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Seventh Sense Uses AI to Optimize Email Send Times

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Every marketer and salesperson has a problem in common: how do you make sure your marketing or sales email rises above the flood of communications hitting a person’s inbox each and every day?

Seventh Sense is here to help.

The company’s solution uses artificial intelligence to determine when a prospect is most likely to engage with your email. The tool integrates with HubSpot portals, Marketo accounts, or company email systems to build unique profiles of your contacts and learn their habits.

The result? Emails that people actually engage with. We talked to Seventh Sense Chief Revenue Officer Ivan LaBianca to learn more.

In a single sentence or statement, describe your company.

Seventh Sense is an artificial intelligence company that helps marketers increase the ROI of their email channel by ensuring their emails have the highest chance of being seen, read and engaged with.

How does your company use artificial intelligence (i.e. machine learning, natural language generation, natural language processing, deep learning, etc.) in its products?

Seventh Sense applies machine learning in two ways:

First, we use statistical modeling to look at the open and click data in your marketing automation system to identify each individual's unique pattern of email engagement. Based on this data, we empower marketers with the ability to personalize email delivery times at scale. Give us a window of time, and each person on your list will get their email at the time when they are most likely to open it in that given window.

Second, we help marketers by creating dynamic segments based on who a machine learning model predicts is more, or less likely to engage with your next email. This is extremely important for minimizing email fatigue, maximizing reach, deliverability / inboxing and ultimately driving more ROI from email.

Marketers put a tremendous amount of time and resources into growing their email list, messaging and creative email content. But all of that can go to waste if your emails don’t land in the inbox. A “99% delivered” message is meaningless if those messages are delivered to spam.

If you take a look in your spam folder, you’ll probably see many messages from legitimate brands you used to see in your inbox. How did they end up in your spam folder? Why are they no longer landing in your inbox?

Email service providers use a number of factors as well as AI to determine what should land in your inbox. But the short version is this: those brands emails are most likely now considered spam because either you never engaged with their messages or a large majority of their audience has not.

If you can’t reach your customers, that’s a BIG problem. Your “effective list size” may be much smaller than the top-line number. The quickest fix is to identify your most engaged customers and focus more effort on them and scale back on mailing your least engaged customers.

Mailing less than the full list is often a hard sell to upper management and for a valid reason. How do we know these contacts aren’t going to respond if we never mail them?

This is where AI can be extremely helpful. By using a machine learning process, Seventh Sense is able to identify with a very high degree of accuracy which contacts are most likely to open your next email. In some cases, we’ve found 90% of engagement is coming from just 30% of the total audience.

By being strategic and playing the long game, you’ll ultimately see much better results from email. We’ve seen cases where total opens and clicks have doubled with the company sending half the email volume they previously sent. You’ll be sending more email to people who actually want it, and less to people who don’t or won’t even see it.

What are the primary marketing use cases for your AI-powered solutions?

Companies use Seventh Sense to address a number of issues, but the most common are increasing email deliverability / inboxing and improving engagement. Typically companies fall into one of two buckets:

1. They have an established email marketing program and are seeing industry average open rates, but are looking for AI to further optimize their deliverability and engagement. For these companies, the approach is very simple and quick to implement. We let Seventh Sense analyze their audience and put send time and frequency optimization in place to help them level up their email program.

2. They have below-average engagement and are looking for ways to improve it. For these companies, the win can be huge because often there is a serious deliverability / inboxing problem. The trick is, sometimes they don’t realize they have a problem. To help with this, we’ve built a very helpful free analytics and reporting dashboard that makes it clear if a large number of contacts are inactive. Once we get the deliverability issues fixed, its effectively as if they’ve grown their list by however many contacts we can reactivate.

What makes your AI-powered solution smarter than traditional approaches and products? (i.e. how does it save marketers time and money, and how does it help them increase the probability of achieving their goals?)

Many marketers debate when to send emails, or if send time even matters. We’ve looked at the data, and the answer is clear. Send time matters, especially when it comes to conversions.

Think about your own email use patterns. I live on the West Coast, and by the time I get to processing my inbox in the morning, I usually have 30+ emails from marketers who scheduled their campaign to go out at 9am EST which is 6am my time. Yes, I do still see their emails, but first thing in the morning, my priority is scanning sender names and getting caught up on emails that matter and finally, deleting the rest.

Why does that top Google Ads spot cost so much more than the bottom? Because the CTR on position 1 is almost 5X higher than position 5 even though we all usually scroll past all of the ads on our way to the organic results. If they paid attention to my open pattern, they would see that I generally open their emails a few hours after they send them. If they adjusted their timing to when I’ve opened in the past, it would still be less than ideal but at least now their email is on top of my inbox.

Now let’s take it a step further and say I actually find the content engaging, but I don’t have time to read it first thing in the morning. Instead, I circle back and click the email again at 4 pm when things are slowing down a bit and I generally have fewer distractions. Take a look at how users engage with your content and you’ll see these types of delayed clicks and opens are extremely common.

We now have just three data points, a 9am open, and a 4pm open/click, but if we put that data to work it can be pretty powerful stuff. If you were using Seventh Sense, your next email to me would go out right at the time when I’m most likely to engage with a lower priority but interesting marketing email. Not only are you landing at the top of my inbox at 4pm, but chances are you’re pushing a notification on my desktop right at the time when I’m looking for a work-related distraction.

Are there any minimum requirements for marketers to get value out of your AI-powered technology? (e.g. data, list size, etc.)

Our pricing is very scalable and we have customers that send to millions of subscribers and others that send to a few thousand. If email is a valuable communication channel for your business, you’ll likely see value from using Seventh Sense.

To be successful though you need to have the rest of the email funnel in place. Seventh Sense increases your visibility, so you need to have high-quality content to send. If you’re not there yet, we can’t help directly, but we do have a large network of agency partners that can help with the content and strategy side of things.

Who are your ideal customers in terms of company size and industries?

A wide range of companies are seeing value from using Seventh Sense, including B2B, higher ed, B2C, and nonprofits. List sizes range from a few thousand to millions.

What do you see as the limitations of AI as it exists today?

Artificial intelligence as it exists today is limited in that it requires significant investments in data collection, expertise, and significant computing power to deliver highly targeted point solutions.

Most use cases are generalized, such as “if you like apples, maybe you’ll also like pears” or “here are the possible ways a person might say ‘apple.’” With recent breakthroughs in computing capacity, deep learning has made it feasible to provide the system with all the possible inputs to questions like these and build a model that’s highly effective. However, even in “best case” systems like these, careful problem formulation is key and still requires significant resources to deploy.

Problems that do not lend themselves to a generalization, do not have a clear set of “known good criteria” to provide training inputs, or are simply sufficiently complex are still very expensive and difficult, if not impossible, to get good results from.

What do you see as the future potential of AI in marketing?

As things stand, salespeople and marketers routinely lose deals and customers by not following their process or not fully understanding their customer. AI is well-suited to tackling both of these problems, by tracking the buyer’s journey and providing sales and marketing support, and by applying behavior data to segmentation and targeting instead of back-of-the-envelope guesses.

For instance, instead of relying on a checklist that probably doesn’t exist or is ignored, AI could populate a profile for each incoming lead and select an appropriate call or email script to ensure that an inbound sales representative is able to articulate value in a way the customer can appreciate.

Or, instead of guessing how well a given piece of content will resonate with a target segment, AI can provide real-time feedback to the writer, suggesting possible changes to target a given interest segment, or providing a view of who is most likely to appreciate the piece.

Any other thoughts on AI in marketing, or advice for marketers who are just starting with AI?

Almost every area of marketing is having some level of disruption coming from AI and the marketers that adopt it now, will gain a significant advantage over their peers. If you focus in on areas that you’re having great success, double down on those efforts and see if there are ways you can optimize it with the use of AI. On the other hand, if there are areas that you’re struggling with, search out solutions in AI to see if they can help you overcome them.

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