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A surprising perspective regarding B2B email marketing was published recently in the Harvard Business Review blog that got one of our client’s hackles up, and I think it will yours too.

In B2B’s: Your Email Marketing Policy Could Hurt You, the author essentially argues that spam is okay as long as you are a B2B marketer.

My comment was one of 48—most in violent opposition to the idea:

As we all know, the phrase “permission marketing” was popularized in Seth Godin’s book of the same name in the late ’90’s. By his definition, email needs to be “anticipated, personalized and relevant” or it’s spam, and I agree with him.

Would it be good for business to be able to communicate with their customers via email? Of course.

But if a customer doesn’t want their inbox to be filled with messages from their IT company, their marketing firm or their any other B2B partner, it’s their right.

Almost 10 years ago, research was done at the University of London regarding the effects of information overload on knowledge workers. At that time, the average knowledge worker was interrupted 168 times/day on average. This influx of information resulted in an average short-term reduction of the worker’s IQ by 10%.

We’re busy at work. We have things to do, customers to serve and many of us, hours to bill.

I’d argue that B2B spam is even MORE harmful than B2C spam. At least when we’re reading our personal email, we can deal with the clutter at our leisure without thinking twice. Hitting the delete button on B2B spam is more difficult—we’re processing our inboxes as fast as we can, but have to stop and review the latest spammy message from one of our vendors to make sure there isn’t relevant information we need for our jobs.

[B2B spam] shows a lack of respect for a customer’s time and is clearly irresponsible marketing.

While it’s true that there is some level of permission granted to communicate with your customers, it’s not an open door to send them all your marketing communications until they ask you to stop.

‘Nuff said.

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Special thanks to Andrew Johnson for bringing this post to my attention.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • I read the article. Unfortunately there are so many controversial beliefs when it comes to emailing and spam. In my opinion “opt-out” marketing is the dumbest idea since “New Coke”. Why destroy your ip’s reputation just to send out unwanted emails? Why risk damaging a potentially good business relationship by constantly spamming a trade show contact? Clearly Ruth P. Stevens sees the glass half empty and has never gotten a call from her Email Service Provider threatening to cut off all their emails because of all the spam complaints. Opt-out marketing is dangerous for the business and extremely annoying to the recipient.

  • Totally agree with your last paragraph. Whilst another business may be interested in a specific promotion its not licence to bombard them with “related” offers that often simply aren’t related. It just ruins it for everyone.

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