How To Make Your Messaging Land: Relevance (vs) Personalization

How To Make Your Messaging Land: Relevance (vs) Personalization

[3 minute read]

I'm sure you've heard how important personalization is in your cold outreach.

Same with relevance.

Do you know the difference?

While they share some similarities, relevance and personalization aren't actually the same thing. If you're trying to dial in your messaging and manage the time investment, it's important to know the difference.

In this article we’ll take a look at both sides of the sales messaging coin, some examples of one vs the other, and hit a few tips for incorporating them into your prospecting motion.

Ready? Let's dive in!

Relevance vs personalization

So what’s the difference? Although the two concepts have a ton of overlap, there are some key differences:

  • Personalization is when you take an otherwise templated message and change some of the content to be specific to your prospect - either the person or their company. (aka -"Is this about me?")
  • Relevance is the degree to which your message is aligned with your prospect’s pains, projects, or initiatives. (aka - "Do I care?")

You can score any message on these two dimensions and the most effective messaging will have aspects of both. Personalization is great for capturing attention. While relevance is critical for getting a response.

Can you have one without the other? For better or for worse, you sure can! Let’s look at some extreme examples to tease apart the differences:

#1: Personalization without relevance

Personalization without relevance can come off as lazy or inauthentic if you’re not careful. Namely when it has nothing to do with their pains or your product.


  • Congrats on raising money ( buy my product!)
  • Congrats on the new gig ( buy my product!)
  • Mentioning hobbies and interests from LinkedIn (Note: this can work if you're able to craft copy that transitions into your offer. Difficult to do at scale).

#2: Relevance without personalization

Remember, every other rep is blasting your prospect using the same automation tools you are. For relevance without personalization to work, you need good segmentation for your messaging to stand out. If you could send the same message to every prospect in your TAM, you probably need to segment your messaging down to make it resonate.


  • A templated sequence written around common pains felt by your prospect’s persona (this is the status quo most messaging falls into).
  • Templated messaging aligned to your prospect’s industry, vertical, or use case.
  • Sharing case studies or success stories from clients in the same industry.

Does your message dig into their niche pains and offer unique solutions? Or does it fall into the “as a {{insert role}} you’re likely…” trap like the other 10 sales emails in their inbox today?

#3: Personalization with relevance

This last category of messaging hits aspects of both personalization and relevance.


  • Mentioning relevant info from their LinkedIn (work history, bio, etc)
  • Asking about a specific challenge or project you found on their website, news, or job posts (pro tip: use a tool like 🕵️ to surface those triggers for you).
  • Reference common connections, including if you've worked with any of their old teams.

What's the right mix for you?

As with most things there’s no single right answer for all sales orgs - be wary of anyone telling you otherwise (is cold calling dead yet??)

You’ll need to consider the tradeoffs of each approach and experiment to see what works for your target market and offering.

With that said, here are a few guidelines that can help:

FACT: Personalization outperforms templated messaging

It's been well established for some time that personalization outperforms purely templated outreach (check out research published from Salesloft showing a 2x reply rate to tailored emails).

The real question is where the cost/benefit line falls for you in terms of time spent researching prospects and crafting outreach.

Rules of thumb

  • Your ideal approach is likely a mix of templated messaging and personalized outreach.
  • Save the high touch personalization for your top accounts or highest level decision makers.
  • Segment your templated messaging beyond job titles to help them land. Try segmenting by industry, use case, or relevant sales triggers.
  • Personalization without relevance might get opens, but it can backfire and come off as inauthentic if you’re not careful.
  • Use a framework like the 5x5 (max 5 minutes of research / 5 minutes drafting outreach) to keep you from wasting time crafting tailored outreach. Set a timer and when the bell dings, just fire off a role-based template and move on. Adjust the time down as makes sense for your volume/activity goals.

Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't suggest you check out Detective to help take that 5 minutes of research down to 30 seconds. Cheers!

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