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The risks of sending cold marketing emails

Published: 6th November 2020
Email marketing is one of the best ways to build loyalty with your customers and to help develop new ones. Building a decent quality database of people who want to receive your communications can often take a lot of time and planning. Luckily though, we have a few helpful videos to give you some pointers on how to do this. We’ve put some links in the description below

Often the temptation is to shortcut the process by purchasing a list of email addresses from a data broker or by simply building lists of publicly available email addresses taken from businesses contact info pages online.

In this video, we are going to take a look at the damage that can be done by sending cold emails. In this instance, cold emails sent to people who did not ask to receive them


This really is the big one, if your company domain name gets blacklisted by a spam filter then it means that your future sends will be blocked. Some spam filter controls millions of email inboxes - so if you get blacklisted by one of the big ones, then this can be really catastrophic.

If you are using purchased data, then it’s common for these cold email lists to contain spam traps - these are email addresses planted by spam filters to catch people sending unsolicited email. If you send to one of these addresses, then this can trigger a blacklisting.

We could really stop the video here, as hitting a spam trap and getting blacklisted can kill a company domain name stone dead. - but we do have quite a few more reason yet, so let’s move on

Low delivery rates

Cold email lists typically suffer from really low delivery rates - this is because the data sold by list brokers are often padded out with lots of content purely to increase the count of email addresses. Emailing out to these lists padded out with bad data results in really low delivery rates.

Low delivery rates badly affect your sending reputation and will cause serious damage to both your company domain name and delivery network. This means consistently poor delivery for all future sends.

High spam complaints

If people didn’t ask to receive your email, then a decent percentage of them will mark it as spam inside their email browser. Every time someone does this, the results are filtered back to the spam filtering organisations. They use this info to flag senders for filtering future sends to the junk folder.

Poorly qualified data

As we’ve previously discussed, purchased cold lists are often padded out with lots of erroneous content. These email addresses are often scraped from the internet and have no relevancy at all to what you are selling. This means that the engagement rates are very low indeed, low engagement can affect your sending reputation, low sending rep means lower future delivery.

Often poorly qualified data is part of the downward spiral resulting in low delivery and eventual blacklisting.

Old data

Purchased lists, in the interests of keeping the data count as high as possible lists of this type often are stuffed full of old email addresses. There is often little or no housekeeping carried out on these lists, as deleting addresses means that list brokers need to reduce the amount they can charge inline with the reduced data count.

Termination of your software account

Sending out cold emails will cause damage to your company domain name, but as well as that if you are using email marketing software, then your emails are delivered via their delivery network. Sending out cold emails will also cause the delivery to the delivery network.

In order to limit any damage, your software supplier will in most cases immediately close your account and prevent any further sends.

Not reaching the decision-maker

If you are sending out cold emails to either purchased email addresses, or email data scraped off of the internet then these will typically be a generic contact email address.

This means that your emails stand a very slim chance of being received by the decision-maker. Most of these emails are either filtered out by a spam filter or deleted without being read by the webmaster.


Cold lists are frequently traded and passed around the internet, the same batch of email addresses are often marketed to the point of saturation by all of the companies who obtain them.

It’s not uncommon for a list of email addresses to be sold one week as 10,000 IT Managers, then the same addresses sold the following week as 10,000 healthcare managers. They are often falsely titled, giving the impression that they have been qualified in some way.

This means that as these addresses are blitzed to death, the response rates are either very low or non-existent.

Reputation damage

Generally doing one or any number of the points that we have discussed will result in reputation damage, as we’ve discussed spam filters track a sender’s score and decide inbox placement based on this score. This scoring technique is used by pretty much all inbox providers nowadays - so it’s important to be aware of how to keep your reputation score high.

As well as your digital reputation - sending out cold emails annoys people, often resulting in negative feedback being left on review sites.


It’s really worth taking the time to build your own quality lists of email recipients who want to receive your communications. As we’ve looked at, sending a cold email can be at best no effective and at worst can result in permanent damage to your company domain me.

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