Cold emails, everyone who owns a business has an opinion about them. Most hate them with a passion. In a recent desk top scan of Facebook business groups, I found that 72.5% of the discussions about cold emailing were negative.

The reason people in these groups didn’t like them, tends to fall into three categories:

  • They annoy me,
  • They don’t work, and
  • They are illegal.

Cold Emails are Annoying

You can’t really argue the 1st point of contention. Yep, they are annoying. Last Monday morning there where 43 Emails in my inbox, 20 of them were system notifications, 2 were newsletters I email subscribed to. However, the other 21 emails, all unsolicited.

In the Past 14 days I received 84 cold emails.  So, I will have to agree wholeheartedly,  cold emails can be annoying.

Cold Emails Don’t Work

I see this said a lot in forums. “They don’t work”, “they are a waste of time”, “they all end up being deleted”, etc. The forums contain a lot of broad motherhood statements which don’t seem to back up the what the “experts” are saying.

Earlier this week, I conducted three Google searches using different terms on the topic of cold emails. In the last 12 months of all the articles (originating out of Australia) writing about cold emails, 18% said they worked and 82% said not only did they work they offered advice on how to make them work.

There were no articles written in that last 12 months which said that cold emails don’t work.  This surprised me.  I thought at least I’d find one. I was so surprised I did three separate searches using different keywords. I even went over to Duck Duck Go to see what their algorithms picked up. They showed similar results.

Cold Emails are Illegal

I see this a lot.  This statement is just plain wrong. Cold Emails are not illegal. Some types of cold email (you could almost say most) are illegal but not all.

However, a lot of people firmly believe that any form of cold calling is illegal, and they will go out of their way to tell people this in forums. As a person who makes his money from looking for answers online for other small businesses, this really gets my goat.

Well, kind of.  I do understand where they are coming from and I know where they got this idea from. But, for this online researcher, wrong is wrong.

Why do people have this opinion? I blame a section in the Spam Act 2003.

Part 1 section three of the Spam Act 2003 is the simplified outlined of the Act (see figure 1 below). It is the second point of this section which where this misconception lies.  It clearly says,

Unsolicited commercial emails must not be sent”.

Figure 1 Part 1 Section 16 Spam Act 2003

You would think that would be conclusive? Well, the problem with legislation in general is that “the devil is in the detail” And that detail lies around the issue of “what the word unsolicited means?”.

The many subsections of Part 2 Section 16 of the act (see figures 2 and 3 below) outlines in what circumstances an unsolicited electronic message may or may not be sent. As you can see there are a few exceptions which allows someone to cold email someone else.

Figure 2, Part 2 Section 16 of the Spam Act 2003 sub sections 1 to 6

Figure 3 Part 2 Section 16 of the Spam act 2003 sub sections 7 to 11

The main exception which allows someone to cold email another is subsection 2 which says,

“(2) Subsection (1) does not apply if the relevant electronic account‑holder consented to the sending of the message.

Note:          For the meaning of consent, see Schedule 2.”

What this basically means is, you can send someone an unsolicited email if you have their permission to do so. Yes, you read that right. Apparently, according to the Spam Act a person can consent to having an email sent to and not know they have done so.

HUH? Unsolicited Consent?

Schedule 2 of the Spam Act covers the definition of consent. Section 2 defines consent as

2 Basic definition

                   For the purposes of this Act, consent means:

                     (a)  express consent; or

                     (b)  consent that can reasonably be inferred from:

                              (i)  the conduct; and

                             (ii)  the business and other relationships;

                            of the individual or organisation concerned.”

I have written about expressed and inferred permission a couple of times before. You can read about it here and  here.

As I have said elsewhere:

“Determining inferred permission can be tricky, really tricky.  It is not as simple as, “there is an email address therefore I can email them “.  You need to be 100% certain that you have a potential business relationship with the recipient.

 Now you can’t assume that just because you offer a service and/or a product that everyone wants it. You must establish that there is a reasonable assumption your product/service is a fit with their business.

For example, you may make shoes. Even though most people in business wear shoes, you can’t email every business in the yellow pages trying to sell your shoes. It’s just not reasonable to assume that the business owner wants or needs shoes just because they have feet.

 However, you could email “footwear and/or fashion retail outlets” because you can assume that your product may fit their business needs. In other words, you need to be able to infer a direct business relationship which is also wanted (even though they may not know about you, yet).”

Inferred consent is just one area where the law allows unsolicited emails to be sent. There are other areas in the Spam Act which also allows for cold emails, which I won’t get into. I may make those a topic for another blog. This one is getting a tad wordy as it is.

All I really intended for this blog to do is to break the Myth ‘All cold emails are illegal” hopefully I have done that.

One last piece of advice.

To cold email or not is a very polarising subject.

I think the big issue here goes back to the definition of what spam is. It seems to be one of those subjects whose definitions means many things to many people. It ranges from “SPAM is stuff I don’t want to see” to “SPAM as defined by the Spam Act”.

Depending where one falls onto this spectrum is going to influence how they engage with the cold e-mailer. Also, I have mentioned above, there are some myths about SPAM. these myths rightly or wrongly will determine how well your email is received.

Now, if you are going think about cold e-mailing you really need to understand how your avatar feels about spam and cold e-mailing. You really should do some research in to this first, then do a risk analysis to determine if your strategy is going to work.

If your avatar belongs to the “I didn’t ask for this, therefore you are a spamming me” camp or the “Cold emails are illegal” camp, then you are going to have a difficult time. EVEN if you have passed the inferred permission test, you will be wasting your time. So please research wisely.

One of the services I provide is compiling Spam Act and Privacy Act compliant lists to small businesses. If this is something you think your business might benefit from, please send me an email.

Email me

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