Let’s Play “Is This A Commercial Message Or Not”

From time to time we receive emails from some “Sales Representative” (it’s their title) who sends us a “personal” reach out email trying to reserve a time to chat about their offering.

When you look at the message you know you don’t know this person or brand, never had a past conversation with them, nor ever gave their permission to market to you.

It usually looks like this (I’ve redacted to protect the non innocent):


Subject Line: [%COMPANY%] Supercharge your email marketing

I wanted to follow up and see if you had time to chat about your email marketing strategy.
Email %PROCESS% allows you to serve %WIDGETS% to anyone who opens your emails, enabling you to stay in front of your email recipients all over the web.

Some IMAGE showing me how the product works. <Insert PUN>, in this case we are showing the process for making Spam musubi

some text

I would love to spend 15 minutes to see how %COMPANY% can help you get the most out of your email marketing.

What is your availability this week or next for a brief call?



Of course, the funny for us at this point is that we work for a leading digital marketing company whose expertise and technology is to power revenue performance and business growth. Someone didn’t go a good job here I think. Oh, did we mention we handle email and privacy compliance as well. :)

Anyways, as we look at this and put our “SPAM” test to it, the email to us is primarily an advertisement or promotion for a commercial product, service or website and it should be considered “commercial”. As such and generally, most email regulations require that every commercial email message:

  • Contains a legitimate return e-mail and physical postal address.
  • Carries a clear and conspicuous identification that it is an ad or solicitation.
  • Provides an e-mail or other Internet-based means of opting out of receiving any future advertising or e-mail solicitation, which opt-out mechanism must be functional for 30 days after the original transmission of the message, and must honor opt-out requests within 10 days.
  • Is not sent to anyone who has previously opted out, regardless of send method.

Many of these acts don’t just apply to bulk email. They cover all commercial messages, which regulations usually define as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,” including email that promotes content on commercial websites. The laws usually make no exception for business-to-business email. That means all email – for example, a message to former customers announcing a new product line – must comply with the law.

This particular and many other emails we receive like this are not in compliance with those regulations.

What is your take away from this you ask?

    1. You need to ensure that not only are your marketing emails from your marketing platform comply with commercial email regulations by having at a minimum the above points, but any one-off emails your sales team is sending out also have the proper compliance mechanisms in them as well.


    1. Recipients can’t tell the difference between emails sent manually by a salesperson and emails sent to large groups via automation. The widely held thinking that ‘one off’ or ‘one to one’ emails are exempt from the law is erroneous and dangerous.


    1. Ensure you are not just buying email addresses with the hope of catching a prospect. In today’s world of relevant marketing you need to ensure you and your sales team are connecting with people who have expressed an interest in your product.


    1. This also means that you need to be creating an internal email marketing policy that your entire company HAS to follow in order to send out commercial emails. The policy needs to spell out not only what must be included in the email, but must also mandate a check of your company’s opt out list before sending anything from a personal mailbox.


  1. If you’re planning on allowing sales team members to send out commercial emails apart from what your marketing team sends in batch, then they must be pulling from the same singular database which your company owns and ultimately will be responsible for when it comes to the application of email regulations. This will allow you to maintain permissions like opt-outs no matter the send method. That send method should be using the same control and email regulated mechanisms as in your normal batch commercial emails.

So what do you think? Is what they sent commercial? If you said YES!, then you won some free knowledge that you can spread around. Sorry, no new cars available today.

Dennis Dayman and Sweeney Williams
Don’t Just Send, Deliver!

Dennis Dayman

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