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Targeting B2B marketers? You’ll enjoy the prospect (pun intended) of a new influx of personas, but be faced with the problem of higher churn rates than other departments, according to a fascinating report [download page] from Salesforce Research. Based on an analysis of 15 million data points covering 21.3 million full-time B2B professionals, the report indicates that the average annual churn rate for any single persona is 17%.

To arrive at its conclusions, Salesforce turned to LinkedIn, which explored data from more than 7 million records over a period of 4 years to better understand the lifecycle of a persona. One of the key points considered was that many individuals undergo both horizontal and vertical changes within an organization, meaning that they may keep their email address but still be removed from a target persona. Such a situation was accounted for in the report by considering the start and end dates of individuals’ employment within specific roles and business verticals, as well as moves within an organization.

Average Annual Churn Rates

Overall, the data shows that the average annual churn rate was 17%, though that masked fairly considerable variances by vertical and department. Churn was measured as internal movements (which could result in an individual having a valid email address but no longer being a relevant persona) and external movements (which may result in an individual having a new email address but still being part of a target audience).

In terms of verticals, manufacturing and transportation shared the lowest churn rate (15%), followed by finance (16%). The retail and consumer products sector, by contrast, had the highest annual churn rate (22%).

In 5 of the 6 sectors measured (the above-mentioned as well as high-tech and medical), the marketing department had the highest churn rate:

  • In high-tech, marketing personas’ annual churn rate was 23%, versus the lowest rate of 18% for finance personas;
  • In manufacturing, marketing personas’ churn rate was 18%, versus the lowest rate of 14% for sales personas;
  • In retail and consumer products, marketing personas’ churn rate was 22%, second only to sales (24%) and compared to the lowest rate of 17% for finance personas;
  • In medical, marketing personas’ churn rate was 20%, versus the lowest rate of 16% for IT and finance personas;
  • In transportation, marketing personas’ churn rate was 18%, versus the lowest rate of 15% for sales personas; and
  • In finance, marketing personas’ churn rate was 18%, versus the lowest rate of 16% for IT, sales and HR personas.

Meanwhile, churn rates were higher for individual contributors (20%) than for managers (17%) and those at director levels and above (15%). This was true across verticals.

Average Annual Growth Rates

B2B growth rates were determined by examining how many new individuals enter into a vertical each year. In others words, it’s the percentage of personas who are new to a vertical compared to the prior year.

On a vertical basis, retail and consumer products (19%) had the highest growth rate, while finance (13%) had the lowest.

The marketing department had the highest growth rates across verticals, which seems logical given the high degree of churn.

Specifically, annual growth rates for the marketing department were:

  • 20% in high-tech;
  • 17% in manufacturing;
  • 21% in retail and consumer products;
  • 19% in medical;
  • 18% in transportation; and
  • 17% in finance.

As one might expect, growth rates were higher for individual contributors (16%) than for more senior levels.

Takeaways

Considering the importance of email to B2B marketing – and the report’s estimation that it takes a B2B email database 4.2 years to completely churn – the study’s authors offer some takeaways and recommendations, including to:

  • Compare the average cost of obtaining an email address against its lifetime value;
  • Measure the size of an email database against the total potential audience size to estimate penetration of that audience;
  • Consider email’s volatility and adopt a multi-channel approach that includes social interactions;
  • Deliver content that is based on an individual’s lifecycle in a particular role; and
  • Identify churn within a database and use the data to be more proactive with paid ads and customer retention campaigns.

The full report – which includes more data and recommendations – can be downloaded here.

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