Anyone earning a living as a writer will admit that they’re never all that excited to share news of new AI platforms that could one day spell the end of their ability to earn a living. But even this writer has to admit that Atlanta-based email editing SaaS startup Lavender has a pretty legitimate purpose which could be very beneficial to anyone who sends email and cares about the quality of their messaging and communication.
Lavender, a Chrome extension email plugin from the folks behind Sorter, might sound a bit like Grammarly, which you may have seen advertised on TV as a way to improve your grammar when writing online. But rather than focusing on typos, misspellings and whether or not you’ve put the correct their there, Lavender analyzes your email in real time with email gamification and behavioral science, using its calculations to make suggestions for increasing your electronic message’s “emotional intelligence.”
To accomplish this, Lavender lets you search for important social data about people you’re contacting — the basic stuff we can all see in a public profile, which many times includes information, offered by you, on your interests and activities. Lavender’s AI email assistant then looks at and scores your email based on how well you understand this person, and tells you how likely you are to get a positive reply from the recipient.
CEO William Ballance says the experience of building Sorter’s psychology-driven marketing platform taught them that although using someone’s personality to tailor a messaging campaign to them was effective, it wasn’t really easy to do if you didn’t have a background in psychology. So Ballance and his co-founder Will Allred began building a content analysis tool that looked at images and writing, informing Sorter’s users if their marketing fit their selected audiences.
“We found some data when we were first starting Lavender that poor writing — really unclear or inconcise writing — costs U.S. businesses over $400 billion dollars a year, just in lost productivity. That’s not counting things like lost sales or lost relationships.”
They also used recent Sorter funding to create Lavender, and were ready to add the functionality to Sorter in February when COVID hit, delivering a big blow to social marketing and advertising. But the sudden event also caused the mass loss of jobs, and a resulting swarm of people out of work and looking for new jobs. They needed to send out emails, cover letters and such.
The other big factor: This was now a remote-first world. And in a remote-first world, emails are much more important than they were in January.
Allred found data saying that email usage had gone up 16 percent, although the email response rate had ticked 8 percent lower. “There’s a problem between those two numbers,” Ballance says.
“We thought that the ability to help people write more effectively and thoughtfully, because we tie in things like thought and sentiment, would help in a remote-first world. But it also levels the playing field for those who don’t have a strong background in writing, regardless of age, gender, etc. It really empowers anyone, no matter who they’re talking to, to have confidence that they and their team are sending emails they can be proud of.”
And Allred is quick to point out a detail that more people should probably consider when it comes to written communication. The best practice is to target people with reading levels no higher than 5th grade.
“What we see is people are typically writing emails around a 9th or 10th grade level. So there’s a huge disparity between your ability to get information out there in a way that’s easily understood, digested and gets to a reply that moves the ball forward,” Allred says.
According to Lavender’s website, one of its core value propositions is in enterprise and SME organizations’ internal communications. The benefit is increased productivity and sales team effectiveness and a reduction in workplace inefficiency, and HR issues such as liability and employee friction.
Lavender also helps avoid email misinterpretation on the external side, Ballance says. An example he gives is salespersons, who might think they are coming across as confident in communication, but are actually projecting aggression and perhaps even anger. “It can really change the conversation and whether or not they get an actual deal,” Ballance says.
Sales teams are Lavender’s main target users. Their jobs tend to lean into turning a new contact into a conversion, but Allred says there should be a “call to conversation” that gets people more naturally excited than a simple CTA push to get them to the next step in the funnel or closing process.
“We’ve kinda forgotten that notion of being real and being human, and actually starting a real conversation with somebody,” Allred laments.
Lavender is available in a freemium model with 25 contact lookups and email scores per month. For $49 you can look up an unlimited number of contacts and have 1,000 emails scanned for effectiveness.
While it’s currently only for Chrome and Gmail users, additional platforms are expected to go live later this year. The company is also launching spelling and grammar checks soon.
Of course there’s one missing detail that might cause concern to potential users, which Ballance realizes: privacy. Not everyone will automatically be comfortable allowing a Google Chrome plugin to see their emails, and how are they getting this social media data?
“We’re not doing anything creepy,” Ballance promises. “We’re not scraping anything. We connect to a third party B2B data provider, we pass the email addresses to them, they return what information they have.
“If they include a Twitter profile, then we will connect to the Twitter API and pull in the recent tweets. But in general it’s very basic public information — profile pictures from Twitter, bios from LinkedIn, links to Instagram if it comes up. But in general it’s just what we find on LinkedIn.”
He also asserts that there are no privacy issues to worry about. He says the service is fully encrypted and secure, and emails are deleted forever once they have been analyzed.
Lavender is currently hiring on the sales side — we’ve posted their open positions on our Job Board.