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Email Marketing: Are Cold Emails Illegal?

It is likely that you have run across some legal nuances when researching cold emailing that have caused you to wonder whether your cold email campaign will not accidentally violate any laws.

Cold emailing is completely legal as long as you follow the guidelines established by the applicable regulations. It is important to note that one of the pioneering regulations in this area is the CAN-SPAM act, which sets standards for sending commercial emails in the United States. There is a great deal of confusion surrounding these questions. Many people are under the impression that any cold or unsolicited email constitutes spam, and that spam is illegal.

It is important to clarify that if all cold emails were illegal, we would not be driving successful email marketing campaigns for thousands of companies around the world. Firstly, let us clarify what constitutes “spam” and what constitutes illegal email. The term “spam” does not have a legal definition, and there are varying interpretations.

Under certain definitions, a spam message may not be illegal, and an illegal message may not be spam. Spam is defined as an unsolicited message which does not take into account the recipient’s identity or context, as long as the message is equally applicable to a variety of other potential recipients.

Are Spam Emails Legal?

The term spam refers to impersonal solicitations for pharmaceutical products, weight loss products, or investment opportunities. There are many of us who have discovered them in our inboxes, or more likely in our spam folders.

It is not possible to determine whether a message is illegal merely by choosing whether it is spam. As a matter of fact, SPAM is legal in the United States. As such, whether your email is solicited or unsolicited, or whether it is highly targeted or not, has no bearing on its legality under U.S. law.

Accordingly, the name of the relevant statute states it all: the (you) CAN-SPAM (Act). People are often surprised by this fact. To reiterate: It is legal to send an unsolicited commercial email in the United States. There are, however, certain rules that must be followed when sending unsolicited emails, and if you fail to comply, you may face severe penalties.

CAN-SPAM – What is It?

Due to the rapid development of email communication and the growing number of unwanted messages flooding people’s mailboxes, the U.S. government decided to finally enact the CAN-SPAM Act in 2003.

This acronym is derived from the act’s full title: Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing. In addition, there is also an accidental, but extremely clever and on-point play on words: spam can be stopped (by blocking).

Is the CAN-SPAM Act Applicable to Cold Emailers?

It has already been mentioned that the act covers all commercial emails that are not transactional or relationship-based. Are your cold emails included in this category?

However, even if you do not pitch immediately following “Hi,” which is also a big no-no, still you are sending a message to someone who has never interacted with you before and who has not opted in to receive this communication. Emails sent between businesses are not exempt from the act.

In light of all this, it is recommended that you adhere to the CAN-SPAM Act if you intend to send cold emails to prospects in the United States. Remember, and this is very important, that the act does not prohibit the sending of cold emails. It should be noted, however, that your cold email must meet certain conditions in order to be considered compliant.

Email Deliverability and Bounce Rates

The way you send messages must be carefully considered, even when following all guidelines and complying with all federal regulations.

Despite not being a legal requirement in the United States, some Marketing Automation Tools (MAT) and Email Service Providers (ESP) require users to send only to recipients who have opted in for your emails. Hence, if you wish to send a cold email campaign, you should verify the terms of service of the tool that you are using.

Taking into consideration the high bounce rate of traditional unsolicited email lists, it is crucial to understand why some email marketing tools have imposed this restriction.

Can Cold Emailing be Effective?

There is a reputation for cold email lists being of low quality. Most of the time, they are inexpensive. The majority of the time, they are outdated and contain invalid email addresses. It is for this reason that cold email lists are generally avoided by companies that offer shared IP email services.

Most of the best-purchased lists have a bounce rate of around 10%, and most of them bounce at least 25% of the time. With such rates, you are simply asking for reputational deliverability issues.

If you have a high bounce rate on a shared IP address, not only are you damaging your reputation, but you are also damaging the reputation of everyone else on that IP address.

Conclusion

We hope this post sheds some light on how to send cold emails that comply with CAN-SPAM. The only thing you need to do is take a recipient-oriented approach and focus on building a relationship with your prospects. You will both stay in compliance with the CAN-SPAM requirements (as well as many other regulations across the globe) and create emails that your prospects will actually appreciate.

It is important to use email cleansing tools in addition to a reliable data provider to ensure that campaigns always end up with acceptable bounce rates. For lower bounce rates, it is necessary to collect large amounts of accurate data from a variety of sources, including machine learning, contribution networks, third-party partners, and human researchers.

Therefore, by combining accurate, up-to-date data with email hygiene tools, reputation issues are also prevented, resulting in more successful email campaigns.

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