, that fine is for each email sent out. If multiple people complain about your unsolicited emails, you could quickly find yourself in inescapable debt.

Your email provider may ban your account.

Email providers are responsible for making sure that their users (you) understand the rules and use the law to prevent business owners from taking advantage of unsuspecting customers. If you violate the terms and service of your email provider, they can and will ban your account and prevent you from sending out future emails.

Furthermore, some email service providers explicitly say that if you're caught simply buying an email list and using it on their platform, you will be banned. It's simply not worth the risk.

Email lead lists have been going around for decades. The truth is, there is too much to lose when you use this method to obtain leads for your small business. If you want to maintain a relevant customer base, follow the law and keep your reputation, work on building your own email list from scratch. It takes a little work to generate emails for your business, but the leads you obtain on your own will be far more valuable for your company.

Syed Balkhi is the founder of WPBeginner, the largest free WordPress resource site that helps small businesses start their website.

Published on: Jul 11, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.