Outbound Email vs. Spam: What’s the Difference?

Outbound email vs. spam—what’s the difference? Which is your business sending? How can you be sure your emails aren’t getting rerouted to spam folders?

These are questions we get all the time, and they’re totally valid. Spam itself is an off-putting word, and any message that looks even remotely like a spam message gets immediately ignored or deleted by its intended recipients.

For digital marketers, spam is a big issue despite all the tools and technologies available to help execute email marketing campaigns. In fact, marketing emails account for 36% of all spam emails sent worldwide—and it’s safe to say they weren’t intended to be flagged that way.

Pie chart showing that marketing and advertising emails make up 36% of all spam emails worldwide.

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To avoid falling into this bucket, you must know why and how messages end up flagged as spam, how to make sure yours never do, and how to align your messages with general outbound email preferences to engage prospects and maximize ROI.

In this guide, we’ll cover all this and more. Let’s dive in.

Quick Takeaways:

  • Email is far and away the most preferred method for brand communication by consumers across age demographics.
  • Following CAN-SPAM guidelines is an ethical and legal essential to keep your outbound email out of the spam folder.
  • Other best practices include vetting independent data providers, including high-value content in your emails, and using audience feedback to improve.
  • When executed the right way, outbound email marketing is one of the most effective ways to generate new leads and drive business growth.

The Good News: People Still Love Outbound Email

There’s no doubt that people’s inboxes are perpetually full—often too full for their liking. This is especially true in professional settings, where individuals can receive more than 120 emails in a single day.

Yet across all age groups, email is still the most preferred method of brand communication, and it’s not close.

Pie charts showing that email is still the most preferred method of brand communication across age groups, including boomers, Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z.

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This means you shouldn’t shy away from email marketing because you’re afraid of falling into spam folders, or even because you already are and can’t figure out why. There are proven and actionable ways you can revamp your email strategy to get your messages to your audience’s main inbox and stand out from other marketing emails they receive.

7 Ways to Keep Outbound Email Out of the Spam Folder

Always Get Permission to Send Emails

One of the first things to keep in mind about sending outbound emails is getting permission from recipients. According to CAN-SPAM laws (more on those later), you need to create clear opt-in steps for your email list so you know individuals want to hear from you.

You can do this with a simple subscription form across other channels (like your website, blog, and social media platforms) and a checkbox that states the individual is explicitly consenting to receive your email communications.

Vet Your Data Sources

It’s common in the B2B marketing world to buy email lists that include potential customers that fit your ICPs and buyer personas. It’s critical, however, to vet these sources to ensure the people whose contact information is included have given permission for their data to be shared.

Look for an independent data provider that can share its clear methods for data collection and that has a reputation for delivering accurate, quality email lists to business customers.

Follow CAN-SPAM Guidelines

The CAN-SPAM act was passed in 2003 to establish rules and requirements for commercial email and guide businesses on best practices for sending it. The act includes regulations around getting permission to send messages, including a valid sender email address, honoring opt-out requests, and using clear and transparent language.

Graphic listing CAN-SPAM guidelines for commercial outbound email.

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Ensuring your marketing team knows and stays compliant with CAN-SPAM isn’t just a way to avoid ending up in the spam folder, it ensures you don’t face more serious legal and regulatory consequences for poor business practices.

Make Your Emails High-Value and Relevant

Even if your emails don’t get automatically flagged as spam for overtly failing to follow CAN-SPAM guidelines, your recipients have the option to mark them as spam if they don’t find them relevant or valuable. Avoid sending too many emails in a short time, or sending them without a clear purpose and message.

Tailor your emails by customer segment to make the content hyper-relevant and personalized, and be transparent in your subject lines about what your emails include.

Honor Unsubscribe Requests Quickly

Every company receives email unsubscribe requests, so don’t take it personally. Perhaps your recipient went with another provider, is no longer in the market for your solution, or moved on to a new position where they aren’t the designated purchase decision maker any longer.

No matter what, honor your unsubscribe requests quickly and effectively. Failing to do so is one sure way to get future emails marked as spam. It’s good practice to ask unsubscribers why they no longer want to receive your emails, but it shouldn’t delay your honoring of the request.

Be Transparent

Earning a high email open rate isn’t easy—but it’s something you must do honestly in order to keep your outbound email out of the spam folder. Don’t use deceptive tactics in your subject lines (i.e. pretending to be a reply email, mentioning false deals, etc.) just to get your recipients to open your messages.

While those approaches might get someone to open your email, it will quickly create distrust and likely get your email flagged before it’s even read.

Use Audience Feedback to Improve

You can continually improve your outbound email by asking your audience how they’d rate your content and using that feedback to refine your strategy. Collecting feedback doesn’t have to be complicated—in fact, it can be done in a simple, straightforward way (as shown in the example below) that’s easy to track and analyze.

Excerpt from an outbound email message sent by HubSpot asking recipients to rate the quality of the message.

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So—What’s the Difference?

Now that you know marketing emails are still in demand by buyer audiences and ways to keep your messages out of the spam folder, let’s clarify once and for all exactly what makes outbound email different from spam.

In short, spam emails are unwelcome by their recipients. They’re often sent unethically or even illegally without clear permission, and their content is misaligned and often totally irrelevant.

Outbound email, on the other hand, includes marketing content that’s clearly in alignment with the business needs of its recipients, includes honest and relevant messages, remains transparent in every aspect, and is responsive to feedback (even when that means removing unsubscribers).

By following CAN-SPAM guidelines and email best practices, you can leverage outbound email as a consistent and effective lead-gen tactic and driver of business growth without worrying that the spam flag will get in the way.

Over to You

If you’re looking to enhance the role of outbound marketing in your growth strategy, RevBoss can help. Our outbound email software and lead generation services are custom-built for startups, consultancies, marketing agencies, and other B2B organizations.

Schedule a quick call with us today to find out how we can help you win more clients.