davemail Q & A: Using Third-Party Lists

February 24, 2010


The issue of using lists of email addresses generated by someone other than you continues to be a hot topic. I received an email this week asking for my opinion about using a list provided by the organizers of a trade show.

Here was the question:

trade show 150I have a large list of names/emails from a trade show that we attended. The list was given to all the vendors who partnered for the show. So it’s valid. There are many organizations on the list that registered multiple individuals under a single email address (probably an HR person). Does it violate CAN-SPAM to extrapolate the valid email addresses for the registrants on the list via the email pattern of the given email (i.e. first initial last name @org.com)? 

Here was my answer:

Unless the show attendees specifically gave organizers permission to be contacted by vendors, you do not have permission to send them anything through email. It is a common misunderstanding that addresses acquired through trade shows are fair game. Just because the show organizers share their list with you, it does not mean the participants said they could. And it certainly would be spam to then try and figure out other attendee names by following the pattern of the names you do have and send them email.

The bottom line remains simple — only the individual can give you permission, not a third party. Show organizers often want to dangle that list in front of vendors as an incentive to participate, but they rarely have the right to do so. Beware of such an offer, and ask yourself if it is worth it.

Follow-up

For the record, the person who sent me the question is a stand-up guy looking for ways to build business within the rules. He was checking back with the organizers to establish what level of permission they were given. A way around this situation would be to send individual emails to show attendees asking if they would like to receive email communications from you. If they say yes, it is all good. If they don’t respond, then you have your answer there as well.



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