It’s life science marketing’s dirty little secret: many marketers buy lists of researchers to mass email, a tactic their customers would be appalled to learn, especially in these days of privacy concerns. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went live in the European Union at the end of May, and marketers need to pay close attention to the legalities, especially if the US and other regions adopt stricter laws.
As life science marketers, we’ve all been tempted, asked, or even instructed to purchase lists, even though we know it’s not a good idea. Here are our top 5 reasons to not give in:
- Getting blacklisted. We’ve all had important emails get lost in spam. This filtering happens with most email applications, and they rely on many factors in choosing which emails to mark as spam. One quality is whether your email domain is blacklisted, in other words marked as a spammer. The more emails you send to people you don’t have a relationship, the more you’ll get marked as a spammer, and you’ll have a higher chance to get on these lists. You DO NOT want to be blacklisted, your whole business will be negatively affected, and it can be difficult to remove your company from them. Also, Mailchimp, Constant Contact, and other reputable email service providers do not tolerate these practices—Constant Contact, for example, will put a company on notice if they receive more than 1 spam report per 1,000 emails sent.
- Poor branding. Related to #1, sending emails to people who didn’t opt in to your emails sends a very poor message. As consumers, we get these types of emails daily, asking ourselves “how did this company get my email address?” We unsubscribe hastily and make a mental note that the company must not be a good one, if they have to resort to buying lists. The same thought process happens when your company’s first interaction with a customer is through such an email, and it’s horrible for your brand.
- List quality. For every major conference, every year we all get at least one email from a company we’ve never heard of, selling the list of attendees. Where do these lists come from? The true list is owned by the conference organizers, I’m sure they’re not letting anyone get the official list for free. Who knows what’s in the list, it’s likely poster abstract presenters, or emails scraped from Pubmed, which will be mostly academics (no offense, but it’s not where the money is). Additionally, any names on the list have likely been sold to many other people, and the people on that list are likely super sensitive to getting more spam! At any rate, you have no idea of the list quality.
- Waste of resources. Thinking again as a consumer…how many of the random emails that you get per day, from companies you don’t have a relationship with, do you open, much less click on? Mailchimp has done the research and shows that for a purchased list, clickthroughs are around 0.2%. I recently saw a conference email list with 20,000 email addresses for sale for $2000. Doing the math, that’s $50 per clickthrough, and if you refer to the Mailchimp study, you’d get about 60 “complaints,” putting you way over ESP’s spam report limits. Wouldn’t you love to spend that $2000 on Google Adwords instead, and target people looking for your content, and lead them directly to your website? You can get 10-20 times as many people to your website for $2.50-$5.00 per clickthrough with the same funds, and get tons of data from what they’re searching for, and also remarket to them. It’s simply a waste of money and time to e-blast to people you have no connection with, even with the best content. If you really do have the best content, go through a reputable e-blast partner and give it the exposure it deserves.
- It can be illegal. In the US, the CAN SPAM act of 2003 is by all accounts outdated, as it does not require prior permission to email recipients. With the proliferation of spam messaging available through email, robocalls, and texts, it’s likely that the US will follow suit with stronger email laws in the near future. At the current time, GDPR/the EU and Canada DO require permission. For that email list you’re considering buying, how do you know what country’s laws you need to abide by? Do you really trust that this vendor will break the list down for you, when you don’t know how they obtained it? Your company doesn’t get a “pass” for sending the list through the company, either, you’re legally responsible.
This article originally appeared on the Biotech Marketing Network.