Radius: Bad Data Is a “Rotten Ingredient”

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Stephanie Kong, Product Marketing Manager at Radius, recently compared dirty data to rotten food.  Working with either consumes more expertise and results in sub-par results:

Handing dirty data over to data scientists is tantamount to passing rotten ingredients to a chef and expecting that he/she transform the inputs into a gastronomical masterpiece. In both instances, the quality of the inputs impacts not only the quality of the outcome, it also impacts the experience and efficiency of the professional– how much time can be spent experimenting and applying the artistry for which the professional was hired versus overcoming hurdles to get to a sufficient baseline.

Bottom line: the quality and state of your internal data can impact– and even worse, impede– the ability of even the most talented data scientist to generate breakthrough ideas. Many turnkey data solutions can help you maintain data, even enhancing accuracy and comprehensiveness, in addition to extracting insights. It’s not simply a means of “killing two birds with one stone”; accurate and complete data is a critical first step. In other words– and without being too macabre– good data is the essential and necessary “first kill.”

Marketers are becoming more strategic in their approach to data as they realize the limitations and costs of poor data.  Predictive Analytics systems are only as good as your underlying data.  Bad data is simply noise (or as Kong would call it, “rotten ingredients”) that obscures the underlying signal.  Without accurate data, how can you expect your predictive systems to give you anything more than random nonsense?

Likewise, the shift to Account Based Marketing requires strong firmographics for identifying the companies you wish to target.  Furthermore, strong linkage is necessary for targeting subsidiaries and branches.  Whether you are extending an MSA or looking to establish a beachhead, you need a holistic view of the organization across industries, regions, and job functions.  You also need an accurate set of contacts spanning all functions, levels, and locations.

When evaluating B2B content vendors offering predictive or DaaS solutions, ask about their

  • Data Processes: Data sourcing, update cycles, verification and validation, feedback processes
  • Hygiene Services: Do they offer email, phone, and address verification, field standardization, deduplication
  • Matching Capabilities: Is it a direct match or probabilistic match based upon multiple fields? Are fields standardized prior to matching? Is the focus on company or contact matching?
  • Connectors / Integrations: CRM, MAP, DaaS cloud, API, etc.
  • Ongoing Data Refreshes: Frequency, Cost, Level of Automation
  • Contact Coverage: Emails, direct dials, functions, levels, bios,
  • Company Data: Scope, depth, firmographic fill rates, identifiers, linkage, etc.
  • Other Data: Intent data, technology platforms, business signals, etc.

Data quality is a strategic asset so your content and technology partners need to be thoroughly vetted.  It is important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each offering during both the vendor selection and implementation stages.  Otherwise, you may only partially address your “rotten ingredients” problem.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

FreePint: The Value Add from Company Aggregators

GBBChris Porter, who writes many of the company intelligence vendors profiles for FreePint, recently ran a research study where he conducted half his research using an unnamed subscription aggregator and half using the open web.  While he gave the edge to the aggregator, the margin was not as wide as he’d anticipated.  Porter commented that it’s “not time to cancel that subscription just yet – but worth keeping an eye on.”

Porter found that the free web was able to provide much of his project’s content, particularly for US publics.  However, the paid service made information discovery quicker and easier.

For private companies, he found that neither fully met his research needs so a combination of open web and aggregator service worked best.

Porter confessed that his subscription service lacked annual and interim reports which would have made his research easier.  These reports are available in some of the other aggregator services.

Porter was unhappy with the Reuters Significant Developments report.  “It was not picking up all the major developments I was looking for,” said Porter.  I have had a similar problem with the report as it is limited to material events.  But an event could be important for non-investors without impacting the stock price.  For example, a new VP of Marketing may own product positioning, a significant marketing budget,  and demand generation.  Likewise, the company may have announced a significant improvement to a struggling product line.  Such events may not move the stock price, but they are highly relevant to competitors, customers, partners, and vendors.

Where I have found the Significant Developments report useful is in looking at specific topics such as M&A or Litigation going back fifteen years for US publics and about ten years for international quoted companies.  Being able to quickly filter to a topic provides insights such as whether the pace of M&A activity has changed or whether the nature of the acquisitions has evolved.  It can also be quite useful for locating a historical event such as when a joint venture was launched.  Oftentimes, these are  difficult to discover as they are based upon vague information.

Aggregators bring together tools not available on the open web such as full family trees, prospecting lists, sales triggers, market research reports, executives with contact information, and SWOTs.  They also have advantages in downloading financials, researching European private company financials, locating earnings transcripts, identifying competitors, presenting analyst research, and downloading PDF profiles of companies or full-text news stories about companies.

As a competitive intelligence analyst and market researcher, I use both subscription services and the free web for company research.  I would never research a company without visiting its website.  If public, I will also visit the investor site for presentations, Corporate Social Responsibility reports, and other material they make available to their shareholders.  Likewise, I head straight to LinkedIn for researching individuals.  But if I want to understand the company structure, analyze its financials, or reach out to individuals at the firm, then aggregators can make a big difference.

Image: Global Business Browser from Avention.

From Data Science to Data Strategy

InsideView CEO Umberto Milletti offered three marketing themes for 2016.  The first two, Sales and Marketing Alignment and Data Driven Messaging and Targeting, have been well discussed over the past few years.  It has long been clear that sales and marketing need to work together and that data should be driving the marketing function.  The new idea for 2016 is the elevation of the data scientist into a strategic position in the company.  According to Milletti:

If 2015 was the year of the data scientist, then 2016 will be the year of the data strategist.

We’re in an explosion of sales and marketing technology, and every system relies on data. The more data you have, the more important your ability to update and sync that data becomes. Companies are consolidating systems and that is driving the need to implement a strategy for customer data that resides in multiple places. Otherwise, you get silos of customer information.

Good data strategy considers the flow of information, the accuracy of the data, and the consistency of the data. To do that well requires someone focused full-time on a company’s strategy for their data.

This is why the title “Chief Data Officer” seems to be more popular with search frequency trebling over the past three years on Google Trends:

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Google Trend for the search term “Chief Data Officer”

Data quality, an element of broader data strategy, is becoming increasingly important.  While the statement “garbage in garbage out” goes back decades, marketers long allowed their databases to go stale.  Many marketing databases are rife with out of date contacts, incomplete or inaccurate firmographics, and undeliverable addresses.  With predictive analytics and big data, the ability of these systems to provide insights is dependent upon the underlying data quality.  Data quality is also required for tying together historical data silos which have employed different standardization rules and identifiers.  Pulling together all these elements requires an enterprise owner of data strategy.

If your company isn’t ready for a broad data strategy, you should at least consider implementing data quality practices in your CRM and Marketing Automation platforms.  Several vendors including ReachForce and NetProspex are developing ongoing data quality solutions that synchronize data across multiple platforms.  These systems verify and standardize global address, validate emails and phones, manage duplicates, and enrich platforms with company firmographics.

Another important feature is web form verification which matches prospect records against their database and performs real-time validation of entered fields.  Not only is data validated at time of entry, but the number of required input fields can be reduced, resulting in a lower web form abandonment rate and higher ROI for your digital marketing investments.

NetProspex Workbench also offers Dun & Bradstreet linkage, D-U-N-S Numbers, emails, direct dials, and tech platform variables (products and vendors).

Although InsideView doesn’t offer lead verification tools (e.g. phone, address, email), it supports match and enrichment for a broader set of CRM and marketing automation platforms.

Keep in mind that data quality not only benefits your marketing though better targeting, segmentation, and lead scoring, but it also provides value to your sales function.  By infusing leads with broad firmographics and linkage, you are more likely to be passing actionable leads to your sales team and routing them to the correct sales reps.  Furthermore, when leads are mapped to sales intelligence platforms, reps can quickly qualify them and begin planning account messaging.

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The NetProspex Workbench Data HealthScan report provides a free PDF detailing pre and post enrichment field population rates, data error rates, and segmentation reports.

InsideView, NetProspex, and ReachForce are all cloud based solutions with low barriers to adoption.  They also include data health analyses, segmentation reports, and integrated prospecting as part of their feature set.  So even if you cannot implement a global data strategy across your enterprise, sales and marketing can begin by focusing on a solution which improves the quality of their leads, contacts, and accounts.

DiscoverOrg: Closing Out Another Year of Growth

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Technology Sales Intelligence vendor DiscoverOrg closed out another year of significant growth in customers, product, content, and revenue.  “DiscoverOrg saw significant advancements in its workforce, physical locations, data insight, product development, and market share,” blogged the company.  “In the process, we are creating jobs, establishing a stronger presence, and delivering more product value to customers.  As DiscoverOrg succeeds, we are primed to level the playing field in business-to-business sales and marketing … to help small companies grow into big companies … to create a global revolution in B2B sales.”

Amongst the growth metrics they published on their blog:

  • Customer accounts increased 36 percent.
  • Platform users increased by 17 percent.
  • Search queries increased from 721,862 in 2014 to 733,277 in 2015.

The firm discussed three of their 2015 objectives: strategic hires, physical presence, and greater data insight.

In 2015, the firm added 93 employees, nearly doubling their staff to 203.  Hiring centered around their research team as “data accuracy is a top focus”.  Some of this growth was from the mid-summer acquisition of iProfile, but the majority was organic hiring.

2015 hires included a new SVP of Customer Success and CFO.  The firm also added three new Board Members including the former COO of Forrester Research and the former CEO of Capital IQ.

Along with moving into larger facilities in Vancouver, Washington (20 miles from Portland), they opened satellite facilities in Gaithersburg, Maryland and Philadelphia.

2015 also saw significant database growth and new product offerings.  The iProfile acquisition helped accelerate their global build out.  The database grew by more than 50% with the marketing dataset growing by 85%.  During 2015 they added datasets for finance and Europe along with the OppAlerts intent data service.

”More platform perks, datasets, and integrations are in development for release in 2016, including: a new, responsive platform design; a new product development dataset; an updated Google Chrome Extension; and an updated, ‘Lightening Ready’ Salesforce Native App.”

Their “new and improved platform” is currently in final stage beta rollout. The enhanced platform “offers a complete redesign of the user interface and numerous ‘under the hood’ speed and functionality enhancements.”

Chrome Extension Update

The Google Chrome extension enhancements, which were released just as the year closed, provide context based intelligence from all of their datasets including IT, marketing, and finance.  The Chrome extension will support additional databases in 2016.

The Chrome extension works as a side panel that automatically displays company intelligence, including contacts and company overviews, based upon the current website.  The system stores account credentials so that company overviews are immediately displayed.  From the browser, a user can quickly select a contact or company name and look it up within the Chrome extension.  Thus, the service is bi-directional with users switching between the extension and browser without additional logins and without having to reenter information to conduct company searches.

DiscoverOrg provided the following Chrome Connector data workflow scenario on their blog:

Assume you’re an information security vendor and you are researching Fannie Mae, the Chrome Extension will return the CISO’s full group and contacts to you right in the browser – no need to login to DiscoverOrg and run another search. From there you can easily add contacts to your CRM tool, research the company further in DiscoverOrg, or lookup a similar company or contact.

Because DiscoverOrg also supports CRM platforms including SFDC,  MS Dynamics, NetSuite, Talent Rover, and SugarCRM, users can begin with a company, contact name, or URL for research then upload the company or contact information to their CRM from DiscoverOrg.  Company and contact data is not mined from the web but collected by its team of researchers, ensuring higher quality information.

Other Chrome Extension features include executive lists with filtering; executive headshots with responsibilities, contact information and social media (Twitter and LinkedIn) links; technology details; similar companies; and sales triggers.

The Chrome extension is free to current subscribers.

Chrome Extensions

While Google Chrome has only garnered limited support from sales intelligence vendors, it has seen significant development from vendors providing technology overviews.  Along with DiscoverOrg, there are Google Chrome extensions from HG Data, Datanyze, BuiltWith, SimilarTech, W3Techs, and HIveMind.  Most of these services are limited to an analysis of online technology associated with the corporate website, but DiscoverOrg utilizes researchers and HG Data employs semantic mining of news and websites to obtain behind the firewall platforms and vendors.