Email List Rental, What You Need to Know


Frequently maligned and often misunderstood, email list rental is a widely accepted marketing practice that can provide a potent ROI, if you know what to look for and respect the inbox. If you’re unfamiliar or unimpressed with renting an email list here’s the lowdown on the benefits as well as its key differentiating factors and considerations.

Know the Difference

Unfortunately legitimate email list rental opportunities have been tarnished by the practices of less-than-stellar providers be they list compilers, email addresses sellers, or bald-faced liars. None of which are likely to help a marketer’s ROI. Why should it? The email recipients have no relationship with the organization that possesses their email address, and sends your offer.

In my 12 years in email marketing I found that the best opportunities often lie in renting true subscriber lists. That is, branded email lists that are derived from publications, services, or products that the recipient knows, and values.

How it Works & Key Considerations

  • The list owners will send the marketer’s offer to their subscribers.
  • The marketer pays a fee for this service, usually on a cost-per-thousand (CPM) basis.
  • Unlike direct mail or telemarketing, the marketer never sees the list.
  • Unlike inbound marketing, it’s all about producing a valuable offer, not content.
  • List selection is the most important factor, followed by the offer and the creative.

For Marketers

For many marketers email list rental is a consistent means of growing their own subscriber lists, packing their pipelines and of course, making sales directly.  Here are a few benefits.

  • Value of Association (with the list owner)
  • Low Cost of Acquisition (compare to other direct channels)
  • It’s Quick (test results and make adjustments in days, not weeks)
  • Better Deliverability (Compared to complied and purchase lists)

For List Owners

List owners come in many flavors such as retailers, event producers, associations, traditional publishers, and bloggers. All of which can find considerable value in email list rental too, albeit of a different sort.

  • Revenue ($1-2 per subscriber, per year is a good rule of thumb)
  • Control  (what, when, who)
  • Easy (no sales, marketing, billing – if you work with a Professional List Management Company).
  • Hygiene (weed out hard bounces more frequently)

Case in Point

Going beyond selecting the right lists, wise marketers are no longer taking the buy my stuff approach. Instead list rental campaigns are getting more creative, take a look at this campaign from Surfline and Rip Curl. It’s a great example of how publishers can provide their subscribers with direct access complimentary products, services, or offers, and win their hearts in the process.

The Future of Email Rental

Email deliverability is an ongoing challenge for list marketers who use complied or purchased lists. In fact, challenge is probably too light of a description. And that’s a good thing. It frees up mailboxes for marketers that want to target their offers to legitimate subscribers that have expressed interest and who may have a timely need, or find real value in the opportunity.


  1. 1

    Thanks Scott for such valuable insights on email marketing. I found this topic pretty interesting for those just starting companies that have a great product but not a qualified list of customers that have opted to be in there.

    I think it could provide that business lots of benefits, one of them, being associated with the list owner business. So make sure that business has a good reputation among their customers because otherwise that will just kill your brand instead of leveraging it.

    Join the conversations about email marketing on Q&A

  2. 2

    What is the name of an Email Rental Agency. I have a list of over 1mill+ subscribers and would like to rent my list or sell it. Can anyone recommend a company that will do that?

    Thank you

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