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If you send commercial marketing emails to your business contacts, you need to be mindful of their format and content. To avoid having these emails become spam, in every email, you need to include:

  • your business’ name and contact details; 
  • accurate information; and
  • a functioning way to unsubscribe. 

You also need the consent of the recipient to send them these emails. If you fail to include these necessities, not only would you alienate your business contacts, but you would be breaching spam law. So that you can avoid this eventuality, this article will go through four things to consider when sending marketing emails to your business contacts.

1. Do You Have Consent?

Before you can send any emails of a commercial nature, you need to have the recipient’s consent to send them those emails. Commercial electronic messages are those that:

  • promote or market goods, services, an investment opportunity, land, or an interest in land or a business;
  • provide the recipient with the opportunity to gain an unfair financial advantage; or
  • include links to either of the above.

Before you engage in such email marketing, you should have some proof of consent or evidence you can use to infer consent. There are three kinds of consent under the law, as the table below outlines.

Express Consent

Your business contact has explicitly agreed to receive your marketing emails, such as ticking a box or verbally consenting.

Inferred Consent

You have enough of an established relationship with your business contact to infer consent for email marketing.

Deemed Consent

Your business contact has published their email address publicly, and your marketing emails would be relevant to their interests.

Note: These rules do not usually apply to transactional emails.

When sending marketing emails to your business contacts, such as email newsletters or promotions, you should ensure you have some form of consent. Not only is this in line with your legal obligations, but they will not appreciate receiving email marketing that they did not agree to.

2. Take Care When Swapping Business Cards

You may meet your business contacts at networking events and exchange details through business cards. These cards will usually contain their email addresses as well. Once you receive such a card from a colleague, you may wish to send their business your own marketing emails to make them aware of the goods or services you offer. There are some benefits to email marketing, including expanding your network and spreading your brand.

However, this does not mean that you can start sending a business contact you swap cards with all your marketing emails. You can infer consent from the exchange of business cards, but only up to a certain point. After that, your email marketing campaigns can only relate to the context and relationship you established on the day you swapped cards. Otherwise, you may not have sufficient permission, and your emails could be spam.

For example, say that you run a software development business. You swap cards with another person representing a PR firm, and you discuss possible tech developments relevant to PR. Your marketing emails could then relate to the conversation you had relevant to the relationship you created. 

3. Actional Unsubscribe Facility

Additionally, in any kind of marketing email you send, you need to have a way for recipients to unsubscribe. You may hear people call this an ‘unsubscribe facility’. You must include this in any marketing emails to business contacts so that you are:

  • complying with your legal obligations; and
  • keeping up with expected professional standards.

Your unsubscribe facility does not necessarily have to be a button or link at the bottom of your newsletters, but that would be what most people expect. You may allow people to unsubscribe by responding to your email writing “unsubscribe” in the subject line. Whatever way you provide for your email subscribers to end their subscription, it needs to be:

  • clear;
  • conspicuous;
  • free of cost;
  • relatively straightforward; and
  • functional for at least 30 days after sending.

If a business contact wishes to unsubscribe from your marketing emails, you need to fulfil this request within five working days.

4. Be Careful With Referrals

Your colleagues may recommend other businesses as potential contacts relevant to you and your email campaigns. They may give you that business’ email address or other electronic contact details. You can potentially send these businesses marketing emails. First, however, you need to confirm that your colleague referred you to that third party with their knowledge and consent. Without these, you cannot either infer or deem consent.

Similarly, you may be able to send marketing emails to a business that publishes their email address publicly, such as on their website. However, to deem consent in this context, you need to ensure that:

  • the email address does not have a notice saying “no unsolicited messages” or similar; and
  • your marketing email is relevant to their business.

In any kind of marketing email you send, it is best practice to clearly identify your business and provide current contact details.

Key Takeaways

Sending marketing emails to your business contacts can be a way to build your network and brand. First, however, you need to ensure your emails, including email marketing campaigns, are relevant to their interests and meet the necessary spam laws. 

If you would like more information or help with your marketing emails, contact LegalVision’s regulatory and compliance lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is spam?

In legal terms, spam refers to unsolicited commercial electronic messages. These are emails or texts that you send to someone offering or promoting goods or services without consent. Spam is illegal.

Can I send marketing emails to people I have swapped business cards with?

You can only send marketing emails to people you have swapped business cards with if you have their consent. You can infer this from the interaction, but you can only send marketing emails relevant to the relationship formed.

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