(And it can help you, too.)

Thomas Jefferson was obsessed with building things. He even designed the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond! Jefferson also famously said, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

He wasn’t wrong. A constant focus on innovating – no matter your industry or job function – creates an environment that manifests opportunities you may not even see coming.

I thought I’d share an example of this phenomenon that we were fortunate to experience at SalesLoft earlier this year. It’s a tale of how an acquisition created possibilities we hadn’t fathomed, leading serendipitously to the next opportunity for us to delight customers and keep improving.

The SalesLoft team relentlessly focuses on expanding the capabilities of our industry-leading sales engagement platform. Last spring, we acquired a company whose software added an important element to our platform. As we considered the best way to describe this new capability to our customers and prospects, we came across a novel approach.

This method would allow us to literally show them how impactful the added functionality would be. We discovered we could do it by sending them highly personalized visual messages, but do so using automation so we could scale the effort at incredible speed.

We realized many of our customers had the desire for additional insights so they can be more effective in their sales pursuits. They wanted a better way to record and understand what actually happens in their sales meetings. Deeper knowledge about where deals are won or lost and what’s working (or not) is significantly beneficial.

According to Forrester, buyers say that nine out of ten meetings with sellers offer them no value. That’s rough! How can sales teams improve meetings so buyers view them as a worthy use of time? We found the answer in an emerging discipline called Meeting Intelligence.

visual personalization example

Elevating Sales Engagement

The company we acquired enabled us to take sales engagement to a new level. Meeting Intelligence makes simply recording meetings feel like using a smartphone solely for phone calls.

Briefly, this new technology reduces distractions and oversights thanks to timestamped live notes, auto-tagging, transcription, and more. The idea is to help salespeople make meetings more effective and a better use of time for buyers. Sales organizations can get better at talking to customers and improve internal communication about what works. Nothing falls through the cracks.

As we set about integrating the new functionality into the platform, we wondered what would be the most effective way to present it to customers. Our goal is always to make that initial communication as personalized and relevant to recipients as possible… and to do it at scale.

Meetings aren’t intended to be mindless chatter. They should be tactile and visual and personal. Meeting are interactive experiences that impact our customers and prospects. We wanted our messaging about Meeting Intelligence to reflect that.

It was at this point that Kate Jensen, a sales leader at Stripe, pointed us to Dogpatch Advisors. Their team has an approach they use with customers they call ‘Visual Prospecting’. Dogpatch is an advisory and software company that focuses on data-driven outbound communications and helping teams create “Outbound Ops” functions.

Outbound Ops teams specialize in sourcing, managing and cleaning up large data sets about customers and prospects. This information can be combined with smart outbound email concepts to drive greater relevance throughout the sales cycle. The idea is to take communications our best salesperson might prepare for a mid-sales cycle conversation and pull it forward for use in the earliest outbound communication with prospects – all in an automated, scalable fashion.

Curating personalized sales experiences

Curating Personalized Experiences

An experienced account executive is familiar with every client and prospect on an individual basis. They understand answers to questions like: What does this particular prospect really need? What is their business? Are there industries they specifically target? What tools do they use on the job, and how could those work better? Who on their staff needs to know about this?

Customizing outbound messages involves capturing and using this kind of information in a way that is valuable to salespeople. Dogpatch curates this information about prospects for inclusion in or to inform outbound messages. Adding to these detailed data sets, Dogpatch developed a way to include dynamic images in outbound messaging. This way, every recipient could see something different – visual personalization!

That isn’t merely about inserting a company’s logo. It might, for example, involve a company logo set into a context-specific flowchart that helps illustrate how they could improve connections to known business partners (whose logos can also be shown). It may be a specific screenshot from a prospect’s website, dynamically inserted, along with text that demonstrates a knowledge of what software their organization uses.

Visuals command attention. Dogpatch helped us think about how the smart use of personalized images could get more recipients to look at messages they were receiving. Was there a way to apply the benefits of Visual Prospecting to our new Meeting Intelligence offering? We hunkered down with Dogpatch through the summer to figure it out.

Keeping it Genuine

We were a little concerned about how it would be received. We take pride in being authentic in our communications, even when done at scale. They can’t be sloppy with personal information, and recipients don’t want to feel spammed.

If a message is obviously automated, it won’t be successful. It will kill your reputation with and eventually land you in spam folders. Recipients will respond when it feels like someone took the time to understand their needs.

dynamically sourced data for visual personalization

Bottom line: We didn’t want to fool people. We wanted them to appreciate how Meeting Intelligence might benefit their sales process.

Our first take involved a bit of over-explaining; providing more text that can be absorbed in an email. Then we embraced the old maxim: showing > telling. What visuals could we add to give Meeting Intelligence a unique and relevant look to each recipient?

Adding explanatory visuals in outbound messages adds a degree of risk, a greater need to get the message right and ensure it’s relevant to the recipient. Information that’s inaccurate is more glaring when it’s right there in living color.

What Had Happened Was…

What we developed with Dogpatch was a beautiful piece of communication. We turned an actual screenshot of our Meeting Intelligence display into a customizable template. That allowed us to send every prospect a personalized version of that Meeting Intelligence screen, including the names of specific people in their organization and topics known to be relevant to the organization. The final product looked like something an eager AE might prepare by hand for a presentation – but we could do it at scale.

Our intent was to very specifically help potential buyers imagine what Meeting Intelligence could do for them.

We sent out the customized visual messages this fall. The feedback was almost instantaneous.

feedback on customized visual messages

“This picture is really beautiful! Thanks for putting this together for us,” one recipient wrote us back.

“I’m impressed with the mock-up image,” said another.

And the positive replies kept coming:

“This image is killer. I wish our reps could do this.”

“I appreciate the attention to detail – our logo caught my attention.”

“This is sweet! Sign us up.”

The positive response helped us hit the ground running with Meeting Intelligence. It’s the most successfully adopted new product in our history. Along the way, we’ve also impressed some of our customers and prospects, frankly, by reaching them in a creative way. We showed our expertise, exposing them to something cool in the marketplace that could help their own organizations. And we were learning something new while we did it!

Consistent with Jefferson’s description, one stroke of “luck” led to another. The key to it all is looking for opportunities to innovate; living in that “what’s next” mindset. How can we make things better for our customers? For our own team? I’m confident these latest innovations in sales engagement will lead to new thinking and the next great breakthroughs.


Interested in learning more about successful sales email personalization? Download our new eBook to learn everything you need to know.