Sales Best Practices
How Segment Grew Opportunities 3x With Visual Prospecting
Pushing the Limits of Outbound
Back in 2017, it’s fair to say Segment was happy with the success of our outbound sales. Our email efforts were already driving significant results and we knew we were being smart about it. We used APIs to automatically customize the text in each outbound mail, so the message you might receive from us would be specific to the needs of your company's analytics, engineering, and marketing teams, and different from the one somebody else received.
But we thought we could do even better.
Studies indicate that people only remember 20% of what they read, but remember 80% of what they see.
Some of our best reps had been manually creating emails that contained images, in addition to text. Reps handcrafted multi-image emails that not only combined multiple streams of relevant data about prospects they were emailing, but also highlighted how Segment was relevant to them. Prospects saw themselves, sometimes literally, in these emails. Reps showed prospects information from their website or specifics about their department’s preferred analytics tools.
How Visual Prospecting Will Change Your Playbook Forever
Studies indicate that people only remember 20% of what they read, but remember 80% of what they see. We recognized that the trend toward image-first communication was becoming omnipresent across mass media and social media, but was still drastically underrepresented in sales outbound. We asked ourselves, What if we could expand our automated customization of outbound text emails to include hyper-personalized visuals?
It makes sense. Studies from Harvard Business Review have determined that visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. That means it’s also a way to reduce mental load on message recipients—a relief that's always appreciated by our most highly valuable buyers who are presumably reading, texting, emailing—words, words, words—constantly.
"Visual prospecting" seemed like a way to leap ahead in achieving better reply rates and higher conversions. We knew from HubSpot’s marketing email benchmarking data that images could increase calls to action by 43%, but that was for marketing -- we were in uncharted territory for sales outbound.
We started with a simplified idea for a visual prospecting strategy: pulling a screenshot of the recipient’s website into the message. We identified a variety of tools on the market that claimed to do this but found them either too cumbersome, expensive, or ill-fitted to our specific use case.
Data-Driven Visuals at Scale
Eventually, we partnered with Dogpatch Advisors since they had already built a system to generate customized prospect-facing images for a different project. With the click of a button, the system immediately searched and dynamically captured the screenshot of the prospect’s website that we could incorporate into other customizations. At about half a second per image captured, the screenshots needed for 10,000 domains (read: 10,000 prospect companies) were captured within a few hours. And, since Outreach supports HTML in custom fields, this meant the relevant images could be sent to each prospect versus text only personalization.
Letting prospects see their own websites was a great start. But what else could we show them to illustrate how Segment could fit into their enterprises?
We decided to take the concept further by dynamically populating images of the tools we determined were specifically relevant to each prospect. We relied on several APIs and developed a scoring model to prioritize, rank, and assign which images (logos) of specific software tools should be displayed in emails to each prospect. We then flattened these multiple images and published them on a public URL so each image would auto-display in-line within the message.
We now had a visual prospecting system that programmatically captured screenshots and images that would drive familiarity among recipients as effortlessly as our plain-text strategy did.
When we took this to the Segment SDR team to preview, they were thrilled. Many said they'd had spent countless number of hours in Photoshop, or on slides, trying to create this type of personalized visualizations for each prospect, but they hadn't gotten enough reply data to actually judge the effectiveness.
Layering on Persona-Based Annotations Later in the Sequence
And why stop there? We realized in gathering feedback that we could take visual prospecting even further by layering on more detail. We began to iterate on what next level of personalization could further increase response rates and generate opportunities for the team. The answer: annotations, seemingly written by hand, layered onto those custom-made logo groupings as an added second touch. Again, we varied each "hand-written" annotation by persona and company profile, to highlight specific advantages to Segment’s approach.
By using these two image-based approaches, we saw a 280% increase in opportunities created with 99% confidence interval for outcome.
What's Next for Visual Prospecting?
We know this strategy will continue to evolve. We won't be surprised if dynamic inline GIFs are next. People respond to visuals; prospects respond to communication that is hyper relevant to their needs. When you can combine those two motivating forces, it's a powerful way to gain attention and drive new opportunities.