Why do marketers in 2017 still spam?

With so many advanced targeting tools available to marketers, it baffles me why so many still turn to spam for lead generation.

spam email

As a marketeer who works relentlessly with marketing automation platforms and preaches the value of nurturing leads through email to clients, I’m very sensitive to the cold emails I receive. If your work inbox is anything like mine, it most definitely does not need any unsolicited emails clogging it up.

Over the past few weeks I have been astounded by the quantity and poor quality of cold emails flooding my inbox, even from brand names that should know better. The "luring" topics are varied and include new product promotions, surveys requesting my feedback, and solicitations to download new product whitepapers.

And I wish it would stop at the first email.

Even with zero response, nor the slightest sign of interest from me, the second, third and fourth follow-up emails barrage my inbox to no end. This behavior is not nurturing. It is pure spam.

So how can marketers avoid the spam trap, while at the same time fully take advantage of what cold emails and nurturing has to offer?

Let’s run through  the differences between spamming and nurturing. These few key points make all the difference.

Key differences between email spamming and nurturing


  • I don’t know (and don’t care) who you are
  • I got your email from some database and you may fit some of my persona criteria
  • I won’t stop sending my pre-programmed emails, regardless of your actions or inactions, until I decide to do so


  • I am really interested in you having a look at my product or service because you fit my persona profile
  • I will send a limited number (one or two) of emails that contain different types of content to instigate a response  
  • I have a workflow based on, "if this then that"
  • You will only continue to receive emails (or calls) from me if you show some sign of intent or interest

Spam is sent from sources that have probably purchased your email from a database and have not a slightest idea (and couldn’t care less) about who you are. They won’t stop sending messages even if you never respond or open their mail, failing to comprehend that lack of action is an action in itself. Spam is a one-size-fits-all approach that rarely reaches the potential customers that it seeks, even if it manages to bypass spam filters and reaches your inbox.

Why spamming does not work

Spamming antagonizes the recipient and evokes the precisely wrong emotion from most: anger and frustration.

Here’s an example of a spam email I received recently. The pitch was fairly interesting and relevant. But then he totally ruined it by showering me with multiple messages in a very short period of time, including two pitches on the same day.

Email A.1: An interesting looking pitch that I actually considered to look into later

"Subject: Billy x Adam

Hi Billy,

I saw you're the CEO at Marketing Envy and I wanted to reach out while I’m in town! I’m usually based in Melbourne, but I’m in Israel right now working from the  xxxx in  xxxx Florentin and I wanted to ask you a quick question - how do you cope with extending your design and content resources?

I ask because we've developed a next-generation freelancing platform with native English speaking pros, designed to help enhance your internal resources and expand the services you can offer to your clients.

Are you the best contact to speak to about this? Or would you be able to put me in touch with someone on your team (a CD or MD perhaps?) to spend 15 minutes with me and demo our platform in action? I can probably throw in some credit too :)

Kind regards,


Email A.2: A follow-up email on the same day

"Subject: Billy x Adam

Oh and I forgot to mention, here's the link where you can book in a quick 15 minute call with me here: xxxx (feel free to send along to the best contact if you don't think CEO is right)

If you can't find a time that suits, please suggest one that works for you and I'll make it work with someone on our team.



Email A.3: 5 days later

Note: When I failed to respond to the two emails described above, he still kept sending emails with the exact same request to schedule a demo.

"Hi Billy,

Just checking in to see what you thought about my last email.

Do you or someone in your team have 15 minutes for a quick chat to discuss? Please let me know a time that works for you :) Or you can book in here if that's more convenient: xxxx



Email A.4: Another follow-up email, 3 days later

Note: Despite the fact that I have shown zero interest in the above, I kept getting messages until I requested it to stop.

"How's it going?

Our 'hybrid-freelancing' platform delivers 100% custom marketing collateral/assets and campaigns, which was recently featured in xxx.

I know our innovative approach will add significant value to your current marketing processes, and to get you started let me know if any of our 20 customised Bundles and Tasks would be valuable for you - happy to throw in some credit to get you started.


Note: What started off as a nice pitch that I was actually going to look into has turned into annoying spam that received the only conceivable response from me:

“Please remove me from your mailing list.”

Different source, May 29, 2017

Email B.1: Please complete my survey

A different example of spamming required investment of my time to fill out a survey that had little incentive for me to complete, from a company that I’m not directly connected to.

"Subject:  Billy, ReallyBigAnalystFirm’ needs your help!

Dear Billy,

The ‘ReallyBigAnalystFirm’ strategy team needs your feedback. Our survey will take about 20 minutes to complete.

As a thank you for your time, you will be entered into a drawing for one of THREE APPLE WATCHES.

Please start sharing your valuable feedback by going to:

Take the ‘ReallyBigAnalystFirm’ Survey

We strongly believe that we create the most value for the markets we serve when we work collaboratively with our current and prospective customers. Input from senior business leaders like you is a critical part of our planning process.

Your individual responses will remain confidential. Your anonymous feedback will be combined with feedback from other respondents and used for analysis purposes only.



Note: The biggest problem with spam emails is that ignoring them won’t stop the sender from flooding your inbox even more. I received this same email from three different people in the same company, until I asked to be removed from their mailing list.

Last but not least example:

Email C.1 , 18 Jul 2017 

Subject: New lead generation at Marketing Envy

"Hello Billy,

I've just checked my inbox and realised I haven't heard from you.

I think I didn't brag about RH enough in my last email. Among our 800 clients, we’ve had quite a few from marketing industry. Check out our case studies blablacoolcasestudies.com.

When it comes to lead generation, we know what's working and what's not.

Did my bragging do any good to make up your mind about our 15min skype? :)


Note: Once I failed to show any interest in this company’s pitch, they kept bugging me until I actively requested to unsubscribe.

Clearly, if I was interested I would reach out. Things like this shouldn’t happen in 2017. Spam emails are unlikely to receive a response and fail to offer potential clients any real value.

Legal implications of spamming

Another thing to keep in mind is that legal implications of spam are becoming ever stricter due to new regulations on sharing data, especially in the EU. The adoption and enforcement of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the next few years will limit how email databases are shared and whom you can contact without their explicit permission.

Further, email clients like Gmail and Microsoft Outlook are implementing increasingly aggressive filters to sort out any messages they define as spam, and trust me, you don’t want to get on their bad side.

This can not come into effect quickly enough as far as I am concerned.

The value of solid email nurturing

Email nurturing targets specific people with specific content at specific time, depending on the actions they take. Your goal as a good marketer is to find people who might actually be interested in your pitch and them nurture them into Marketing Qualified Leads. They become MQLs by travelling through your structured funnel and by meeting the criteria of your scoring.  

A very limited number of emails are sent with different types of content that encourage a response.

No response is also an action that should speak loud and clear to us marketers (something that spammers fail to comprehend).

An example of a typical email nurturing workflow begins like this. An “if this then that” workflow is built around the recipient's responses and relevant actions are taken depending on who they are and what their responses are:



The workflow automatically checks when a contact opens an email and clicks on a link within an email. Then, depending on the link and any other criteria such as location or previous interactions, sends a suitable follow-up email after a timed interval.


Using a well thought out workflow like the one above allows you to identify the best possible leads and then narrow them down efficiently.

The bottom line: Nurture, don’t annoy

Whether your leads are cold or warm, the only way to effectively nurture prospects and contacts  into clients is to provide relevant content to relevant people at the relevant time. Nurturing requires plenty of testing and time to nail down, but there’s no shortcut, and spamming is definitely not it.

I’ll talk more about how to design and test an effective email nurturing campaign in a future post, so keep an eye out for more tips on how to target the best prospects.

In the meantime, let’s not give marketing and marketers a bad name with spamming.

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