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How To Build Your List From First Time Email Contacts While Avoiding Being Labelled a Spammer

When people tell me email marketing is dead, I tell them to check their inbox for signs of life.

Email marketing is still very much alive and kicking, and if used alongside a content marketing strategy, email can be incredibly powerful for your brand’s promotion.

Email marketing is not archaic – it’s evolved to become a wiser, more grown-up medium.

An email address is the first consumer connector with your business. Once you have that email address it’s your direct line of communication with your audience. You can then begin to have conversations about your brand in a more personal place; their inbox. And more importantly, its by using email that you move your recipients further down the sales funnel.

Why Cold Emails?

Cold emails are legitimate drivers of business. It’s how I started my lists to grow steadily day by day years ago.  They are still growing.

But much has changed, especially with the onset of the CANSPAM Act.

So, before moving forward, let’s review the main requirement demands of this Act.

Congress determined that the US government was showing an increased interest in the regulation of commercial electronic mail nationally, that those who send commercial e-mails should not mislead recipients over the source or content of them, and that all recipients of such emails have a right to decline them.
However, CAN-SPAM does not ban spam emailing outright, but imposes laws on using deceptive marketing methods through headings which are “materially false or misleading”. In addition there are conditions which email marketers must meet in terms of their format, their content and labeling.

The 3 basic types of compliance defined in the CAN-SPAM Act, are as follows:

  1. Unsubscribe compliance
  2. Content compliance
  3. Sending behavior compliance

There are no restrictions against a company emailing its existing customers or anyone who has inquired about its products or services, even if these individuals have not given permission, as these messages are classified as “relationship” messages under CAN-SPAM. But when sending unsolicited commercial emails, it must be stated that the email is an advertisement or a marketing solicitation.

Note that recipients who have signed up to receive commercial messages from you are exempt from this rule.

Here’s a rundown of CAN-SPAM’s main requirements:

  •  Don’t use false or misleading header information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.
  • Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.
  • Identify the message as an ad. The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but you must disclose clearly and conspicuously that your message is an advertisement.
  • Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations
  • Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future emails from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. Creative use of type size, color, and location can improve clarity. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Make sure your spam filter doesn’t block these opt-out requests.
  • Honor opt-out requests promptly. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. You can’t charge a fee, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. Once people have told you they don’t want to receive more messages from you, you can’t sell or transfer their email addresses, even in the form of a mailing list. The only exception is that you may transfer the addresses to a company you’ve hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
  • Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.


Now that we have a better understanding of what is required, what we should NOT be doing when emailing is covered:

  • Never conduct Email marketing without a good plan. This is where I see most marketers drop the ball. You CANNOT market on the fly. A specific email marketing plan will outline what you want to achieve and how you are to execute it as a part of your online marketing strategy. I find that this is the most important first step to any email marketing and hardly anyone takes the time to do this. If you don’t have a clue on how to create your plan, give a call.

Everybody hates Spam! However, if you apply the CANSPAM guidelines to your emails, you are adhering to the laws and are delivering valuable content, not just reaching out to get a sale. I get hundreds of emails every day that only sell, sell, sell. What do we do with those? They get trashed.

  • Never send an email without an unsubscribe link. Each email should contain an unsubscribe link, make it as easy as possible for people to leave your list if they want. So no hiding it either!
  • Do not use confusing subject lines. Don’t start your subject-line with a “RE: [something]” to trick the reader into thinking you’re following up on a thread.
    Never start the email with “This is not spam”.
    Two reasons:
    i) It is.
    ii) Nobody’s going to believe you. Especially spam filters.

“Dear BLANK” is bad. “Dear Sirs” is way worse.

The “Dear Friend” salutation doesn’t really feel right either. We know who our dear friends are, and most of them don’t try to sell us stuff over email — they usually send us funny images to share a good laugh with.

Want people to open your email? Write persuasive subject lines.

Want them to act on it too? Be clear about the contents of your email.

  • Do not assume Email marketing is profitable. This is a really hard concept for many to wrap their heads around. Email marketing is strictly only ONE way of getting traffic to your website, services or offers. It will NOT make people buy from you. Your first goal in a cold email is to get the person to open your email and get them to click on your link for more information. After that, if they deem your offer has value and exchange their contact information to get on your list, you are obligated to treat that list with respect and honesty if you wish to see future sales.

I have clients that have been on my list for over 2 years and never bought anything until just recently. That’s not because I did not give value, but because, although my information was good, what I was offering just was NOT what they needed at the time.

And although email has a great return on investment on average, it is NOT the only way to market your product or services.

  • Don’t send people to generic landing pages. Landing pages should have a seamless connection with your email. Think again before you make the clicker think. Remember my first point? Plan every detail of the sales funnel. To every optin page, you should have a complete sales funnel attached and set to automatic using autoresponders to continue the conversation. If all you want is to sell, sell, sell, then here’s a bit of advice: “get out now”.
  • Don’t stuff your email template. Adding a lot of extra elements to your email does not add value and only just confuses people.
  • Do not forget to report, measure, track and use that data. Just measuring isn’t enough, use the knowledge to improve your email marketing. Your bulk emailer should have good metrics for you to evaluate email progress.
  • Don’t view your email as something separate. Although you are reaching out to a cold market, your email marketing is part of a complete marketing plan and works together with other channels and touch points. Don’t forget that you are building a brand using your name, your face and your knowledge.
  • Never forget to test your email before sending. Everything should work as intended. Test your email, your landing pages, your tracking, your personalization. A mistake is easy to make.
  • Do not send one big image. It’s tempting to just send that one big image, but don’t do it. Here’s why: (Can’t read the reason? Please load your images)
  • Don’t use a no-reply address. If people want to contact you, let them. No-reply isn’t customer friendly and is against CANSPAM requirements. I’ve always had a telephone number and made an email available for replies.
  • Don’t forget to add the links. Always think about your links. An email that can’t be acted on is a waste of time and money. A strong, active email has a strong Call to Action.
  • Do not assume your audience knows what you are talking about. Words and terms that are over obvious to you, might seem like gibberish to your recipients. Avoid using jargon and complex phrases.
  • Never lie. Mother told you that the truth lasts longest, it’s the same with digital (email) marketing, and social media brings bad behavior into the open. So don’t lie, cheat or over promise if you can’t deliver.
  • Don’t forget to clean up your list. Unsubscribes, remove them as fast as you can, same goes for bounced and invalid email addresses. Emailing them can damage your email reputation and deliverability. A good bulk emailer identifies hard bounces, clicks and tracks op-tins as well as opt-outs.
  • Don’t forget to run a render test. How does your email look like in different email clients like Yahoo, hotmail, gmail and outlook? You can check it using an email render preview service or better yet, just set up an email address using all of the top email clients.
  • Don’t confuse Email Marketing experience with technological knowledge or a checklist. If you decide that email marketing is an important part of your business, consider getting some help from an Experienced Email marketing Consultant. I actively work with clients and teach them how to successfully apply cold emailing practices.

The list is long but there is a simple answer to this and it starts with talking with someone who knows the ins and outs of email marketing.

I invite you to give me a call: 302-648-5300

And yes, I do answer my phone and if you leave a message I will get back to you.

To your ongoing success,


Internet Marketing Mentor and Consultant

About the Author Marie Leonard

Marie is a seasoned online coach and marketer helping newcomers save time and money in applying sound internet marketing processes and providing them with versatile tools to ease their lead generation frustrations.

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