Guest Post: Cold Email Outreach Isn’t SPAM, Here’s Why

This is an often misunderstood topic.  Read on to learn what IS cold email outreach and whether it is/isn’t SPAM.

By Justin McGill | Originally Posted: January 12, 2015

Since launching LeadFuze, this has been the single most asked question.

spam questions
I thought taking the time to answer this in a more in-depth manner would serve as a good resource for me to be able to send to people to for further reading.

What is Cold Email Outreach?

You won’t find the term ‘cold email outreach’ in the dictionary, but this is the basic definition:

Cold Email Outreach – Is an ‘outreach’ plan that uses a personalized email to make contact with an individual person/prospect who you have had no prior connection.

Is Cold Email Outreach SPAM?

There is a difference between bulk pharmacy product emails (which accounts for 81% of spam) and one-to-one emails to a targeted business audience.

Under the CAN-SPAM act, you are able to send emails to business people that you do not know. However, you want to make sure you are complying with the rules that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has outlined.

Luckily, that isn’t difficult to do. Here are the seven things you need to incorporate when sending cold emails:

  1. Don’t misrepresent who you are – Basically, your “From”, “To”, and “Reply-To” information needs to identify who you are.
  2. Don’t use misleading subject lines – Using a subject line of “Your receipt” when pitching your product/service would be misleading. Keep it real.
  3. Identify if the email is an ad – If your email is an advertisement or special coupon offer, just make sure it is labeled as such.
  4. Include your business address – This can be a PO Box or your physical address, but you have to include it. Ideal placement for this information would be in your signature.
  5. Give them an opt-out option – You don’t have to use an “unsubscribe” link which takes away some of the personal aspects of the email. Instead, ask them, “Please let me know if you are not the right person to contact for this.” It’s a good alternative that keeps things personal.
  6. Honor opt-outs – If they don’t want any future emails, make sure they don’t get any more emails. I don’t even respond to the request, I just make sure they don’t get any more follow-ups.
  7. Know what others do/send on your behalf – Even if you hire a company like ours to handle your email outreach, you are still legally responsible. Make sure whoever you have working on your email outreach understands these seven rules.

For more information, you can read this PDF straight from the FTC.

Is cold email outreach unsolicited? Yes. Is it SPAM? No. Not if you follow the rules outlined above.

Ways You Can Use Cold Email Outreach

Obviously, using cold email outreach is a method to generate leads and interest in your product/service. There are other ways you can use cold email outreach as well.

Here are three other ways (aside from lead generation) I’ve used cold email outreach:

1. Determine Startup Viability

In today’s lean startup approach, it’s more important than ever to talk to your potential customers before you start going crazy with development and business plans.

I’ve actually used this approach to determine the viability of a business idea.

I would gather up a list of people in a target market and shoot them an email to determine what, if any, pain points they have. I’d look for common responses and then do research based on that feedback.

Or if I have the idea already, I would just direct them to a landing page to see what kind of interest there was.

2. Data Gathering

Another way to leverage cold email outreach is to gather feedback on surveys or to ask questions.

Let them know you’re performing research and planning to publish the results of the poll/questions/feedback in a future blog post on your blog.

This is a very soft way of sending people to your website without directly asking for a sale.

3. Invitations

You might want to invite prospective customers to a webinar or a networking event (if they’re local).

Cold email outreach is a great way to increase attendees with prospective customers.


In my past with various B2B startups, this is usually almost ALWAYS the first lead generation strategy I executed.

It gets me straight in front of my potential customers without needing to invest in sales people, advertising, etc.

Interested in using cold email outreach to generate leads for your business? Fill out this form to see if LeadFuze will work for you!

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