Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Watch Out for These 5 Trouble-Making Marketing Outliers

Chad White
September 04, 2020

4 minute read

The chances are high that hiding among your audiences are small groups whose behaviors are so extreme that they skew the overall behavior of your marketing channels in ways that are detrimental. These groups are called outliers and they can:

  1. Cloud overall performance data, making it appear that you’re doing much better or much worse than you actually are.
  2. Obscure how your core audience is performing.
  3. Conceal trends in your customer data, causing you to miss opportunities or fail to address challenges.
  4. Skew A/B test results and lead you to implement the wrong changes or strategies.

Let’s take a look at 5 common outliers that companies might encounter across their marketing channels:


These people spend or donate massive amounts—like 100 times your average audience member. For example, according to Doug Sundahl, Senior Director of Strategic & Analytics Services at Oracle CX Marketing Consulting, one of his department store clients has an outlier group that’s only about 1% of their audience and that group spends at exceedingly high levels.

“Most of them spend over $100,000 every month—and some of them spend many multiples of that,” he says. “It’s likely that these individuals represent a B2B audience of interior designers, resellers, or other businesses.”

Always openers

These email subscribers open just about everything that you send them, but that behavior often doesn’t translate into them being a valuable customer.

“For some clients, I’ve seen the top 2-3% of the list open at close to 100%,” says Sundahl “On the flip side, they don’t click as often as others, and there are opportunities to try to influence their behaviors.”

Influencers & detractors

Your influencers rarely purchase, but they’re incredibly engaged with your emails, social posts, web content, or other content, which they often share with their large personal audience. The dark side of influencers is detractors, who are non-purchasers who are highly critical of your brand and seek to pressure or punish your company with their behavior.

83% of Millennials find it important for the companies they buy from to align with their values, according to 5W Public Relations. That same motivation has led people to post negative reviews and reactions against companies that they feel go against their values, even if they’ve never been a customer of that company.


Unfortunately, bots are everywhere. On Twitter and other social media platforms, experts estimate that up to 15% of accounts are bots. And bots are prevalent in other channels as well.

For bots on your email list, in addition to opening just about everything, they’re also likely to be clicking at a high rate—sometimes at a ridiculously high rate. “We had a project where we identified a lot of bot email signups on a list and click rates in the 99th-percentile were at like 3,000%,” says Clint Kaiser, Head of Strategic & Analytic Services at Oracle CX Marketing Consulting. “We found over 200 Gmail subscribers that were clicking everything.”

That said, not all click bots are bad. For instance, some companies use email bots to help prevent malicious emails from entering their corporate mail systems. Typically, these bots click but don’t open emails, says Kaiser. We classify click bots as beneficial, malicious, or exploitive, and we recommend different approaches for dealing with each type of click bot.


You want your employees to be engaged with your brand’s social media posts, email marketing campaigns, and web content. However, it can be a problem if you don’t account for it. “I’ve seen employees of a company who open and click everything skew email tests,” says Kaiser. “If you’re judging the winner of an A/B test based on engagement and employees are on the list, it’s possible that they might change the picture.”

Whatever the behavior, sometimes all it takes is just one person to throw off your metrics in a huge way, says Sundahl. Years back I was doing a customer analysis and realized that a single outlier was skewing our data,” he says. “It was the CEO’s mom. She had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on high price point items.”

For a deeper dive and to discover what to do once you’ve identified these outliers, check out Common Marketing Outliers & How to Manage Them on Oracle’s Modern Marketing Blog.

Chad White
Chad S. White is the Head of Research at Oracle CX Marketing Consulting. He’s also the author of “Email Marketing Rules” and more than 3,000 articles and posts about email marketing. Chad was named the Email Experience Council’s 2018 Email Marketer Thought Leader of the Year. Find him on Twitter and LinkedIn @chadswhite.
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