Editor’s Note: While we can’t give legal advice, we can certainly help you interpret what these laws mean with respect to sales outreach/cold emails and help you create a non-spammy sales outreach experience for your prospects and leads.

Are Sales Outreach and Cold Emails Considered Spam?

Remember the good ol’ days when you could buy Cialis online without prescription (yay!). What about finding out that a certain long-lost relative halfway across the world has passed away leaving gazillions of dollars and a huge estate in your name?

Nowadays it’s quite rare to find spam emails in your priority inbox. We can thank anti-spam laws plus the filters, blacklists, inbox management from your ISP, and email client.

There’s been a lot of discussion and recommendations on how to be compliant from a marketing perspective. Unfortunately, the sales-side hasn’t been thought of nearly enough.

The question whether sales outreach and cold emails are considered spam or not, still remains largely unanswered. Especially when we have different legal and compliance requirements.

Before we talk about how different laws apply to sales outreach and cold emails…

Let’s Understand what Email Spam is

Emails are considered spam if the source and identity of the sender is anonymous and was sent en masse with malicious intent. And, of course, the email promotes “scam” activities that would require the receiver to turn over sensitive financial or personal information to the sender of the email.

As a general rule, your cold email/outreach campaigns should be exploratory in nature.

For instance, if you are selling a lead generation software/tool, avoid jumping right into your sales pitch and asking for a meeting or trial sign-up in your first email. Instead, ask the director of sales (if that’s who you’re targeting) how is she keeping her sales pipeline full of qualified leads? What’s her process, what works/doesn’t work for her team?

Show them that you’re interested in learning and finding out if there is a need at all. Once you get the conversation going and you get a positive reply, educate them about your solution. Specifically how it can precisely help alleviate those pains and achieve their goals.

The three things that we need to keep in mind when creating your outreach campaigns are:

  1. Anti-spam laws (this post explains it in detail)
  2. Technical know-how of how spam filters work and how to not trigger them
  3. The overall email experience, message, and call-to-action.

cold email campaigns

Now, let’s take a look at how you can ensure your cold emails are compliant


If your prospects (recipients) are in the United States, irrespective of where you are located, the CAN-SPAM  Act applies. The law covers all commercial messages. This means any email with the goal of advertising and/or promoting a product or service.

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CAN-SPAM is less restrictive than its counterparts (CASL and certain EU laws). It allows you to send emails to business people who you don’t know, i.e. don’t have an existing business relationship. Just make sure you comply with the rules outlined by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), which are:

  • Don’t use false or misleading header information
  • Don’t use deceptive subject lines
  • Tell recipients where you’re located with a physical address (this information can go in your email signature)
  • Tell recipients how to opt-out of receiving future email from you
  • Honor opt-out requests promptly
  • Monitor what others are doing on your behalf (especially if your SDRs are sending these emails on someone else’s behalf since the signatory is legally responsible)

Canada – CASL

If you’re sending email from Canada or anywhere in the world to Canadian recipients, it’s important to have full knowledge of Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL). It is one of the strictest anti-spam laws.

It includes all requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act and adds express and implied consent requirements.

Having to ask for express consent defeats the whole purpose of cold emails. Luckily, CASL has the Implied Consent clause that allows you to cold email a business contact who does not have an existing business relationship with you or your company if:

  • Their email is publically available (on their company/personal website and sites like LinkedIn, Angel List, CrunchBase, etc)
  • Their emails are not accompanied by a statement indicating they do not want to receive commercial electronic messages at that address
  • Your email message must relate to your recipient’s business role, functions or duties in an official or business capacity

The big question. Are outbound emails when sent en masse, considered spam?

At Growbots, we hear this question all the time.

The misconception is that since the outbound process is automated and allows you to reach your potential customers at scale, it may be considered spam by law.

The answer is no. Here’s why:

  • We make sure that your campaign is relevant to your target audience. Our customer success team helps you achieve that balance and remove anything which can be considered spammy from your campaigns. They do this through in-person onboarding, education, and campaign reviews.
  • You send the emails from your email client (Gmail for work or Outlook) through your company IP. This means it is recognized and not anonymised.

Now that you know how to play within the legal boundaries, check out this complete guide on how to create a non-spammy experience and the technical aspects you should consider when creating your sales outreach emails
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Lewis Stowe

Lewis Stowe

As a Content Marketing Specialist here at Growbots, I am surrounded by excellent people who are full of ideas and insights. What gets me excited is creating inspiring, useful content which gets those ideas to as many people as possible. When I am not working hard to produce 10x content, I hunt for exciting new recipes to try and countries to explore.

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