My answer is the same whenever someone asks me what the most important aspect of digital marketing is.
The email list. That’s where the money is.
Growing a mailing list is a slow process that involves embracing innovative email marketing practices that keep subscribers engaged.
Besides time, building an email list also requires significant investments. Unsurprisingly, some companies want to skip this step and just enjoy the benefits of an email list with thousands of subscribers.
Do I think this is good marketing? Hell, no.
I think selling an email list makes sense when selling the rest of your e-Store, blog, or any other type of online business.
Collecting contact data with the sole purpose of selling it has legal implications and generally brings low value to potential buyers.
So, in this guide, I’ll help you determine if selling and transferring an email list to a new owner would add extra value to your website.
The Best Email List Building Practices
Let’s take a step back. You must look at the mailing list’s past to determine if it is worth anything.
Privacy policies in most opt-in forms explicitly state that the contact information cannot be resold or leased.
Hence, if your subscribers agreed to receive promotional materials from your business under this condition, transferring the mailing list to a new owner would mean facing a potential lawsuit.
The methods you use to attract and engage subscribers can affect the list’s value. Consequently, the list will be worth more if you’re in active communication with the contacts.
On the other hand, the term ‘dead mail list’ refers to any list with an inactivity period longer than two months.
Finding a buyer for such a list is difficult, even though reviving it is possible. Also, using the following practices to grow a mailing list will improve your chances of selling it:
- Creating visually attractive sign-up and opt-in forms
- Focusing on data quality
- Sending personalized promotional messages
- Maintaining a healthy emailing list
- Creating entertaining and engaging content
I want to point out that the average annual email list decay rate is around 22%. If your mailing list is losing subscribers at a higher rate, you’ll have a tough time selling it.
Understanding the Legal Framework
Running a Google search shows there are plenty of places online where you can buy or sell a mailing list.
Still, trading contact data is highly regulated, and limitations often depend on the country.
Selling email lists is not illegal in the United States or Australia as long the contacts are not used to distribute spam.
EU countries have stricter regulations that prohibit marketers from sending promotional messages to subscribers without their consent. Hence transferring a mailing list to a new owner is practically illegal.
There are a few ways to work around these regulations since a new owner can send a re-subscribe email after taking over the email list.
Renting a list is also an option that would allow a business to send emails to your contacts. However, email list rentals are usually used for a single marketing campaign.
I recommend checking the local data privacy rules and regulations before selling a mailing list to businesses from that region.
Determining the Email List’s Value
There are no email list valuation tools that estimate the list’s worth.
The Email Subscriber Value Calculator can help you find out the contact’s average value, and you can then use this information to calculate the worth of an entire list.
Manual email list valuation is the most reliable way of determining its price. Here are the key factors that will help you estimate the email list’s price.
1. List size
Most of your list’s value comes from its size, but having thousands of subscribers doesn’t guarantee you can sell it at a reasonable price.
Contact quality is as essential as list size since lists with low click-through and high bounce rates don’t deliver much value.
Even so, most buyers will focus on the number of subscribers and make better offers for a list with thousands of contacts than for a list with a few hundred contacts.
2. Unsubscribe Rate
List decay is inevitable, even if you’re doing everything in your power to keep subscribers engaged.
However, you can slow down its decay by taking measures to improve the unsubscribe rate.
Diversifying the email content, optimizing the email frequency, or writing catchy subject lines are some of the things you can do to retain subscribers and increase the mailing list’s value.
3. Open Rate
This metric indicates the percentage of list subscribers that open emails you send. The low open rate suggests low engagement and overall poor health of an email list.
You should also keep an eye on these metrics when valuating a mailing list:
- Click Through Rate
- List Growth Rate
- Conversion Rate
- Email Sharing
These metrics can play a vital role during the sales process because they can help persuade buyers that the email list can improve their revenue streams.
4. List’s History
Ideally, the list you want to sell should have a few successful email marketing campaigns under its belt.
Most buyers would like to know what the list was used for in the past because they don’t want to risk investing in a mailing list that was used to spam subscribers.
I’d like to add that a mailing list can only be valuable to businesses from the same niche, which narrows your range of potential buyers.
What is The Email List Market Price?
Cost Per Mille or CPM is an advertising term used to determine the cost of sending a promotional message to a thousand addresses.
CPM is only used to determine the cost of renting a mailing list, and on average, you’ll have to pay between $0.15 and $0.35 per address or up to $350 for 1,000 contacts.
Renting is more expensive than buying an email list. Still, you can acquire a list with 3,000 to 5,000 addresses for less than $1,000.
Also, you can try acquiring mailing lists that contain business contacts from Lusha, LeadsPlease, and similar lead generation tools and use their prices to determine how much your list might be worth.
So, a list with more than 10,000 addresses could be worth a few thousand dollars, provided none of the contacts were purchased and assimilated into the list.
Selling Email List with an Online Business
Running email marketing campaigns and gathering subscribers with Constant Contact or a similar tool will add value to your online business.
Hence, a list you carefully curated with an email marketing tool can become a valuable bargaining chip during negotiations with buyers interested in acquiring your blog or eCommerce shop.
Also, a healthy email list should be a part of website valuation calculation, and it is often a major contributing factor to why website brokerages accept to represent digital entrepreneurs.
In other words, a responsive mailing list is a telltale sign of a well-managed business, and experienced brokers use it when pitching websites to their contacts.
Empire Flippers, Flippa, BuySellEmpire, and other website marketplaces don’t provide the option to create a listing for email lists. However, each of these platforms allows members to include a mailing list in their offer.
All you need to do is indicate in the listing’s description that the website comes with a mailing list.
All website marketplaces enable their members to sell mailing lists at auctions or through Buy It Now listings.
Please keep in mind that including a dead mailing list that has been inactive for more than two months in your offer can hurt your chances of selling a website.
Finding Buyers for Email Lists without a Website
The fact that so many email list marketplaces offer lists with thousands of contacts makes selling a list separately from a website difficult but not impossible.
Contact quality would be your most significant advantage if you spent years cultivating your online business mailing list.
Lists available on popular marketplaces focus on quantity as they promise to deliver tens of thousands of new contacts to buyers.
In reality, these lists have low engagement and high unsubscribe rates, which is why they fail to deliver value to digital businesses.
That’s why exploring direct sales opportunities might help you find a buyer for a mailing list. I recommend taking these steps before you start pitching an email list to buyers:
- Ensure that selling your mailing list doesn’t breach the data privacy of its subscribers
- Outline the list’s key metrics and gather the most recent email list reports
- Collect proof that the list is active
Also, don’t forget that your most likely buyers are your competitors because their target groups are identical to yours.
Best Places to Sell an Email List
Listing a website and the email list associated with it on a peer-to-peer website marketplace is probably the quickest way to sell these assets.
However, I don’t recommend taking this route if you don’t know much about trading on website marketplaces because there’s an easier way to exit an internet business.
I suggest looking for companies that help owners sell entire digital businesses, including email lists. Let’s look at some of the best digital business acquisition services.
1. Website Properties
I recommend approaching Website Properties if you don’t know how to determine what your business is worth.
The company offers a free valuation of all business assets with no strings attached, as well as a more detailed valuation for sellers who decide to use its services.
Website Properties represents dropshipping, eCommerce, Amazon FBA, and other types of online businesses.
Its brokers work with owners to make their businesses more valuable and oversee the sales process, from creating a listing to closing the deal.
However, sellers are responsible for setting up the escrow service and covering the commission fee.
MicroAcquire is one of the top destinations for entrepreneurs buying or selling startups. The platform has over 100,000 users and vouches for the anonymity and safety of their data.
Listing an online business at MicroAcquire is free, but you must first go through the validation process before you can start negotiating with buyers.
The platform’s advisors guide startup owners through the sales process and ensure each of their assets is evaluated accurately.
MicroAcquire is ideal for Internet businesses with annual revenues below the $500,000 mark, so you may want to consider other options if your startup is worth more.
3. Investors Club
Your website must meet specific criteria to be listed on the Investors Club platform. So, a content site must have at least six months of revenue over $500, and all its content must be in English.
ECommerce sites must have revenue over $500 for more than a year to be approved for sales on Investors Club. The sales process takes place in several stages.
An owner first submits a site for review and receives its evaluation report within 24 hours.
If the site is approved, an owner must provide more details about the business’s traffic, email list size, metrics, and monetization model.
The rest of the process is in the hands of Investors Club’s staff, which creates the listing, offers it to buyers, and manages the transfer.
Transferring a Mailing List
The final step of the email list sales process involves giving the new owner access to the list. The process is simple and usually doesn’t take long.
Giving the buyer the login data to the email marketing service you’re using is the easiest solution if you sold your entire online business.
1. Direct List Transfer
If you want to continue using your account and wish to transfer a single list, you can contact customer support.
For instance, you can write to AWeber’s customer service requesting a mailing list transfer. You’ll have to provide the following info:
- Buyer’s account details
- Your account details
- The list’s title
- Buyer’s credit card details
Keep in mind that this process isn’t the same for all email marketing services, and you should reach out to your platform’s customer service agents to find out the best way to transfer a mailing list to a new owner.
2. Exporting a CSV File
Instead of giving a buyer access to your email marketing service account or going through the back and forth with customer service to transfer the list ownership, you can export the CVS file the owner can import to the email marketing management platform.
The exact steps will depend on the platform you’re using. If your mailing list is stored at AWeber, you can click on the Export CSV button in the Subscribers tab.
I’d like to add that some platforms allow users to choose which contact data they want to include in the file.
Frequently Asked Questions about Email List Sales
What is a Good Open Rate for an Email List?
The list you’d like to sell should have an open rate of over 25%. Finding a buyer for a list with a lower open rate is difficult.
How Long Does it Take to Revive a Dead Email List?
You’ll have to clean up a dead list and send multiple emails to the remaining contacts. It might take several months to revive an inactive list because your messages might be flagged as spam if you send too many emails after a long period of inactivity.
I don’t advocate selling a mailing list separately from the rest of the business for two reasons.
- It might take a while until you find a buyer with an identical target audience to yours
- Most business owners don’t think buying an email list is a good idea
As a result, you’ll struggle to find the offer that matches your email list’s actual value.
Including the email list in the same package as the rest of your Internet business can give you more leverage during negotiations with buyers. I suggest using Website Properties, Investors Club, or a similar service that helps you sell a company’s all digital assets if you want to get a fair price for your email list.