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Email marketing isn’t working – what’s a B2B marketer to do?

AI personality profiling has uncovered three key drivers of poor campaign performance. Carbon Design chief executive and B2B consultant Scott Gillum explains what they are and what you can do.

Thank you Covid-19, we just broke the record for poor performance. According to Hubspot, the response rate to emails fell to a record low of 2.1% in April. Said differently, 98% of our efforts to reach new prospects failed. 

With conversion down, what did we do? You guessed it, we increased the number of emails sent during the same period by 50%, according to Hubspot’s survey of 70,000 customers. We are playing a zero-sum game, and it’s literally a race to the bottom.

Why is this acceptable? Yes, the pandemic has had a dramatic impact, but even in good times, a 4% click through rate is the benchmark. Why haven’t we been able to improve?

Because the only real lever we really had was to increase volume as conversion rates declined. Now with the advent of new AI tools, we’re uncovering issues and learning new insights into how to improve performance. Here are three issues that we have discovered so far.

Issue #1: you have the wrong objectives

Marketing has, because of the pressure from the rest of the organization, lost sight of its objectives. Marketing’s goal is to increase the awareness and interest in a company’s brand, product and/or services and get that prospect to take action. It’s to start the cycle, get a conversation going and drive interest.

A good marketing prospect is an information seeker. They are employees who are on the constant lookout for information that benefits them personally, in their role, or for the greater good of the company. A great marketing prospect is someone who will bring our information into the organization, get the buying process started and advocate for your brand.

The point is what we are defining is a personality type — not a title. In the past, a prospect’s personality has been very difficult to identify. As a result, we have had to rely on mining the existing customer database or using a persona that was defined by the product or sale organization. This has left us with senior level buyers defined by a title.

The problem with that is many of these targets, who are decision makers or budget holders, are not present at the beginning of the buyer's journey. The bottom line is a good sales target doesn’t necessarily make a good marketing prospect.

Issue #2: you have the wrong targets

With the advent of personality profiling tools like Crystal Knows, IBM Watson, or xiQ, it is now possible to determine which personality types are most likely to meet the needs of marketing.

AI enabled profiling tools identify four personality types as defined by DISC (dominant, influencing, steady and conscientious). Of the four personalities, only two types of audiences are good for marketing purposes because of their behaviors and motivations.

Based on our recent client work across the healthcare, tech and professional services industries, we also know that at least 30% of a company’s customers will profile into one of the two categories that are either not active information seekers or are not active in the buying group, or both.

They will not convert, but given our current practices, they still end up on the target list driving down response and conversion rates.

Issue #3: you have the wrong type of content or marketing assets – or both

The two key audience segments that are present at the beginning of the buying process and actively seek information have different motivations for why, and how they intend to use information.

When targeting titles, companies create one type of content based on that buyer’s role. With personality profiling we know that audiences have different preferences for content and how it’s packaged.

The first personality type prefers ’big picture’ highly visual content told in story form. These ’motivators’ are drawn to infographics, animated and testimonial videos, which allow them to grasp concepts very quickly.

Their personality type is ’altruistic’, and they use information to share with others for the good of the organization. Their motivations are deeply personal in that they like to be seen as a ’thought leader’ that others seek out for insight.

Contrast that with the other active information seeker. The ’demonstrator’ profile seeks information relevant to them in their role. They want proven information, use cases, case studies, and business case material that proves ROI. They are seeking content that is rich in information on how to implement and business impact.

Combined, these two groups will make up 70% of respondents to your marketing activities depending on what it is. You need to know how that mixes to build and align content.

The fact is: we are dealing with a future that is more uncertain than anything we have experienced. Add to that the US elections, polarization and social justice movements giving us one of the most emotionally charged atmospheres in modern history. ABM and personas do not delve deep enough into defining buyers interest, motivations and preferences.

To improve marketing performance, you have to ramp up personality-based marketing and that will require work. Not everyone will be willing to put in the effort, but the ones that do will break the cycle of putting more in and getting less out.

Scott Gillum is CEO and founder of Carbon Design, an insights agency built on a talent platform that enables people to work on what they want, how they want, when they want, and where they want. 

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AI personality profiling has uncovered three key drivers of poor campaign performance. Carbon Design chief executive and B2B consultant Scott Gillum explains what they are and what you can do.

Thank you Covid-19, we just broke the record for poor performance. According to Hubspot, the response rate to emails fell to a record low of 2.1% in April. Said differently, 98% of our efforts to reach new prospects failed. 

With conversion down, what did we do? You guessed it, we increased the number of emails sent during the same period by 50%, according to Hubspot’s survey of 70,000 customers. We are playing a zero-sum game, and it’s literally a race to the bottom.

Why is this acceptable? Yes, the pandemic has had a dramatic impact, but even in good times, a 4% click through rate is the benchmark. Why haven’t we been able to improve?

Because the only real lever we really had was to increase volume as conversion rates declined. Now with the advent of new AI tools, we’re uncovering issues and learning new insights into how to improve performance. Here are three issues that we have discovered so far.

Issue #1: you have the wrong objectives

Marketing has, because of the pressure from the rest of the organization, lost sight of its objectives. Marketing’s goal is to increase the awareness and interest in a company’s brand, product and/or services and get that prospect to take action. It’s to start the cycle, get a conversation going and drive interest.

A good marketing prospect is an information seeker. They are employees who are on the constant lookout for information that benefits them personally, in their role, or for the greater good of the company. A great marketing prospect is someone who will bring our information into the organization, get the buying process started and advocate for your brand.

The point is what we are defining is a personality type — not a title. In the past, a prospect’s personality has been very difficult to identify. As a result, we have had to rely on mining the existing customer database or using a persona that was defined by the product or sale organization. This has left us with senior level buyers defined by a title.

The problem with that is many of these targets, who are decision makers or budget holders, are not present at the beginning of the buyer's journey. The bottom line is a good sales target doesn’t necessarily make a good marketing prospect.

Issue #2: you have the wrong targets

With the advent of personality profiling tools like Crystal Knows, IBM Watson, or xiQ, it is now possible to determine which personality types are most likely to meet the needs of marketing.

AI enabled profiling tools identify four personality types as defined by DISC (dominant, influencing, steady and conscientious). Of the four personalities, only two types of audiences are good for marketing purposes because of their behaviors and motivations.

Based on our recent client work across the healthcare, tech and professional services industries, we also know that at least 30% of a company’s customers will profile into one of the two categories that are either not active information seekers or are not active in the buying group, or both.

They will not convert, but given our current practices, they still end up on the target list driving down response and conversion rates.

Issue #3: you have the wrong type of content or marketing assets – or both

The two key audience segments that are present at the beginning of the buying process and actively seek information have different motivations for why, and how they intend to use information.

When targeting titles, companies create one type of content based on that buyer’s role. With personality profiling we know that audiences have different preferences for content and how it’s packaged.

The first personality type prefers ’big picture’ highly visual content told in story form. These ’motivators’ are drawn to infographics, animated and testimonial videos, which allow them to grasp concepts very quickly.

Their personality type is ’altruistic’, and they use information to share with others for the good of the organization. Their motivations are deeply personal in that they like to be seen as a ’thought leader’ that others seek out for insight.

Contrast that with the other active information seeker. The ’demonstrator’ profile seeks information relevant to them in their role. They want proven information, use cases, case studies, and business case material that proves ROI. They are seeking content that is rich in information on how to implement and business impact.

Combined, these two groups will make up 70% of respondents to your marketing activities depending on what it is. You need to know how that mixes to build and align content.

The fact is: we are dealing with a future that is more uncertain than anything we have experienced. Add to that the US elections, polarization and social justice movements giving us one of the most emotionally charged atmospheres in modern history. ABM and personas do not delve deep enough into defining buyers interest, motivations and preferences.

To improve marketing performance, you have to ramp up personality-based marketing and that will require work. Not everyone will be willing to put in the effort, but the ones that do will break the cycle of putting more in and getting less out.

Scott Gillum is CEO and founder of Carbon Design, an insights agency built on a talent platform that enables people to work on what they want, how they want, when they want, and where they want. 

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