Cold leads? Shiver me timbers! And three points.

Lo! A different guy just popped up in my Linkedin feed to say that cold leads are cool, because they're not illegal. (I've heard it before.) And for a bonus, he wants to argue about whether or not cold lead emails truly are "spam" -- he says no. That's fine, everybody's free to have their own take, but if you're loading my email address into an automation tool to send me an email, and I didn't give affirmative consent to indicate my desire to receive that email, it's spam. The law literally says that you have to label your mail as an unsolicited advertisement if you don't have that consent. It's not new, it's not groundbreaking, it's just the basic tenet of permission marketing via email.

But, fine. "That's my opinion," even though it's what the law says. And it's not "just" my opinion. I think it's observably unwanted and spammy. Here's three reasons that mailbox providers, and indeed most of the world, don't like cold leads, and consider them to be spam:

  1. An industry transition has taken place with regard to how reputation is measured. We've gone from primarily an IP address-based reputation model (IP rep) to a domain-based reputation model (domain rep). The domain rep model is far less forgiving to cold leads or other types of unwanted mail. Historically various senders would exploit limitations in IP rep models by mixing good and bad mail together, to try to let some amount of unwanted mail to "sneak through," getting by based on the overall reputation of the IP address sending mail for multpiple senders, not based on the reputation of the individual sender themselves. A domain reputation model mostly closes that gap. You're observably you, not your IP address.
  2. Google's famously putting the screws on certain types of bulk warming tools. Bulk warming tools, often using a Microsoft or Google API to inject mail (and then serve it out via MSFT/G's 1:1 mail outbounds) are commonly utilized to serve cold lead mail, often with a mechanism trying to tune/limit/direct how much mail is being sent to help leverage G/MSFT's platform sending reputation to get otherwise unwanted mail delivered. In some cases, the tools will even offer to click the "not spam" button for your messages, from various email accounts. (Something Microsoft and others have sued over in the past -- fake "not spam" clicks.) Google has been slow to notice, and I'm not sure how well Microsoft polices these things today. But I have seen at least one of these warming tools complaining of termination threats from Google, and I personally believe it's because Google's looking to limit the use of tools like this to serve up otherwise unwanted mail.
  3. The vast majority of cold lead email goes to the spam folder. Why? Low engagement, low interest, poor permission. Hallmarks of spam. 'Nuff said. Providers could make exceptions for this type of mail if they wanted to. They don't seem to be racing to do so.

I'm not here to talk you out of sending cold lead email. Just sharing why I observe that it doesn't really work, and why I don't think it can be scaled up, nor do I think it's a strategy for long term success. And why I don't consult on this sort of thing -- not because I'm a snob about it, but because I'm not a fan of spending time on things that don't have a good chance of success. OK, sure, I am kind of a snob about it. But it wouldn't matter if I was, or wasn't. It still doesn't work.

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