If a salesman wanted to sell you a bridge in Brooklyn, you’d recognize the racket almost immediately. Today, it’s a punchline, but once upon a time, people took the offer seriously: Two people a week for 30 years bought a worthless deed to the Brooklyn Bridge thinking the document would change their fortunes with the toll fares they could charge. Turns out all they had bought was an expensive piece of parchment. It’s laughable now, but even today there are some too-good-to-be-true deals that are awfully hard to pass up.

In fact, we see some pretty bold promises made by bargain contact lists. Vendors vow you’ll have direct access to hundreds of buyers (if not thousands) for cheap. The low-cost initial investment will help deliver an astronomical ROI. However, unless you are getting contact lists that have been verified as qualified leads, you’ll find soon enough that this is your own too-good-to-be-true deal.

Here are just a few ways that unverified bargain contact lists can lead to sales drought rather than providing that rainmaker resource you wanted.

Your Email Campaign is Bound to Get Shut Down

Email marketing providers take the quality of your contact lists seriously. Campaigns with high bounce rates or tarnished domain reputations get red flagged quick. And you can’t expect much leniency when spam filters and search algorithms ruthlessly ban your accounts. When email deliverability is weakened, your whole sales funnel loses its impact and unverified contact lists get email campaigns off to a bad start.

Bounce Rates – ISPs require email marketing providers to enforce certain bounce rate thresholds. As a rule of thumb, you want to be as close to 0% as possible, but providers give a little leeway up to 15% depending on the size, target industry, and circumstances of your list. Soft bounces (where delivery issues are temporary) receive an extra margin for forgiveness. However, hard bounces (where delivery is halted by bad email addresses) affect your campaign severely. And unverified contact lists are filled with hard bounces waiting to happen.

Most companies selling these contact lists aren’t even vetting them. Bargain lists come with bargain quality. There is plenty of raw contact information, but very little of it has been cleaned up. That means you’ll get misspelled addresses, wrong domain names, and emails for people who left six months ago or more. The burden of checking those out falls on your shoulders.
Even if the contacts seem verifiable at first, they may just be a false front. If you’re being sold 1,000 contacts, you might be given a 50 contact sample list of potential contacts to get a taste of product. In most cases, those are the cleanest contacts of the lot (by far). We can almost guarantee it. Enough of the remaining cruddy contacts will bounce hard and trigger an account suspension. And trying to reestablish your account can be a nightmare.

High Spam Reports – Spam is an altogether different challenge. If providers fail to comply with anti-spam practices, they risk having their own delivery service slowed or stopped completely. With their livelihood on the line, they’re earnest about helping ISPs stop spammers. In principle it’s great – unless you accidently get caught in their anti-spam sting.

That bargain contact list you are buying is usually no spring chicken. It’s been around the block and has been mined by other sales and marketing teams looking for leads. Potential buyers have long since made deals. All that remains are people sick and tired of endless emails. Spam reports will be high among this group, pushing your campaigns close to the spam threshold. Though email marketing services have slight variations on their thresholds, email lists that breach 0.1% are in jeopardy of having their domain reputation damaged, hurting the deliverability of emails across the board.

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Worst yet, you don’t even need to be reported to get branded as a spammer. In some of the bargain contact lists there will be a ticking time bomb nestled among real leads. Anti-spam organizations create fake email accounts (their own Trojan horse strategy) that notifies ISPs and other anti-spam organizations that the sender is spam. Contact list sellers trawling for emails will pull these email lists into their hold and never give them a second glance. Then, when you send your email campaign, you are getting lumped in with malicious spammers.

There’s No Direction After Your Contact Leaves

As mentioned earlier, bargain contact lists are basically goods sold after their expiration date. We find that at minimum 33% of email addresses turnover every six to twelve months. Though some of the contacts are salvageable, plenty will lead to sales dead ends because you lack the roadmap to take it further.

Let’s say you’ve been sending out messages to a particular contact. You can tell that they’ve clicked on calls to action within your email, but haven’t requested to talk about your products or services. One day, you get a hard bounce because that person has retired or accepted an offer elsewhere. How do you keep all that momentum from being wasted? Without being handed off to another contact, there’s not much you can do.

The clear downside to these bargain contact lists is that there is no org chart to use as a reference. When you reach a dead end with a given contact, there’s no vertical or lateral direction to take your sales inquiries. Though you can build an org chart with research of your own, that will add to the time and money you’re already spending to clean up the list. Hidden costs just keep popping up.

There’s No Way to Gauge Lead Temperature

Where are your leads in the buying cycle? You can’t afford not to know in today’s competitive sales climate. Cold calls are just an annoyance. You need your leads as warm as possible to give you leverage and close deals. That requires comprehensive information on your contact. Bargain contact lists are usually devoid of any information beyond the bare minimum.

You’ll get a name, title, company, contact email, and phone number without much more to build on. Is the contact aware of his or her current needs? What is their specific situation? Are they considering other vendors? Are they ready to buy? Sure, your team is capable of doing the research, but that’s just more labor hours spent doing something that a more premium contact list could do.

The Alternative to that Bargain Contact List

Turns out these types of lists are not the smart budgetary decision vendors make them out to be. Bargain contact lists do costly damage to your email campaigns, make pivoting when contacts leave near impossible, and force you to do plenty of extra work. For all the hidden costs incurred by your business, why not go with a clean, verified intelligence in the first place? That way, you can actually profit from the bridge you’re using to connect with prospects.

Want data that you can trust? Contact DiscoverOrg. Our data is verified by trained professionals to ensure that every data point our clients receive provides a legitimate and efficient link to strategic buyers. That’s why DCI recently called it “the top collection of human-verified data on the planet.” Data that good delivers a return on investment even higher than the bargain lists – our customers are seeing results like 60x ROI in a year, $2.7m in new revenue directly attributable to DiscoverOrg, and 20% more meetings in the first month versus bargain list providers.

Garbage in, garbage out. World-class data in, world-class growth on the back end. Which result are you looking for?


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Claire McEachern
About the author

Claire McEachern

Claire has 15+ years of creative communications, digital marketing, account and project management expertise in both the B2B and B2C environments. She has a passion for merging technical and creative skills in order to create narratives that educate, entertain, and call-to-action audiences on both the prospect and customer sides of the house. She has a B.S. in Sociology from James Madison University and an M.S. in Sustainable Design from Philadelphia University.