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Gabriel Marguglio July 21, 2020 23 min read

MarTech Masters: Optimizing Your Email Communications and Strategy (Seventh Sense)

mike donnelly seventh sense martech masters


This week on MarTech Masters, Gabriel sits down with software partner and good friend Mike Donnelly, CEO of Seventh Sense to discuss some opportunities that a platform like Seventh Sense can provide in a time where it's more important than even to know your audience, respect their time, and be intentional in all email messaging.


Listen to the Podcast version of this episode:

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  1. Who Mike Is / What Seventh Sense Does (0:56)
  2. Case Study by Seventh Sense (3:40)
  3. What Are the Changes You Can Make in Your Email Channel? (4:39)
  4. Owning vs Renting Your Audience? (8:30)
  5. Be Aware of Your Messaging During These Times (10:00) 
  6. The importance of Domain Authority (11:01)
  7. How Seventh Sense can help with Domain Authority (13:49)
  8. How can a Sales Person take advantage of what Seventh Sense offers? (14:51)
  9. What other recommendations does Mike have for Email Strategies? (18:20)
  10. Create Content your Contacts want to see (20:59)
  11. Seventh Sense Integration with HubSpot (22:24)
  12. How Seventh Sense helps Nextiny (23:19)


Mentioned Resources

Seventh Sense



Episode Transcript


Gabriel: Hello everybody and welcome back to master master - bleh. MarTech Masters. That's what this show is actually called. Hello everybody, and welcome back to MarTech Masters. I'm here today with Mike Donnelly from Seventh Sense. It's an honor to have you again Mike. How are you doing?


Mike: I'm doing, uh, I'm actually doing pretty good today, how about yourself Gabriel?


Gabriel: Considering, right? Like now "considering" is the word we use every day when someone says how are you doing.


Mike: It's great to see you, connect, we've been long-time friends so thanks for having me back on.


Gabriel: That's awesome, same here. It's a pleasure to have you here and also, you know, very very weird times right? We're going through trying times and people are having to adapt and pivot and change their marketing strategies, their sales strategies, why don't you tell us first of all before we start and dig into email marketing strategies why don't you tell us a little bit of who you are and what does your company do?



Who Mike is / What Seventh Sense does (0:56)

Mike: Yeah, so I'll start off with the you know kind of quick background on who I am, what I do. So I started my career as a software engineer, then I made the jump to the dark side of technology sales, was in high tech sales primarily in startups for a period of 13 years, and then me and another gentleman founded Seventh Sense just based off of you know a problem that I was having in my sales career and I said why am I spending mental energy on this when I can use the foundational data that just sits in my email system to solve this problem.


Gabriel: And what is that? What is that problem? What does the Seventh Sense solve? What's the problem that it solves?


Mike: Yeah so if you think about... it's just kind of like ever-increasing. Our digital lives... I like it to, it's like and I hate to use the term now, it's like walking down the middle of the street in Times Square. There's all of this stuff vying for your attention and that's what our digital lives feel like. We're getting more and more text messages, more and more social notifications, more and more email, more and more ads coming at us. You know, we're getting still lots of phone calls so there's again all of this stuff vying for our attention and there's no shortage of that coming from email. In fact the number of emails that we're all getting day in and day out is just exponentially increasing, so that's part of the problem that Seventh Sense aims to solve and the easiest way for like if you think about if I'm explaining it a little bit more in a marketers viewpoint, why do you do search engine optimization? It's to try and get you into the highest position within Google when somebody's actually doing a search, therefore whoever's in the highest positions is going to get the most attention. I'm not going to go to the third, fourth page of a search unless I find that that first page is just not providing value. The same thing holds true with email. 


What our system tries to do is get you into the highest position within somebody's inbox so that you get attention when they're sitting down to actually engage with their email.” 


So marketers take that approach to increase you know the engagement and attention that they get as well as sales people because sales people are vying for people's attention against their competitors, etc. so it kind of just all melds together and that's what our primary focus is, or focus is, is around email.


Gabriel: That's awesome, and you mentioned sales people so if you have time to engage with an email you may have time to engage with a phone call right?



Case Study by Seventh Sense (3:40)

Mike: Yeah absolutely. So when we first started the company - and we have real data behind this and they they happen to still be a very large and very good customer of ours, it's a company called Carousel. If they make anywhere from about sixty thousand to a hundred thousand phone calls every single business day, so they've got a huge inside sales team, and we analyze all of their phone data to predict when people will answer their phones. A couple years ago we did a big study to understand are people's email what we call top times similar to when they will answer their phone and there's a huge correlation between the two.


Gabriel: That's great, that's great. So again we're going through some tough times for a lot of companies, and marketers and sales people are trying to adapt to these different ways of doing marketing. There's messaging issues, there's tone issues, but there's also a lot more email coming our way. 



What are the changes you can make in your Email Channel? (4:39)

Gabriel: What are some of the changes that you're seeing in email trends and what are you seeing companies doing and maybe how can Seventh Sense help with that marketing strategy and that sales strategy on the email side of things?


Mike: Yeah so let's first take a little bit of a step back to some trends that we were seeing that we've really been seeing over the past two years. If you think about like four or five years ago everybody was kind of like hey let's just pour a ton of money into social ads, PPC, and amass these massive databases and then we'll just send gobs and gobs of email to them and it's like whatever sticks in the email channel sticks because we had kind of these unlimited budgets that allow us to capture as much of the top of the funnel as we wanted. So people...what was happening is a lot of companies were abandoning or viewing email as kind of like a free channel. Hey, we need more leads, let's send more email. Hey we need more of this let's send more email. Well Google, Microsoft and corporate systems started saying hey, in order to protect our users we have to make our spam systems far more robust, far smarter, and so they have literally been waging a war on spammers and I'm not talking about your professional spammers that are trying to steal your credit card information. I'm talking about legitimate marketers that are sending lots of emails that nobody's engaging with. So they're becoming more or less the gatekeepers, and there's the studies actually fluctuate. We don't actually have this data ourselves but we rely on some of the industry, you know, juggernauts in this space but only anywhere from about 78 to 82 percent of legitimate marketing email actually makes it anywhere close to the inbox. So that means on average one out of every five people that you send an email to, it's in the you know it's in the spam folder or worse it's quarantined altogether and by quarantine I mean it doesn't even make it to the spam folder, it just gets quarantined all together. So you've got this kind of like physical barrier happening by the email providers and a lot of people will tell you well I don't have a delivery problem. My marketing automation system says that 99.8% of my email got delivered. All that means is 99.8% of your email didn't bounce. It means it was sent to, for all intents purposes, legitimate addresses but that does not mean it made it anywhere close to the inbox. So again we've got this physical barrier but the trend we've actually been seeing over the past nine to twelve months is people are kind of coming around and realizing how powerful and how important their email channel is and part of that being is like hey our engagement rates were just tanking, we weren't getting nearly what we could out of email, we've got to stop treating this as a commodity channel because we're getting commodity-like results. So some organizations started investing more heavily in creating a more robust email channel. We're now seeing that patent that with what's happening in the world today we're seeing that actually accelerate and accelerate at a pretty pretty fast rate. We are seeing, depending on industry, huge volumes like a significant increase in email volume and part of that being is hey we're not doing trade shows anymore. We're not you know our PPC ad, our ad budgets got just slashed, we got a deal with the database that we have. And again we've amassed these massive databases over the last few years let's take advantage of them.



Owning vs Renting your Audience? (8:30)

Gabriel: Yeah and that brings me back to the conversation that we've always had as owning versus renting your database right? When you own your database that means you have an email address, a name, you know who they are, how they're engaging. What you were talking about is all that spending on social media and pay-per-click that was trying to rent an audience, trying to engage with an audience that is not really yours. Now people more than ever need to use that audience that they own and now more than ever it's more important to actually secure that database and make sure that we don't hurt our domain authority so we can continue to engage with that database right? So do you want to talk a little bit about domain authority and how, you know, we always get this question hey we have 20,000 people in our database why don't we send it to everybody right? And we're like well because these people are the ones that are actually engaging with this type of content and these are the people type of people that are engaging with this other type of content why don't we send these two emails to a thousand here and three thousand there and they freak out. The first impression the first thing that they say is like but we're leaving 17,000 behind or 15,000 behind and how do you explain domain authority and the importance of only sending emails, at least your regular emails the emails that you send constantly, to people that first of all are targeted with the right message but also people that are engaging with your message?



Be aware of your messaging during these times (10:00)

Mike: Right so I'll get into that in a second. I've got a really good analogy for domain authority. But to your point about like hey let's send it to all 20,000 people in our database like what we're doing to help with Covid-19 and those types of things, the past two weeks I'm like who are these people like why do they even have... right now is not the time to do a reengagement campaign with your email list that you have not sent to because they're all getting you know the CEO everybody else is sending what they're doing to support Covid-19 like we should do the same! That's like no no no no no because there are downstream effects of that and those downstream effects are just like you said which is hey these members are these subscribers may not even remember who we are, we should probably take a more intelligent approach. 



The importance of Domain Authority (11:01)

Mike: But what it can also do is affect our ability to reach the subscribers that actually want to hear from us and the way that domain authority, or the easiest analogy I have, is much like in our individual or our personal lives we have what's called a credit score, and a credit score determines our creditworthiness and how much a bank is willing to lend to us or whether or not they're even willing to lend to us. And how do I get a bad, you know from a high level how do I get a decreasing or worse credit score is I stop, you know, hey I pay my bills late, I don't pay them on time, I've borrowed way too much money, you know these bad things are strikes against you. Now sure there's all kinds of other things that go into it but bad strikes against you. It's very similar to what a domain reputation or domain score is. Your domain, theseventhsense.com, xyz.com, if you have your authentication set up correctly which is a different part of the conversation, but your domain has what's called either a domain score or a domain reputation and that is what Google and Microsoft are building on you and even corporate systems are building on you to determine your creditworthiness, your inboxing worthiness. Is this email worthy of making it to the inbox? And these domain reputation and domain scores they're nothing new but they have absolutely evolved over time and especially in the past few years. Before it was well don't ever put certain keywords in your email because that will flag spam systems. Keywords really don't trigger spam systems anymore. The only one that I know of that potentially still does, and that's the other thing too is these guys are not gonna totally tell you what goes into their algorithms, but Yahoo still does a little bit of spammy keywords. Then they started relying on your IP reputation. What IP address is this coming from? So if you're using HubSpot or Marketo or one of the big guys you are more or less in good graces. Now what they're doing is they're going all the way to the domain reputation. XYZ.com, theseventhsense.com, and what they do there is they rely on how much are people engaging and the emails coming from theseventhsense.com. So if I have low open rates, low click rates, low reply rates, lots of spam complaints, lots of bounces, you know all of those things it's like me paying my bills late, me not paying my bills, borrowing a bunch of money, all of those things add up but the number one thing is engagement, 


“All those things add up to determine what your domain reputation or domain score is going to be and also whether or not your inbox, you know you're credit worthy or worthy of making it to the inbox.”



How Seventh Sense can help with Domain Authority (13:49)

Gabriel: Of course. And all of that information is inside HubSpot if you're using HubSpot and Seventh Sense is capturing all of that, Seventh Sense is also capturing Gmail engagement right? So if I have my gmail connected to Seventh Sense and I have my HubSpot connected to Seventh Sense, all of that is connected in one place and Seventh Sense is analyzing okay what is the engagement and then is it allowing us to say I'm gonna send this email to 3,000 people but John's gonna get it tomorrow at 3 p.m.,  you know Mike's gonna get it Saturday at 10 a.m., and I'm gonna get it today because that's when we are most probable to actually engage with the message right?


Mike: Yep!


Gabriel: So that's on the marketing side of things right, and we can do a lot of things with workflows and automation to actually send messages at the most probable time. What does sales people, what can sales people get out of this to use this data? I know this data isn't HubSpot, how do you recommend salespeople using also this data to engage on a regular basis?



How can a Sales Person take advantage of what Seventh Sense offers? (14:51)

Mike: Yeah so that actually was... we pivoted the company years ago but I think we will continue to slowly shift back but that was the premise of when we founded Seventh Sense was to build a tool for salespeople because if you think about some of marketing's challenge it's like how do I get these 5,000, 15,000, 20,000 people to engage and so we help with that in a true level of individualization, personalization, but then when a lead makes its way to sales that problem is actually amplified and it's amplified by an order of magnitude. Like, I don't have a lead pool of 5,000, 15,000, 20,000 that I'm trying to engage and convert. I have Sara. Like I need to get Sara to engage. How do I do that the most effectively? And part of that is is you've got you've already collected all of this data throughout the marketing process, when is Sara opening emails, when is she clicking on emails, is she doing that on a mobile device, is she doing that on a desktop? So before the lead even comes to you, you have a tremendous data set if it's analyzed and utilized correctly. Then if you use Google as your corporate email system we can also tie into that to understand when is Sarah actually replying to my emails? When we take all these signals and then we build a profile on Sara and what that's looking for is by time of day, day of week, when do I have the highest probability of getting Sara to engage with me? And then rather than hey it's convenient for me to write Sara an email at 9:00 a.m. and I just write her an email at 9:00 a.m. and then I click send Google built in has a delay send feature. You just look at hey it actually tells me to send her this at 9 p.m. I'm gonna send it at 9 p.m. and I'm gonna increase the likelihood of probability of getting Sara to engage. Now I already know what the I already know some of the things that salespeople will say is hey you know what Sara's really engaged with me, she replies to all of my emails, I don't have that problem Mike especially with my big customers... I kind of used to say the same thing, but where you do have a problem is what do we all want at the end of a quarter or the end of the month? We want two more selling days, we want four more selling days, that's what optimization brings you is what happens if I sent Sara an email on Monday and she always responds to me but she responds to me on Friday because Friday is when she actually goes through and cleans out kind of like goes through that cleansing process of her inbox. I just lost four days in my sales cycle where if I would have sent her the email Monday at 9:00 p.m. when the data is telling me that that is when she typically has interacted with me I increase the likelihood or probability that she responds to me at 9:00 p.m. on Monday and I just gained four days back. 


“If you do those incremental changes slowly over time, and they add up to really really big changes and that's what optimization and really kind of any part of the sales and marketing process brings you. It's those little, small, minute things that you can be doing to increase your efficiency and increase your probabilities.”


Gabriel: Of course, of course. So again in these times again companies are sending more emails, so of course send time optimization and optimizing your email efforts are it's very important because you want to be there when people have the time to engage, but what other recommendations do you have regarding email campaigns? Is this a good time to clean up a list? Is this a good time to do a reengagement? Probably not, but let's talk about messaging, let's talk about tone, what other recommendations do you have for email efforts today?



What other recommendations does Mike have for Email Strategies? (18:20)

Mike: So email efforts.. I like the term slow down to speed up, now it's the time to slow down and focus. So there's a couple things that I that I've been recommending. One is absolutely 100% now is the time to really clean up your list, you know build a good foundation so that when you while you're slowing down when it's time to speed up I can speed up really really fast, so one clean clean up your list, make sure you've got your your foundation with your domain reputation all that in good order, start doing some basic segmentation. Segment based off of you know how active is this audience? How inactive is this audience? Do some segmentation around that and I shouldn't say that now is not a good time to do a reengagement campaign. It might be a great time because there are more people that you know in front of their computers more often, you know potentially less meetings, but the tone has to be right. It's don't send me some generic email about what you're doing for Covid-19 that 300 other brands have already sent to me. The other thing from a messaging perspective is I have highly recommended to everybody that you go into any type of automation campaigns that you have and make sure that the tone is reflective of today's, you know, today's world and so I mean my biggest suggestion is really kind of go through their segmentation exercises now and and start building some process around it so that over time you, again you just keep your domain reputation healthy, you are able to reach the people that actually want to hear from you, yeah it is painful to sometimes throw out leads but you know I don't know...


Gabriel: You can always save them.


Mike: Right, you can always save them in a spreadsheet and you know come back to it later.



Create Content your Contacts want to see (20:59)

Gabriel: And at the same time, you don't have to delete all your leads. You can put them on a don't-send list or take them out of engagement lists and keep trying and maybe you change maybe in the future you send every engagement campaign to those people to see how much they want to engage with you or what kind of content, that's the other thing is maybe we can ask people what kind of content do you want from me and not assume, right, that they want this and this and that. Of course we have specialties and we know about software and video and this and that and we want to educate the community on that but this, like you said Sarah might not want that piece of content. She might be super interested in how to set up a CRM and and then you can craft a message for her and all the people that want that specific message. So learning and asking questions is also a great way to to do that, right Mike?


Mike: Yeah absolutely in fact I mean we just went through an effort where we sent out a survey to a couple lets say it was maybe like a hundred and fifty people we got over 50 responses, open rate was like 90% you know said like and we got some really good responses and here was one of the the best things: a prospect said "Man I've been meaning to reach out to you guys can we jump on a call?" That day Ivan on our team closed the deal with them.


Gabriel: That's awesome.


Mike: Like it was, so it's like yeah ask those questions, don't make this about me me me me me, provide something to the community that the community really wants to, that your community wants to hear.



Seventh Sense Integration with HubSpot (22:24)

Gabriel: Exactly. Anything else you want to share Mike? This is this is your time your place anything that you guys are doing, anything software related, or anything about the times that we're going through?


Mike: So one of the things that we're actually super excited about, and this has actually given us some time to really double down on some some product focuses, is we've been working now with HubSpot obviously we've had four-plus year relationship with them but for the past two years we've been working with their workflows engineering team and we are more or less gonna be able to offer almost everything that Seventh Sense does natively inside of HubSpot here in the next two months, so should greatly simplify things and that's that's a big focus of ours right now.


Gabriel: That's great! Anything else Mike?


Mike: No, again so awesome to catch up and appreciate you having me on.



How Seventh Sense helps Nextiny (23:19)

Gabriel: Thank You Mike and thank you Mike for for your partnership. Seventh Sense has been an amazing partner for us as an agency and and for all of our customers. We know that if we use Seventh Sense we can get better engagement, better opening rates, better click-through rates and at the end of the day like many of our case studies we get better conversions and closing rates so Seventh Sense has been instrumental for the success of our customers and we thank you for that partnership.


Mike: That's awesome yeah, likewise, we really appreciate it and can't thank you enough for your partnership either.


Gabriel: Awesome, thank you Mike! Have a good one alright, take care.

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