The ease and familiarity of emailing contacts to convey a message is a general no-brainer for many companies. However, sending an email to an email address of your desired prospect doesn’t mean they’ll open it and see what you have to say. It might not even end up in their primary inbox. An industry average open email rate is going to fall somewhere between 10-21%, so it’s all about the right people, the right content, in the right time and place.

Whether you’re sending emails using your internal database—an organic list your company has built over time using conversion points with your sales reps or on your website in the form of subscriptions or content—or purchasing contacts that align with certain demographic and psychographic criteria, you should always think about what your company brings to the table. In the end, it’s not about asking them to schedule a demo or sign up for a pilot, it’s about how you can provide value to your users. Here are some pros and cons of using a purchased list versus organic lists.


Purchasing Lists

Purchasing lists is a granular, data-driven way you can find contacts who resonate with your product or service.

You’ll want to be careful with your data. Have the data provider push out the email to avoid your email going into spam folders, since, technically, you’re sending out unsolicited messages. The more you send without paying attention to people who aren’t acting, the higher chance your emails are getting into the spam folders rather than the inboxes of your contacts.



  • You can aggregate contacts based on data such as geographic location, job title, student populations in a district, psychographics, and whatever revolves around the product you are trying to push.
  • It can act as a ‘quick start’ to help you with finding the right viable end-users of your offering, especially when you’re in the early stages of building out your contact database.
  • Purchasing data can also help you get started faster on nurturing new contacts into your funnel, and may also help your sales team move potential buyers through the initial stage quicker, as they are closer to being vetted.
  • Rather than emailing random people, you can find people who are in your target market.
  • Depending on what you buy, your list can be thousands of contacts long.



  • You might be sending content to people who’ve never heard of your company, which might aggravate them and turn them off your product or service. You don’t want to end up on a blacklist!
  • You have to purchase your purchased lists. Providers such as MDRMCH, and Agile offer varying prices.


Organic Lists

Many companies don’t focus on building their organic lists since it takes time and high-quality content. Purchasing data can seem like a quick fix. You’ll need conversion points on your website to offer something like a blog or a newsletter. If people aren’t completing forms on your website, there’s no way for you to build your opt-in list. However, the efforts can be worth it.



  • These contacts already know about your company, so if they see an email in their inbox, they won’t flag it as spam and it has a higher chance of being opened and read.
  • Opt-in lists can include people you meet at a conference and offline sources.
  • Though the process of forming your list might not have been free, having the list is ultimately available to you at no cost.



  • These lists tend to be shorter, ranging from one contact to thousands as your company grows.
  • A bit of patience is required. These lists form over time, and typically require static lead generation forms, gated and/or downloadable content, and a subscription or an offer that persuades a user to take action on your website in some way. This means your content will also have to be high quality.

Purchasing a list shouldn’t be looked at as a saving grace. You’re not good to go once you buy thousands of elementary school principal contacts and market to them. Take a look at those contacts and identify which folks – based on demographics and how relevant they are to being possible end-users of your solution – should be added to your internal list. Remember, if you do not personalize your emails nor position your offering/solution as relevant to the recipient, these leads will remain ‘cold’ and could even be subjected to ‘unsubscribes.’ Rather than seeking sales, you should see how you can leverage lists to build out your internal database with viable contacts.

Whether you choose to develop an organic list or purchase data, it’s all part of the long game to get people tuned into what you have to offer. In the meantime, you should be asking yourself how you can make this person's life easier, better, less stressful, or to save them time.


About the Author

Leah Rogers is a storyteller at PR with Panache. As a life-long reader, Leah appreciates good character development both in print and in real life. That’s why nothing thrills her more than conversing with people going down paths different from her own. Leah graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth with a B.A. in journalism, which gave her an excuse to ask interesting people as many questions as seemed appropriate. She was a TV news writer in Minneapolis before she decided to pursue a role that satisfied her love for both technology and writing. Unless she’s writing or reading, she’s not one to sit for too long. Hiking, yoga, and road trips satisfy her enthusiasms. While she’s usually planning her next escapade, she’s a firm believer that the best conversations happen while you’re simply taking a walk with a friend.