Unique Company Identifiers

Amazon Family Tree (Source: D&B Hoovers)
Amazon Family Tree (Source: D&B Hoovers)

Associating company records with a common identifier is critical for Account Based Marketing as well as other sales and marketing methodologies.  Lacking a common identifier makes it difficult to

  • De-duplicate company records
  • Associate subsidiaries and branches with headquarters
  • Perform both real-time and batch data enrichment of firmographic, technographic, and social links.
  • Associate company news and sales triggers to key accounts.
  • Tie together company records across multiple platforms.
  • Assess the risk (e.g. credit, supplier, reputational) associated with a business.

The importance of a “unique identifier” was discussed by Owler CEO Jim Fowler in the Harvard Business Review:

The best way to keep data clean is to use a globally known, unique identifier, or a “data backbone.” My company prefers to use URLs as identifiers. They’re free, globally recognizable, high-quality data points that enable you to efficiently gather information on a business’s industry, online activities, and functionality. For example, Cisco is a company that also goes by Cisco Systems, Inc. and Cisco Precision Tools. If sales containers required users to type in one unique URL, http://www.cisco.com/ for all those different branches, it’d be much more difficult to create duplicate accounts, which helps keep data clean. Perhaps more important, URLs facilitate communication between people, systems, and even departments. Whether it’s the customer relationship management platforms used by sales teams, enterprise resource planning software used by purchasing teams, or the account-based marketing technology employed by marketing teams, the business intelligence platform can recognize a unique URL and attach it to clean, usable data. Unique identifiers let you know you’re pulling from the sources and contacts you’ve intended to track.

I agree with 90% of what Fowler states, but disagree with his recommendation that URLs are the best unique identifier for his “data backbone”.  There are a number of reasons that URLs fall short:

  • URLs are not persistent.  If a company is acquired or renames itself, the old identifier (URL) is not retained.  This creates a potential disconnect between the old and new name.
  • URLs have a many-to-one mapping which treats most subsidiary and branch locations the same as the headquarters.  For some companies, mashing together all locations into a single record may be sufficient, but it is a highly flawed approach as it loses much of the nuance concerning companies that operate across multiple sectors and countries (e.g. General Electric).  It also makes it very difficult for sales reps to sell deeper into an organization which lacks linkage data.
  • Conversely, companies with multiple URLs are not tied together.  This could happen due to differing country identifiers (e.g. .UK, .FR), division names, brand names, and subsidiaries.  Each of these scenarios treats companies as a separate business.  Amazon has many distinct businesses including Amazon Web Services (aws.amazon.com), Zappos (www.zappos.com), Alexa Internet (www.alexa.com) Audible (www.audible.com), Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com), and soon Whole Foods (www.wholefoods.com).  URLs do not provide a consistent data backbone when subsidiaries, acquisitions, and branches have different domains.
  • When a division or facility is divested, there is no way to determine which locations have been spun off.
  • Franchises are treated as part of the parent company when they are separate legal entities.
  • Not all companies have websites.
  • URLs can be sold.  They can also be reused if a company goes out of business or abandons a URL.

Finally, business decisions related to logistics, credit, supplier risk, and financing need to understand the underlying structure of companies.  It is not just marketing and sales that are impacted by standardizing on a non-persistent, quasi-unique identifier.

I would therefore recommend looking at credit data companies as a better source of unique identifiers.  Companies such as Dun & Bradstreet, Experian, Equifax, and Infogroup all offer location level detail and linkage associated with unique identifiers that have been developed over multiple decades.  They offer sophisticated entity matching and enrichment tools such as Dun & Bradstreet’s Optimizer service. Furthermore, these firms support multiple functions across the organization helping assist with cross-platform entity linking and on-demand decisioning.

Outreach Sales Intelligence Tiles

Outreach Sales Tiles Account Overviews
Outreach Sales Tiles Account Overviews

Account Based Sales Development (ABSD) vendor Outreach, rolled out its latest capability, Sales Intelligence Tiles, which displays account intelligence from Owler, Twitter, and MapBox alongside account information from Salesforce and Outreach.

Three tile formats are supported

  • Engagement insights: a combination of insightful information including company news, local time and historical interactions with prospect/account to ensure the communication is effective
  • Prospect overview: everything from historical Outreach & Salesforce activity to custom fields
  • Account overview: displays account firmographics and prospect information

Users can customize the layouts to better meet their informational needs.  Tiles may be moved and resized.  Additional enhancements will roll out in the next few months including “partner integrations, new tiles, design updates, and new suggested layouts.”  Layouts may be shared with co-workers.  Other partners include DiscoverOrg, Datanyze, DocSend, and Sendgrid.

Outreach’s internal research found that reps saved five hours a week by leveraging tile insights.

Outreach recently began a beta program for their Chrome Extension which they call Window Mode. “This new experience is unlike any other chrome extension,” said Product Marketing Manager Rachel Siegel.  “It removes the extension from on top of your window and creates a separate window that snaps perfectly to the side of your browser. The experience is lightning fast and immediately responsive to what you’re doing in the moment.  Many of you likely switch through a number of different browser tabs as your job. Window Mode keeps up with your pace. You’ll find that it’s faster and immediately responsive to what you’re doing in the moment.”

Selling is hard – we know it’s more difficult than ever to connect with prospects and keep them engaged throughout the sales cycle.  Sales technology has failed to deliver for reps, largely because it focuses on logging data and reporting on pipeline rather than helping reps to execute more of the right selling activities. Ultimately sales reps spend hours laboring on menial tasks. This has to stop. We’re on a mission to empower sales teams to more efficiently and effectively engage with prospects so they can predictability achieve revenue goals.

  • Outreach CEO Manny Medina

Outreach received a $30 million Round C a few weeks ago and continues to invest in tools for sales reps that assist them across the customer lifecycle.  This vision goes beyond outbound communication unification and includes sales intelligence, recommendations, and workflow simplification.

“Outreach continues to tirelessly deliver the capabilities that solve business challenges,” blogged Siegel yesterday.  “No longer are we solely investing in making SDRs and hunters efficient, we’re turning our eyes deeper into the customer lifecycle.  At Outreach we see a future where every sales organization has a platform that helps their reps build a pipeline and closes that pipeline faster and more efficiently than ever before. The future is a platform that acts like a sales assistant, suggesting meeting times, entering data, creating action items, suggesting which personas to engage at what points in the deal cycle, and more.”

Outreach is unveiling its roadmap at their Unleash conference in Sonoma, CA this week.

DiscoverOrg Startup & SMB Dataset

"Building a Winning Dataset" from DiscoverOrg Collateral.
“Building a Winning Dataset” from DiscoverOrg Collateral.

Sales and Marketing intelligence vendor DiscoverOrg announced their latest database earlier today.  The new Startup and SMB dataset covers more than 60,000 small and mid-size businesses and 400,000 executives.  The initial North American coverage profiles companies with between 50 and 1,000 employees.

All of the contacts are editorially verified and will be maintained via the same sixty-day review cycles as their other contacts.  Executives cover “all key departments, including IT, Engineering, Marketing, Sales, Finance, HR, and Operations.”

“DiscoverOrg’s data difference is its team of 250+ researchers who constantly augment and verify the data in our platform,” notes Henry Schuck, DiscoverOrg CEO. “Unlike other vendors that provide SMB lists with thousands of irrelevant contacts, companies, and incomplete and duplicate records, the DiscoverOrg Startup & SMB dataset is as rich and accurate as our enterprise data.”

CMO Katie Bullard said that DiscoverOrg has “aggressive plans” to invest in SMB dataset development due to customer benefits.

With more companies, our researchers won’t have to skip over Triggers that they find through their research. We’re able to return a greater number of companies that use a certain technology, and our predictive tools like AccountView and DealPredict have larger reach with more matched accounts.

  • DiscoverOrg CMO Katie Bullard

The initial dataset is limited to North America as that is where they have the greatest current demand, but DiscoverOrg plans to internationalize the Startup and SMB dataset in the future.  While the goal is to cover all firms with at least 50 employees, the initial dataset consists of firms requested by their customers.

The press release noted how difficult it is to find reliable, actionable intelligence for SMB sales teams.  Along with company and executive profiles, the database provides 6,000 “research verified buying triggers” per month.

In smaller businesses without media coverage or press releases, almost none of the buying intent triggers that DiscoverOrg gathers – including planned investments, key projects, personnel moves, and internal spending budgets – is made available to the public. This is where DiscoverOrg’s team of researchers provides a clear advantage: While there are millions of registered companies in the US, the difficulty is identifying and gathering intelligence on the small percentage of these companies who are 1) legitimate entities and 2) have true spend / budget. By continuously verifying contact info, conducting interviews, and engaging in research activities, DiscoverOrg overcomes the shortcomings of web-scraping for hard-to-find data on the SMB space, ensuring the intelligence customers receive is highly relevant and immediately useful.

  • DiscoverOrg Press Release

“Sales and marketing teams that want to reach the SMB market have had a very difficult go of it,” said Nancy Nardin, President of advisory firm Smart Selling Tools. “There’s been a real dearth of verified, accurate data on SMBs, quite simply because it’s harder for data companies to get. DiscoverOrg is solving for this very real pain point by bringing their best-in-class research verification model to the SMB space. You can expect the same high-quality data you get from DiscoverOrg’s broad datasets. ”

Across all databases, DiscoverOrg now covers 1.5 million executives and 90,000 companies.  Customers may purchase access to the full database or various databases by job function, company size, or region.

 

Emissary and Tacit Knowledge

Emissary Sales Coach Profile
Emissary Sales Coach Profile

I had the recent pleasure of interviewing Emissary CEO David Hammer in Jinfo, an information industry trade publication.  Topics included tacit knowledge, working with their Emissaries, and how they identify Emissaries.  I profiled their offering back in November when they launched the service.

Emissary provides a concierge service for enterprise sales reps.  Emissaries are former employees of companies, generally high-level execs that departed the firm in the past 18 months.  Emissaries provide access to a great deal of tacit knowledge that isn’t available on the open web.  This would include informal reporting structures, executive biases, language, culture, and purchasing processes.  According to Hammer:

Tacit knowledge is what we all acquire in the day-to-day of living our lives. It’s what we know simply from interacting with the world. People don’t know what they know. I worked at Google for six years but it would take me a lifetime to document every useful thing I learned there, even assuming I wanted to. And that’s assuming I know what’s actually useful! There are plenty of things I wouldn’t even think of that would be transformatively powerful to someone else. I just don’t know what, and I don’t know who it’s useful to.

Tacit knowledge can be both big and small items that provide an edge when selling.  Again, Hammer:

It can be an emissary pointing out that the pitch deck for an upcoming meeting uses the word “customers” when the internal culture always refers to customers as “guest”. It can be sharing a past mistake that cost the company $500,000 that your product would have prevented. It can be telling you the CEO has a pet project to address educating millennials and informing you exactly how to tie your product to that messaging, or that the decision-maker actually cares more about ease of implementation than the direct ROI.

Unfortunately, Jinfo is a subscription service and the article is behind their firewall.  Hopefully, you have a subscription.  If not, reach out to me and I’ll send you a copy from their platform.

Artesian Opportunity View

Social Selling vendor Artesian Solutions added a novel Opportunity feature which combines Artesian’s company intelligence with Salesforce’s Opportunity Stages. Available both within the AppExchange and via browsers, the tool assists with pipeline analysis and forecasting.

To date, most sales intelligence firms have focused on displaying their company and contact information within CRMs. Few have looked at enriching their content with CRM account intelligence to create browser mashups between the CRM and Sales Intelligence content (an exception is D&B Hoover’s CRM Watchlist). I’m not aware of any other vendor leveraging Salesforce stage data.

According to Artesian, “Sales leaders can interrogate each team member’s open pipeline and facilitate proactive conversations about key developments within individual accounts. The result is an improvement in forecast accuracy and more meaningful sales engagements.”

Artesian is the first sales intelligence vendor to combine Sales Intelligence into an Opportunity stage view. Users can quickly create Leads, Tasks, and Opportunities from the browser edition.
Artesian is the first sales intelligence vendor to combine Sales Intelligence into an Opportunity stage view. Users can quickly create Leads, Tasks, and Opportunities from the browser edition.

Users can quickly create Leads, Tasks, and Opportunities from the browser edition.

The Opportunity View allows reps and managers to focus on specific topics such as risk triggers for their most important deals. Managers see an aggregated view of the deals for the people in their teams or can filter by sales rep and stage. Artesian’s Head of US Operations Mike Blackadder listed the features benefits as “more accurate forecasting, deal acceleration, and improved stickiness.”

Users can add Salesforce Leads, Tasks, and Opportunities from within the browser version. They also have a quick navigation option to the CRM Account view.

Additional Opportunities View enhancements are planned for early summer.

WorkBench: Profile Builder, TAM, & Look-a-Like Prospecting

Dun & Bradstreet, which has had a series of major product announcements over the past few weeks (the Avention acquisition, rebranding of its OneSource platform as D&B Hoovers, a Beneficial Ownership product), has quietly added powerful new functionality to their Workbench Data Optimizer platform.  The new Profile capability features an automated profile builder, Total Addressable Market (TAM) analysis, and look-a-like prospecting based upon the Workbench profiles.

The new functionality helps marketers evaluate the size of targetable sub-markets, identify audiences with a high propensity to purchase, discover overlooked whitespace opportunities, and target new accounts and contacts.  According to Alex Schwarm, Sr. Director of Marketing Analytics Products, “Profile enables our Workbench customers to begin to use data-driven, ABM-oriented Profiles based on their successful sales.  These automated analytics allow you to quickly and easily identify the best whitespace opportunities and characteristics of your target audiences including those with the highest propensity to buy – no data scientist needed.”

NetProspex WorkBench Value Proposition
NetProspex WorkBench Value Proposition

Profile is a black-box analytics engine which clusters customer files without biases.  Marketers upload a file of their customers’ data for a specific product or product family.  Workbench standardizes, de-duplicates, and verifies the input file; matches and enriches it with Dun & Bradstreet’s WorldBase firmographics; and then provides segmentation and file health analysis.  The Profile module identifies between two and eight distinct segments containing similar companies across multiple dimensions.  The user can define the number of profiles or the system can automatically identify the optimal number of profiles based on the variation of the customer file.  The marketer is not required to define the key segmentation variables.  Instead, the system automatically performs affinity clustering (my term) to build the segments.  Execution time is typically 5 to 10 minutes.

The results are displayed on a downloadable dashboard that provides a side-by-side firmographic analysis of the clusters.  Results include company size, ownership (e.g. parent, branch), primary industries, cluster size, and average deal size (if revenue figures are also shared with Dun & Bradstreet).  Thus, the system may identify segments with a lower average deal size but a larger number of prospects alongside clusters containing top customers with high average deal size but a small number of targetable opportunities.

Portion of Workbench Profile summary report
Portion of Workbench Profile summary report

While Dun & Bradstreet does not use the term “Ideal Customer Profile” (ICP) the system is basically identifying the attributes of a customer’s ICP, determining the average deal size, and sizing the overall market opportunity.

Dun & Bradstreet has two major assets in performing TAM analysis: The WorldBase file of global companies and trust built up over 170 years of credit research.  WorldBase provides them with a consistent, global file of 260 million active and inactive companies for credit and supplier risk research, sales intelligence, and B2B marketing.  The file includes broad global company linkages, corporate and location sizing, industry coding, Tradestyles, and D-U-N-S Numbers (the de facto global company numbering system).  This intelligence provides the core reference file against which market sizing can be performed.  But TAM analysis requires customer level revenue information against which company counts can be converted to market sizes.  And here is where a strong credit analysis brand helps build confidence amongst marketers to share company revenue data.  While they will be reluctant to share revenue details with most vendors, firms have been sharing private financial details with Dun & Bradstreet over the better part of two centuries.

Marketers can then take any of the profiles and immediately identify net-new similar companies as well as net-new contacts.  The system also sizes potential target market audiences that can be reached programmatically through their Audience Solutions group.

While prospect scoring based upon these definitions is not yet supported, that is a likely future offering for the platform.  Profile, along with a set of predictive scores and paired with D&B Hoovers’ business signals, represents a toe in the water of the predictive analytics space.

Emissary Launched

Emissary Sales Coach Profile
Emissary Sales Coach Profile

Emissary, a novel concept around account-specific sales coaching from former employees of key accounts, was formally launched this month.  The new service, which recently received $10 million in Series A funding, pairs up former enterprise executives, or “emissaries,” with sales reps to provide account guidance.  The initial set of emissaries focuses on two verticals: Enterprise Software and Marketing & Advertising.

According to the firm, “By directly connecting clients to former executives who have accumulated invaluable knowledge throughout their careers, Emissary takes over where Google searches, social networks and sales automation software leave off. Over 5,000 experienced business leaders on Emissary provide personalized insights about the organizations they have previously worked – such as what the company culture is, who the key decision makers are and how the company makes buying decisions.”

Emissaries are vetted by the firm to ensure they have the requisite knowledge and experience to guide enterprise sales reps.  The firm’s Salesforce synch connector matches sales organizations that “demand their insight” with emissaries holding “tacit knowledge” of organizations.  The platform then facilitates communications, much of which is e-mail.

Emissary views itself as a sales acceleration platform, but one that focuses on closing deals instead of generating more leads.  Thus, emissaries assist with much of the account intelligence which doesn’t reside online, helping reps understand organizational culture, procurement processes, and key decision makers.  This tacit knowledge is often lacking online.  Hammer, a former Google Product Executive, noted that even heavily data-driven organizations such as Google often make mistakes because “Often times, we didn’t have access to a piece of knowledge that sat in someone else’s head, and we didn’t know who that person was. I created Emissary because I believed if we faced that problem at Google, that organizations of all sizes must be facing that challenge.”

“At Google I came to realize that we all have valuable, tacit knowledge that was not available online,” said CEO and Founder David Hammer. “With Emissary, we’re using technology to gain access to relationship-driven knowledge from trusted sources that can often make the difference between whether or not you close a deal.”

The Emissary service requires a significant upfront commitment “in the tens of thousands of dollars, with the price depending on each client’s specific needs.”  Contracts run six to twelve months and include a set of Emissary engagements.

Emissary recently closed on a $10 million Series A led by Canaan Partners and G20 Ventures.  The Manhattan-based firm previously received a $2 million seed round from The New York Times, Google Ventures and Nextview Ventures.