How to Market to a Purchased Email List

Many businesses use purchased lists to send focused relevant content to potential business customers. This is particularly true when your product or services address the specific needs of a specialized or targeted market. One study found that emails are 40 times more effective than social media at generating business. If you comply with the regulations and actively manage your campaign, marketing to purchased email lists can be a valuable investment for your company.

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Compliance Issues When Sending Emails to Purchased Lists

Depending on who you are emailing, there are a number of laws that regulate the use of commercial email marketing. For example, in Canada, the Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) prohibits unsolicited commercial emails. In fact, CASL requires express documented consent from the recipient before you can send any commercial email. In the United Kingdom, the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations require that you obtain consent before sending a commercial email except in limited circumstances where there is already an established commercial relationship. 


Because unsolicited commercial email marketing is effectively banned in Canada and the UK., this Article assumes that your email list is strictly limited to the American market. In the United States, the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003 (“CAN-SPAM Act” or the “Act”) is the primary regulatory legislation. 

In 2003, President George W. Bush signed the CAN-SPAM Act into legislation. Prior to the act, each state had its own laws governing the use of commercial email marketing. States could and often did provide more robust protections to consumers than is available under the Act. The act expressly preempts state laws that regulate commercial email marketing, with exceptions for state laws on fraud, misrepresentation and deception. It creates a national standard that is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Significantly, it does not contain a prohibition against the sending of unsolicited commercial emails. Instead, it uses an opt-out system.

Additionally, individuals have no private right of action under CAN-SPAM. This means that recipients of a commercial email that was sent in violation of the Act can not sue the sender for the violation (Note that the recipient may still have a claim under state law for false, misleading or deceptive emails). This is good news for businesses seeking an inroad to the American market.

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Requirements for Sending Emails to Purchased Lists

Although the FTC is notoriously lax on enforcing the CAN-SPAM Act, if there is a finding that you failed to comply with the Act, the agency can impose stiff penalties. Additionally, penalties are cumulative, meaning they can be imposed for each email that is sent in violation. In any event, the requirements of the Act are not burdensome and essentially amount to a set of best practices that your business should follow when sending unsolicited marketing emails.

  • Emails to existing customers are exempt from most of the requirements of CAN-SPAM

In general, the CAN-SPAM Act contains few regulations that pertain to emails that businesses send to their existing customers or recipients who have opted-in to receive emails from you. The Act defines such emails as “transactional or relationship messages[s],” which are exempt from most of the requirements discussed in this section. However, all marketing emails, even those to existing customers, are prohibited from containing false or misleading information and must comply with the header requirements of the Act.

  • All marketing emails must comply with the header requirements of the Act

The header requirements of the Act must be complied with for both unsolicited emails and “transactional or relationship” emails. Every commercial email must accurately reflect who the email is “from,” the destination and the originating domain and email address. A commercial email can be considered false and misleading and in violation of the Act even if it identifies an originating email address that is technically accurate, if the email address was obtained by false means or under fraudulent pretenses.

It is also a violation to relay or re-transmit an email through a third-parties computer or email address for purposes of disguising the emails’ origin. In other words, the Act does not permit any funny business when it comes to identifying who sent the email. The remaining requirements discussed below in this section only apply to unsolicited commercial emails and do not apply to existing customers.

  • You must identify the email as an advertisement or solicitation

The CAN-SPAM Act requires that you identify your email as an advertisement or solicitation. The Act does not specify exactly how to do this. Instead, the Act merely states that the disclosure must be “clear and conspicuous.” It doesn’t even matter where in the email this disclosure is made.

sending email to purchased lists

  • Your email must identify a physical location where your business receives mail

The Act requires that your emails list a physical location where your business can receive mail. This does not need to be the address of your office or brick and mortar store. You can use a registered post office box with the US. Postal Service.

  • The subject line of your email can not be deceptive

There is no prescription for what must be included in your subject lines. However, the Act contains a general prohibition against the use of deceptive subject lines. The main purpose of this requirement is to ensure that people are not tricked into opening a commercial marketing email.

This does not mean you can’t use the subject line to sell a product or service. It is fine to state “sale” or “act now” provided the subject line accurately portrays the substance of the email and is not deceptive or misleading. In fact, there are many good strategies for writing a compliant subject heading.

  • Your marketing email must contain an easy way to opt-out of future emails

This is perhaps the core feature of the CAN-SPAM Act. Every commercial marketing email must contain a “clear and conspicuous” notice with simple instructions for opting out of future emails. This requirement can be satisfied with a statement instructing the recipient to send a reply email to request an opt-out. It can also be satisfied with an “unsubscribe” link or similar link to a website. You can not charge a fee to opt-out, the instructions must not be burdensome and you can not require the recipient to provide any personal identifying information other than their email address.

Your opt-out process must be available for at least 30 days after the marketing email is sent. Once you receive an opt-out request, you must process that request within 10 days. Finally, you can not sell or transfer any email from which you have received an opt-out request.

how to market to a purchased email list

You are responsible even if you hire a bulk email service to handle your purchased lists

The CAN-SPAM Act provides that you are responsible for violations of the Act that are committed by anyone you have hired or authorized to send marketing emails on your behalf. Therefore, you need to be careful and make sure whoever you hire has a good reputation and is compliant. Best practices dictate that you should review any email template before approving a marketing campaign with your email marketing service. You are accountable for such emails and both you and the marketing company can be fined if they are not compliant.

Additionally, you can be held accountable where you are one of several businesses being marketed in a single commercial email. In such circumstances, the sender of the email is the party that must independently comply with the requirements of the Act. If the sender violates the Act, each of the businesses included in the email can be liable.

Email marketing services that allow purchased lists should have multiple scrubs in place

Some email marketing services will not handle purchased email lists, so be sure to do your due diligence before choosing one. Scrubbing and actively optimizing your purchased list is vital to ensure you are reaching the right people. It also ensures that you are not reaching the wrong people, which can hurt your reputation.

First, you should only purchase a list that meets the criteria of your target to your market. Once you have obtained a list, you should scrub it for invalid or bad email addresses. Your first email should provide helpful and relevant information and should be framed in a way that the marketing message is secondary.

After you send your first emails, you should remove emails from your list that do not respond. You should target your follow-up emails based on the nature of the contact. Perhaps consider using a drip campaign. A good marketing campaign to a purchased list is a continuing process that must be actively managed. If you do so correctly, you will see your business contacts grow.

You can send cold emails in the United States, provided you comply with the requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act. You can ethically market to purchased lists with proper safeguards in place. Plus, it can be a fruitful instrument for expanding your customer Rolodex. If you need assistance with your email marketing plan, contact SEO Design Chicago and our team of experts will help you craft a winning campaign. However, always consult an attorney if you have any questions about the legality of your actions. 

email marketing services that allow purchased lists

FAQs about Email Marketing Services That Allow Purchased Lists: 

  • How do I use purchased email lists?
  • What happens if I violate the CAN-SPAM act?
  • Are mailing lists effective?
  • What does the CAN SPAM Act do?
  • Who does CAN SPAM apply to?

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