Spam-Proof Your B2B Email Marketing Using Relevance

By December 18, 2018
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Email matters.

Most B2B marketers agree with me. In 2018, nearly 60% of them said that email marketing is their best channel for generating revenue. I predict that number will increase in 2019.

You know what else is going to increase? Spam.

Spam accounts for almost 55% of all email sent today. Its sheer volume has drained potential buyers of time and patience, which is why 97% of email recipients don’t click on links provided in an email.

The key to overcoming this scourge of spam isn’t about shouting louder than the next guy. It’s about understanding what spam is… and then becoming the opposite.


By most accounts, “spam” is unsolicited commercial email. But there’s a vital word missing from that definition. Spam isn’t just unsolicited; it’s unsolicited and irrelevant.

Consider this: Yelling “FIRE!” in a burning building is useful. Yelling “FIRE!” without cause is irresponsible. Both voices are loud; both interrupt what you’re doing; both demand your attention. The only difference is that one is relevant, and the other isn’t.

So if spam is about a lack of relevance, what’s a B2B marketer to do? The answer is deceptively simple: say something relevant to your prospect.


Spammers jostle for attention by chanting “ME! ME! LOOK AT ME!”. It’s as though they’re trying to reach the largest possible audience by shouting through the biggest possible megaphone.

Modern B2B marketers work differently. They don’t require a bigger megaphone. They require better data.

They use that data to drive relevance in four different ways: segmentation, context, personalized content and a customer success mindset.

1) Segmentation
It’s simply not possible to speak to a massive, undifferentiated audience in a relevant way. Relevance requires focus.

That’s why the first step towards building a relevant B2B email campaign is segmentation. Using job titles, firmographics, signup date, or buyer activity, you can build audiences that are high-fit rather than high volume.

This level of segmentation allows you to deliver narrowly focused and personalized content, which can have dramatic effect on your ROI. According to CampaignMonitor, marketers who build customized, segmented email campaigns see a whopping 760% increase in revenue.

2) Context
Now that you know who to reach, your next step is knowing when to reach them.

Imagine you’re buying a car. You’ve been reading reviews and visiting dealerships. You ask your friends what they drive and how they like it. Finally you make a decision, sign the paperwork, and drive your new ride off the lot.

The next day, an email arrives from a competing dealership with an offer “just for you, today only!”.

That offer, which would have been relevant last week, is useless now. Sorry, dealership. You missed your chance.

The same is true in B2B: context is everything. That’s why modern intent data matters. It means you can appear in your prospects’ inbox at the right time, offering a solution exactly when that prospect is looking for one.

3) Content
Relevance isn’t only about audience and timing; it’s also about the content you use to engage with your prospect.

This is especially true for B2B email, which has to look and sound as professional as its recipient. It can’t be NSFW; it can’t be stuffed with jargon; it can’t misspell the recipient’s name. That’s the obvious stuff.

What really counts is everything beyond the obvious. How do you talk to your recipient? A CEO will describe her pain points differently than a product engineer; understanding each one’s natural language, then playing it back to them, can have a big impact on engagement.

Modern account data can reveal how niche audiences search for your solution, giving you the secret ingredient you need to meaningfully customize your content. And it works: 88% of marketers say that personalization has led to a measurable lift in results.

4) A customer success mindset
This aspect of relevance is about a shift in marketing philosophy.

Traditional B2B marketing is driven by the success of the marketer. Its goal is to generate more leads and improve revenue.

Modern marketing is driven by something else. I call it “a customer success mindset.” It’s about recognizing your prospect’s objectives, understanding their challenges, and offering relevant and respectful content. In a way, it’s the culmination of everything we’ve discussed so far: intelligent segmentation, smart timing, and meaningful, customized content that will help your prospect do well in their job.


Email continues to be among the B2B marketer’s most powerful tools.

But it only works if it solves a problem for your prospect in a relevant, respectful way. And as the volume of business-related spam continues to grow exponentially, understanding relevance and using it to engage prospects matters now more than ever.

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