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How Email Send Time Optimization Technologies Are Increasing Conversions of B2B Emails

Olin Hyde

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Getting your email into the inbox and getting it read is half the battle. Which is why we are talking about email send time optimization today. Understanding the right time to send email will improve your downstream conversion.


  • The rise of spam traps and firewalls and their impact on deliverability.
  • The advantage email has over search and social media channels.
  • The trap so many B2B marketers fall into with marketing automation systems.
  • The hidden problems with account-based marketing campaigns.



EPISODE 20 – Transcript


[0:00:07.2] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the B2B Marketing Jukebox by LeadCrunch. Help us start a movement to make B2B marketers the maestros of shareholder value.

On our website, leadcrunch.com, you can find timestamped transcripts of these podcasts and info about the guests. Subscribe to these podcasts on all major platforms, like iTunes. Send topic or guest suggestions to the host at david.green@leadcrunch.ai.

Here’s Dave.


 [0:00:34.0] DG: Hey, I’m on today with a fantastic guest, Mike Donnelly. He is the CEO and Founder of Seventh Sense. Seventh Sense is an e-mail optimization capability I thought you might want to know about. There’s probably not a B2B marketer out there who isn’t using e-mail and any kind of edge you can get. The challenge of getting into the inbox is really worthwhile. Mike, welcome to the show. Tell everybody just a little bit about your background and who you are and introduce yourself a little bit, if you would.

[0:01:13.4] MD: Coming out of college, I started my career as a software engineer for a company called Celera Genomics. At Celera, if you remember back in the early 2000s, we were the first company to map the human genome. We were actually in a race against the federal government. I would say that we beat them, but ultimately, we called it a tie.

Then I made the jump to the dark side of sales. I was in enterprise tech sales for the better part of 13 years. During that time, I started to recognize that reaching people was getting harder and harder and harder.

I was primarily in enterprise tech sales. I was part of a number of exits, mainly focused on startup-type organizations. For example, I was at a company called Isalon Systems very early on. The subsequent IPO was the most successful IPO in the Nasdaq in 2007. We then sold to EMC for two and a half billion dollars, which was EMC’s largest acquisition to that date. In fact, I think it was the largest acquisition in their history before they merged with Dell.

Then I went to another company called ExtraHop Networks who is still in existence. They have some awesome technology. I was there very early. We had about 40 employees. Now, they have more than 400. After I left there, I went to another company called Nimble Storage. I was there pre-IPO, through their IPO, and they were subsequently acquired by HP for 1.1 billion. Again, it was during that time that I started to recognize these problems I was having reaching customers.

0:03:10.2] DG: What are the challenges you experienced that you believe other B2B demand gen marketers are likely facing as well?

[0:03:17.5] MD: It’s not just B2B demand gen, but it’s also B2B demand gen marketers and the salespeople. There are a couple fundamental challenges happening. One is I think we would all agree that we’re getting more e-mail this month than we did last month and last month we got more e-mail than the month before. There’s this ever-increasing volume of e-mail communication coming at us, day in and day out.

There’s also an increasing volume of text messages that we’re getting, social notifications. There’s all this stuff coming at us day in and day out, all day, every day. I would say that probably we’re getting fewer and fewer phone calls. I don’t know about you, but for some reason or another, I’m getting robocalls these days.

There’s all this stuff just vying for our attention. Adding to that for the B2B demand gen marketers, we all invest in these marketing automation systems. Whether that be HubSpot, Marketo, Salesforce marketing cloud, Eloqua, there are tons and tons and tons of these e-mail marketing solutions. The mindset of most B2B marketing professionals is, “Hey, I’ve invested in this platform. I need more leads, or I need more of something. It doesn’t cost me to send more e-mail, because I’ve already paid for it, so I’m just going to send more e-mails.”

Where the real cost starts to come in is the attention of the recipients, the attention of our e-mail list. Unfortunately, most B2B demand gen professionals abuse our e-mail list, which, to me, is completely counterintuitive to what we should be doing. While e-mail is not sexy, it is still the critical workhorse of what we do, day in and day out. What is sexy, however, is social. Guess what? We don’t own our social followers. We don’t own the algorithms for reaching our social followers. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google can go change their algorithms tomorrow and charge us a heck of a lot more to reach that audience.

We recently saw that in the B2C space. Facebook changed some of their algorithms, and the next thing you know, B2C companies were spending a heck of a lot more just to reach that same audience. The only core intellectual property that a marketing organization owns is their e-mail list and the ability to reach them. Unfortunately, again, we abuse that right, or at least most abuse that right. That’s the first challenge.

The second challenge comes in as Google and Microsoft and the other e-mail service providers, including corporate spam systems have recognized this. They’re all waging a war on spammers. I’m not talking about the professional spammers that are trying to steal your credit card information. I’m talking about legitimate marketers who are trying to reach the inbox of their recipients. If people aren’t engaging with your e-mails or you have low engagement, I see this all the time, the next thing you start are anything in the promotions tab in Google, the clutter folder in Outlook, or worst case, the spam folder, and your marketing automation system, which can be completely deceptive, is going to tell you that 99.8% of your e-mail got delivered. That doesn’t necessarily mean it made it into the inbox.

The DSPs are literally waging a war against the B2B demand gen, marketers who are not respecting their audience.

[0:07:10.2] DG: I don’t know if I told you this, but I used to work for MarketingSherpa. When I was there, they had the largest independent e-mail marketing conference. I know very well about reputation and hard bounces and soft bounces and the very thing that you’re saying, which is the perception that it’s free and lots of marketers are probably abusing the customer a little bit. Even though they didn’t unsubscribe, they’re no longer opening your e-mails. I think that’s a really big problem. I think all the points you made about social media and marketers not really owning that and being a little bit of a disadvantage over time over that, I think, really puts an onus on marketing people to figure out how to optimize e-mail.

The thing that you and I had talked about before the show which I thought was really interesting was what you were calling send-time optimization. I wonder if you could explain to the audience what you mean by that and why it matters.

[0:08:08.5] MD: It has a lot of different terminology, send-time optimization. We like and actually coined the term “send-time personalization”. If you think about the average business professional today, they’re receiving anywhere from 100 to 125 e-mails every single day. That’s the average.

What I can tell you is that most decision-makers within the B2B realm receive anywhere from 300 to 800 e-mails a day. They literally cannot keep up with their inboxes. A lot of people will say, “Well, write a great subject line and you’ll stand out in the crowded inbox.” I liken that to, “If a tree falls in a forest and nobody was there, did it make a sound?” The same thing holds true. You can write the best subject line in the world, but if it’s buried below 100, 200, 300, 400 e-mails, and God forbid, your contact, your prospect or customer, is out of the office for two days, now, it’s buried below 1,200 other e-mails. The probability or likelihood that that e-mail is ever going to get engaged with drops off significantly.

The time at which you send your e-mail, not only time of day, but day of week that you send your e-mail, can have an incredible impact on whether your e-mail ever even gets seen. I think good salespeople do this all the time. We’ve ingrained in our brain, “Hey, don’t e-mail Scott on Fridays; Scott plays golf on Friday. Don’t e-mail Jeff on Mondays; Jeff works from home and I know he’s slacking off at home.”

Good salespeople, especially in an enterprise, will start to recognize the patterns of their audience. It was one of the things that I did. Then, one day, it just dawned on me. Why am I spending my mental energy on this when it’s all just sitting there in my data? What I recognized and what we realized after doing some initial analysis building a prototype, and before we had even a business model or a company, was, “Hey, let’s find out if people are answering emails at certain times of the day.” Let’s see if we can prove that hypothesis.

We analyzed the data that I had in my e-mail history for the past 10 years. Back then, you used to steal PSPs and bring them with you from job to job to job. We analyzed all the data and we were just like, “Oh, my gosh. This illuminates these people’s patterns of behavior by purely looking at the data of when they’re replying to you.”

We then took that data and said, “Where can we get a ton of this data?” and it was in marketing automation systems. We built an integration and a partnership with HubSpot, Marketo, and we’re working on a number of others, where we analyze when people are opening and clicking e-mails. Are they doing that on a mobile device? Are they doing that on the desktop? Then we built some proprietary algorithms to illuminate these people’s patterns of behavior. Then, rather than blasting an e-mail to 5,000, 50,000, 500,000 people on 10 AM on Tuesday, what send-time optimization, or send-time personalization empowers you to do is an automated process, personalized the send time to each individual person. Again, that’s all automated through these systems.

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[0:11:31.7] DG: That is a great idea. The thing that I think is true for those of us who have been in sales or marketing over the last 10 plus years is that we’ve seen all of this technology and the technology has an enormous opportunity to collect information about buying behavior information about the prospect, or the customer. It’s a challenge trying to put it all together and make sense out of it. It sounds like you guys have built something that could be really, really helpful.

[0:12:01.2] MD: Billy Beane and his team fundamentally changed baseball by looking at things that nobody else was looking at. That’s our goal, and that’s our mission: to change the way B2B marketers and B2B sales people or professionals can reach their audience by utilizing data that nobody else was looking at. I can’t tell you how many sales people I talked to who say, “Mike, I don’t know if your technology is necessarily right for me.” I ask them the question, “Well, why is that?” They say, “Well, because my customers always respond to me.”

I say, “You know, that’s awesome and my customers always used to respond to me, too.” That tells me that you’re a true professional. Let me tell you one thing. What do I want it to end of every single quarter, when I’m closing out the quarter, closing out the month? I want four more days to close out the month, close out the quarter. What if, at one point during the quarter, or during the month, you sent Scott or Sarah an e-mail at 9 AM on a Monday, but Sarah typically engages an e-mail at 9 PM, and therefore, she never made her way back to your 9:00 AM e-mail? Guess what Sarah does every Friday? Sarah cleans out her inbox and responds to everybody because she sets aside time in her schedule to respond to anybody who’s important on Friday.

Imagine if you would have sent your e-mail to Sarah at 9 PM, instead of 9 AM, which you have the data that’s telling you to do that. Imagine you were at the top of her inbox on Monday at 9:00 PM when she’s responding to e-mail and you got an immediate response. Guess what you did? You just changed the game. You just pulled your sales cycle back for days.

Again, that’s where utilizing small optimization techniques on pure B2B demand gen sales can have a huge difference in helping you reach the goals that you have from a pure revenue perspective, pure goal perspective, etc.

[0:14:37.0] DG: Very good. One thing I wanted to ask you about is how this works with account-based marketing. It’s been a huge trend, obviously, over the last few years and is netting sales and marketing people a lot more ROI than traditional lead generation efforts. What have you seen there?

[0:14:56.3] MD: I would caution anybody who is getting into account-based marketing strategies, way more specifically to the B2B demand gen marketer. If you do not have an account-based marketing e-mail delivery strategy, you need to stop immediately. You need to put the brakes on everything that you’re doing. The reason is if you’re doing account-based marketing, you’re typically focusing on mid to mid-enterprise to enterprise accounts. Well, most of those accounts are going to have corporate spam systems, and those corporate spam systems have gotten incredibly smart.

Well, guess what the B2B demand gen marketer does? They create an e-mail. They say we’re going to blast this out to 15 accounts and we’re going to blast up to 10 people at each account, so 50 people. When I send out my e-mail, whether through Marketo, HubSpot, Salesforce, Marketing Cloud, Eloqua, etc., guess what the receiving spam system does? It says, “Whoa. You just sent me 10 of the exact same e-mails,” even though they were personalized with first name, something in the subject line, etc., because it’s all automated and it tricks the spam system. The next thing you know, your e-mail goes straight to spam, because you just sent 10 people within their organization an e-mail all at once.

You might be sending 500 people an e-mail all at once. Well, if you are not throttling that e-mail delivery, which I’ll put a little plug-in for send-time personalization, send-time optimization, it’s a byproduct of what we do. You are likely going to spam. You’re going to trip that spam system. Where if you’re throttling the e-mail, you can actually trick the spam systems because you’re spreading the load out on that receiving server. I am a huge fan of account-based marketing and while it’s a new buzzword, I would say it’s the same approach that so many enterprise sales people have been taking for years and years and years. Again, that’s my take on it.

[0:17:16.7] DG: Yeah, it’s absolutely true. There’s no question that in corporate America, the IT departments do what they can to reduce what they consider the junk e-mail and the point that you’re hitting, I think, is one of those trip points. There’s no question. Anybody who’s ever done testing or optimization around this, the way that you have, I’ve done the same thing. There’s no question that they’re going to get blocked there, and I think they’re losing an opportunity to have a bigger impact by not having a sending strategy as you characterized. I think that makes perfect sense.

Mike, this has been really, really helpful. Do you want to talk a little bit about where you see things going in the future for yourself and for this type of solution?

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[0:17:58.3] MD: Obviously, growth is what we’re focused on. We’re looking at and building out more and more integrations with different marketing automation platforms. The same technology can be applied to multiple instances. For example, in the B2B tech space, our biggest customer is a company called Carousel. Carousel actually hosts the GSA schedule for companies like Salesforce, Adobe, VMware, Palo Alto Networks, a number of different companies.

They have over 1,200 inside sales reps. They make around 50 to 70,000 phone calls every single business day. We analyze all their phone data to predict when people answer their phones. We’ve seen incredible results there. In fact, they were our first customer when we had our prototype and they’re one of our most supportive customers.

This whole notion that people are creatures of habit presents itself to lots of different use cases with regards to the B2B space. “How often does Scott purchase new equipment?” We don’t really have visualizations to see that level of data. Now you get to make sure the data is statistically significant to make sure you’re making an accurate prediction. Even if you’re not, usually the past predicts the future. “When is Scott’s budget coming up?”

I was talking to an old customer of mine. Literally, this conversation happened two weeks ago. They used to buy millions of dollars’ worth of equipment from me per year. It was all data storage equipment. The gentleman said, “Mike, this is fascinating. I bet if we looked at just our communication history, you could uncover when I was sending you a ton of e-mail as the trigger of when I was doing my budget. If you look at the pure months of when I was going back and forth with you over e-mail, that would illuminate when I’m up for budget.”

What if you could set a flag that says, “Hey, so-and-so’s budget is coming up. Let’s start reaching out to him a couple weeks beforehand.” You could start to identify whether I was actually serious about staying with your technology or not.

Again, there are just a lot of different areas where you can apply the tech. Right now, we’re very, very focused, small team, very, very focused on HubSpot, Marketo customers, and more integrations to be announced.


[0:02:17.7] MD: Yeah, absolutely, Dave. There are a number of resources that we have on our website, everything from different types of guides to blog posts all about e-mail marketing, and email send time, and how to drive more success from it. Our website is www.theseventhsense.com. If anybody is interested in just reaching out and having a conversation, I’m happy to share my e-mail address. It’s just mike@theseventhsense.com. Those would be the two best ways to reach us.

 [0:03:03.8] DG: Very good. Mike, thanks so much. Great having you on.

[0:03:07.8] MD: Thanks again, Dave. I really appreciate you having me on as well.


[0:20:39.0] ANNOUNCER: Thank you for listening to the B2B Marketing Jukebox by LeadCrunch. On our website, leadcrunch.com, you can find timestamped transcripts and info about the guests. You can send topic or guests suggestions to david.green@leadcrunch.ai. Subscribe to these podcasts on all the major platforms like iTunes.

Thanks for joining us, and we wish you happy, data-driven growth.