What is Cold Email (and is it SPAM)?

Justin McGill posted this in the Lead Generation Strategies Category
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cold email

What is Cold Email (and is it SPAM?)

Since launching LeadFuze, the single most asked question has been: “What is cold email?”, followed by, “is it SPAM?”
What is cold email spam
  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.

So… Just What is Cold Email?

Cold email is an email sent to a potential customer that has had no prior relationship with you. You can think of it like a cold call, but much less obtrusive. A successful cold email outreach plan uses personalized cold emails to make contact with those potential customers that you’ve had no prior relationship or connect with. There are 5 key differences in Spam vs Cold email. Here they are: What is cold email?

Is Cold Email 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 email 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 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 cold email SPAM? No. Not if you follow the rules outlined above.

Cold Email Best Practices

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

How do your customers view the problem you are trying to solve? Have your message meet them where they are at, and help them solve a legitimate problem.

Write Like You Talk

People can sniff out “marketing copy” right away. Write your message like something you would send to a coworker, not giving a speech to 1,000 people.

Forget the Introduction

When someone views your message on their mobile device, and the first line reads, “I’m Mike with ABC Corporation,” you make it very easy for your prospect to delete the message and not read any further, especially if you hit them on a busy day. Ditch this intro! There will be an appropriate time for an introduction later.

Get to the Point

You have a very short window to get your prospects attention. Lead with your most compelling piece of info, and make it good!

Keep it Short

If your message is a burden for your prospect to read and/or respond to, they won’t. So keep it short and simple.

Personalize What You Can

If you can, adding your prospects first name is good, but not essential. Especially if you can jump right into a conversation they are excited to talk about.

Put All Contact Info in Your Signature

Make it easy for your prospect to do a little detective work by architecting your signature to include the links you want them to see. Be subtle about this, less is more in many cases.

Use Images

One of the biggest misconceptions with cold emails is the belief that avoiding images will boost your email deliverability and overall performance. The goal of a cold email is to grab attention and start a conversation. Images are your best play to accomplish that.
Plus, there’s not a single proof that they impact your email deliverability negatively. Just have a look at how this networking coffee email template got a 52% reply rate by using a personalized image in both the first email and the follow-up.

Bonus: Another great article from Lemlist with 15 different templates (it’s amazing).

Include a P.S.

You can use the P.S. to satisfy the opt-out requirement, keeping the message conversational rather than having the obnoxious opt-out link. what is cold email?

Close with a Question

Asking a quick question can be a great way to entice your prospect into a conversation with you. A great way to begin the relationship building phase towards the sale!

Follow Up, then Follow Up Again!

If your prospect doesn’t reply to your initial message, go ahead and follow up. They may still be interested when they have more time to respond!

Test Your Messages

Try different hooks in each of your messages. Try giving them more or less details, and try different links and educational resources.


Don’t ever quit! It can be a numbers game on some level, and a dedicated commitment to sales prospecting can bear a lot of fruit over time!

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.


One of the best ways to scale your sales is to automate your outbound lead generation. Identifying key target accounts and then using cold email can be a great way to generate conversations.


Is cold email spam? NO! Cold email outreach is a great method for generating leads as well as validating future business ventures. We built a seven-figure marketing agency using this approach, and now we’re doing it with LeadFuze. Any other advice you’d recommend for cold email?
Justin McGill
About Author: Justin McGill
Justin McGill is the Founder of LeadFuze - a lead generation platform that discovers and contacts new leads for you automatically.
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Marek Wawrzyniak

This is perfect timing. I just had this conversation last week with one of my potential clients. He was really surprised when I told him if done right, unsolicited email is not spam. Thank you for making this plain in this post.

Larry Levenson

I’m surprised and pleased at the latitude that’s available for B2B cold email outreach. My previous understanding of the Can-SPAM act was very different and, I see now, erroneous. Thank you for educating me!!


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