Outreach, Cognism, Drift, Alyce, and Sendoso Make LinkedIn’s Top Startups List

Five vendors covered in my newsletters and blog made LinkedIn’s Top 50 US or Top 10 UK startups list, an indicator to the economic vibrancy of SalesTech and MarTech solutions, particularly during the pandemic.

Sales Engagement vendor Outreach placed #6 in the US, its second year making the list.

“We work hard to be a great place to work and to create an environment where [the] top talent of any background feels welcome and can thrive,” said Outreach CEO Manny Medina.  “We’re always looking for passionate, tenacious employees who think differently and live and breathe our core value of having each other’s backs. I’m thrilled that we continue to attract the best of the best, and LinkedIn named us one of the top startups in the US.”

Outreach focused on “emerging and resilient startups that are navigating the ever-evolving nature of work in the wake of COVID-19.” The firm also focused on delivering sales management tools during the pandemic, helping “leaders closely monitor their team’s success and keep employees motivated and productive.”

Cognism that was named a top 10 UK Startup to Watch, placing at Number 9.  The firm which, was founded in 2015, has performed well during the pandemic and recently acquired German signature-block messaging firm Mailtastic.  They have already opened a UK Mailtastic office and closed their first UK deals.

According to CEO James Isilay, “We have just made a key hire in the US and will be expanding the offering there from October.”

Following a staff survey, Cognism will be moving to a smaller office presence and emphasize WFH options.

“Despite a challenging year with the pandemic, Cognism has continued its strong growth recently passing the key $10 million ARR mark,” wrote CEO James Isilay. “We see growth accelerating next year as we bring our go-to-market intelligence and engagement platform to new markets across Europe.”

Two tactile marketing companies, Alyce (35) and Sendoso (46), made the list.  Both firms positioned direct mail e-gifting as a method to connect with customers and prospects during the pandemic.

“While many companies and entire industries were dramatically impacted by the pandemic, the need to create personal bonds as the world moved almost fully digital in the age of no major trade shows, events, and public networking became ever more paramount,” wrote Alyce. “Alyce actually thrived as a company, and swiftly pivoted to deliver digital gifts for their enterprise customers looking to create personal experience moments for their audience.  Despite the market shifts, Alyce has experienced a milestone year of growth, with a vast percentage of its Annual Recurring Revenue (AAR) coming from its enterprise customer base and new use-case expansion, more than 5x-ing over last year.”

Conversational Marketing firm Drift, which recently broadened its vision to Revenue Acceleration, landed at #21 on the list.  Drift offers chatbots, email, video, and a new Prospector service for intent monitoring.

Firms were based upon four criteria: employee growth; jobseeker interest; member engagement with the company and its employees; and how well these startups pulled talent from LinkedIn’s Top Companies list.  Startups must be no more than seven years old and have at least 50 employees.

Zoominfo Beats Back the Summertime Sales Blues

Zoominfo analyzed their Out of Office (OOO) emails and phone call connection rates over the past year to determine whether there was a dog days of summer impact on their business or whether it was a convenient excuse used by sales reps for taking their foot off the pedal in July and August.  It turns out that there is a sustained drop off in phone connectivity and an increase in OOO messaging in July and August.  For Zoominfo, the potential income loss was equal to $400,000 in monthly new Annual Contract Value (ACV).

Brian Setzer as Eddie Cochrane playing “Summertime Blues” in La Bamba

If we extend that loss over the last week of June and the first week of September, the summer lull would result in a million dollars in lost ACV (half a million dollars in 2020 revenue, but that is only because subscription revenue is recognized over the length of the contract, not when booked).

But a firm like Zoominfo has a very high retention rate, so stratifying the million dollars over the lifetime value (LTV) of the lost opportunities means that the cumulative LTV is likely in excess of $5 million (their 2019 dollar based net retention rate was 109%)

For a company that went IPO in June after touting strong new ACV growth in their May S-1, new revenue growth is key in maintaining confidence in your revenue teams.

“How did we respond to this data?  By stepping on the gas – we sent out an additional ~14k+ emails (~10% of normal volume) over the past two months and making an additional ~23k dials (~35% of normal volume) per month. 

Sales is — and always will be — a contact sport. 

This is just one of the reasons why it’s so important to have a vast array of contacts at prospects. Without being able to tap into our own data this wouldn’t have been possible.  That’s not cheap promotion, it’s a fact.”

Zoominfo CEO Henry Schuck

Around 90% of Zoominfo’s revenue is domestic, so they aren’t dealing with the long August vacations taken in Europe. The strategy of working harder over the summer allowed them to maintain new ACV growth during a soft period, but it might not be effective in Europe when business activity is reduced much more significantly.

OOO messages often provide alternate contacts that may be part of the buying committee. Acting on this intelligence and extending relationships to additional decision makers and influencers may improve both current and future close rates.

Zoominfo has a reputation for effective revenue operations management. They assumed the summer doldrum lore to be true and double downed on their outbound communications. But they also measured their sales and marketing efficiency to better understand the nature of the summer slowdown, allowing them to model and refine their summer sales strategy in the coming years.

Source: Zoominfo Blog, “Leveraging Sales Intelligence in the Dog Days of Summer

6Sense – Outreach Integration

A new 6Sense integration with Outreach helps reps plan account activities from within their CRM and then take actions through the Outreach Sales Engagement Platform.  6Sense insights help reps “prioritize their Outreach strategy, understand their buyers, and time their outreach based on AI-driven predictions of where accounts are in the buying journey.”

6Sense warms up accounts and determines when they are in-market and ready for sales outreach.  With a single click on a contact record, reps can start an Outreach sequence.  If a sequence is already underway, the rep is notified.

“The combination of having comprehensive account and contact data, the right workflow, a customized cadence, and personalized messaging based on buyer behavior can be the difference between a loss and a win,” blogged 6Sense.

The two platforms are complementary with 6Sense managing marketing outreach, enriching data, and scoring prospects and Outreach managing multi-channel sales communications, including email, phone call, text message, social media, direct mail, video, and calendaring.

While SEP ecosystem profiles often rehash features and one partner’s messaging, 6Sense and Outreach focused on their joint value proposition:

“For customers of 6sense and Outreach, our partnership means a union of insight and education around intent and engagement data necessary to target the right accounts and contacts, as well as the predictable, real-time pace at which to engage and ultimately increase conversion rates.  Sales intelligence technology such as ours helps sales reps focus on the more human moments throughout the buyer journey.  Together, 6sense and Outreach help marketing and sales spend less on the time-consuming, calculated risks of sifting through seemingly qualified leads and haphazardly reaching out to them.”

6Sense Blog

The partners highlighted additional benefits, including more relevant sales conversations based upon 6Sense sales intelligence, expanding messaging across the buying committee, and next-best-action recommendations that help reps “better prioritize their day and make stronger connections with buyers.”

SalesLoft Plug-in for Sugar Sell

BrainSell announced the immediate availability of their SalesLoft Plug-in for Sugar Sell.  The native integration provides SalesLoft multi-channel, cadence-based sales engagement from within SugarCRM.  The plug-in supports data syncing for Accounts, Contacts, Leads, Emails, Calls, and user data.  SugarCRM customers can create, update, and convert leads inside of SalesLoft.

“With the Sugar Sell integration, mutual customers gain an automated data flow between both systems.  This means users maximize efficiency with less manual data processes and streamlined employee workflows,” wrote BrainSell.

“SugarCRM’s no-touch, time-aware customer experience platform acts as the nucleus of your company’s tech ecosystem to help companies create customers for life.  We’re proud to have a partner like BrainSell focused on innovating the way they help customers grow.  This integration completely streamlines and optimizes sales and development reps’ productivity by giving them tools like SalesLoft designed specifically for their role, all while ensuring data is pushed back and forth between Sugar Sell.”

Clint Oram, Chief Strategy Officer of SugarCRM

“At SalesLoft, we take pride in the deep partnerships we have with companies like BrainSell to maximize the value our customers gain from using our solution,” said Sean Kester, SalesLoft VP of Platform Strategy.  “With partners like BrainSell, we’re excited to expand the value of our platform by enabling our customers to integrate all their data in Sugar Sell, all while positioning sales teams to continue working within SalesLoft.”

The integration is available through SugarOutfitters for $2,495 per year for an unlimited number of users.  The connector supports SugarCRM 7.0.0 and above.

Last month, BrainSell released a similar plug-in for Outreach.  It is also available through SugarOutfitters for $2,495.

Alyce Partners with Vidyard

Continuing on the Vidyard theme from yesterday, Personal Experience platform Alyce has integrated Vidyard into its e-gifting service.  The Vidyard partnership lets customers record or insert personalized videos “within the Alyce gifting flow, helping sales reps create deeper, more personal bonds and connections with prospects and customers.”

Alyce customers with a Vidyard Enterprise account may insert videos from the Vidyard library or record a custom video that is displayed on the Alyce gift landing page.  Recommended gifts are based on an AI analysis of the “#5to9” experiences of individuals, ensuring that the gift and messaging are better targeted than generic swag and marketing templates.

As Sales Engagement platforms have noted improved open and response rates associated with personalized video, it is likely that customers and prospects will well receive a recorded message.  Alyce claims up to a 50% improvement in click-through rates when personal videos are included in email invitations and a nearly 80% lift in landing page conversion rates.

“Our integration with Alyce provides customers with the ultimate way to deliver end-to-end personal experiences to prospects and customers by pairing personal video and personal gifting in one platform,” said Vidyard VP of Marketing Tyler Lessard. “This partnership strengthens the movement around being personal in marketing and sales, which we and our customers embrace to build rapport and trust through the more engaging combined experience.”

Mutual customers can add a personalized video to Alyce’s email invitations.  The thumbnail and associated video help “put a face to the name, and up your ability to be personal even more.” The video also appears o the gift landing page.

Marketing can deploy campaign-based videos.  For example, a webinar follow-on Alyce message may be sent to webinar attendees or before events.

Alyce does not send a standard, generic item to customers and prospects.  Instead, recipients can choose the recommended item, select an alternate item from the Alyce gift marketplace, or donate the value of the gift to a charity of their choice.

“The Personal Experience approach has a multitude of amazing use-cases to strengthen and enhance building personal bonds and professional relationships to help grow business. Integrating Vidyard personal video into Alyce platform itself to deliver face-to-face PX moments is a game-changer.”

Greg Segall, CEO of Alyce

Direct Marketing swag companies such as Alyce, PFL, and Sendoso seem to be trying out various names for their industry.  Other frequent terms are one-to-one gifting, sending platform, and tactile marketing automation.  Personal Experience seems too far afield as e-gifting usually involves swag, not services.

Alyce is based in Boston and has 170 employees in seven countries.

Vidyard Platform Enhancements

Vidyard redesigned its video creation and collaboration platform with a set of enhanced editing and security features.  New capabilities include a Zoom integration, updates to its video hosting platform, an Android app, video commenting, and single sign-on (SSO) security.  

The service continues to be available on a freemium basis with a series of tiers from free to enterprise (see the pricing table on the right).

Vidyard added new on-screen drawing and highlighting tools to its webcam and screen recording service.  Users can customize videos by highlighting their screens with a variety of brush sizes and colors.  When recording their screen and webcam at the same time, users can move their camera window on-the-fly to avoid covering up important visuals.   Users may also add speaker’s notes, bullets, and talking points “on-screen, directly above their webcam.”

Vidyard updated its iOS app and added an Android app, helping users “record and share videos anytime, anywhere.” Videos may be quickly recorded and shared with a branded video sharing page.  Both the app and desktop applications share a common video library, providing access to the same set of pre-recorded videos.

Viewers can leave comments and replies to shared videos, allowing colleagues and prospects to collaborate, provide feedback, or ask questions.  The senders receive comment notifications to help expedite closing the communications loop.  This feature is available for Pro, Teams, and Enterprise users.

Pro, Team, and Enterprise video users may secure access via private passwords and SSO.

New enterprise features include transcribing, closed captioning, video thumbnail customization, viewer permissioning, and publishing to public and private channels.

A new Zoom integration for Business and Enterprise licensors lets users automatically sync recorded Zoom calls into their accounts once the call completes.  Recording security features include SSO and passwords.  Recorded sessions may be viewed on a dedicated video sharing page.

“Businesses are quickly evolving their sales, marketing, and communications strategies to align with a digital-first communication world.  Video is a huge part of that, as it’s simply more efficient, more expressive, and more effective than standard text.  Today’s businesses need a simpler, smarter, and more scalable way to put the power of video into their people’s hands.  We’re excited to deliver on that need with a new breed of video creation and hosting solutions that turn any business professional into a video creator and any organization into a video-first business.”

Vidyard CEO Michael Litt

“We’re only scratching the surface of how video can be used to create a more connected, engaged, and efficient workforce in the digital age,” said Vidyard VP of Marketing Tyler Lessard. “With the barriers to video creation and sharing all but gone, we’re excited to see how businesses across all markets will capitalize on the power of video in the months and years ahead to enhance everything from sales and marketing to internal communications and employee engagement.”

Vidyard has 220 employees based in Kitchener (Ontario), Vancouver, Boston, and Dublin.  The firm’s conversion rate from freemium to paid has increased during the pandemic.


Tomorrow I will be discussing the Vidyard integration into Alyce’s Personal Experience (gifting) platform.

HubSpot Sales & Marketing COVID Activity Metrics

HubSpot has measured aggregated sales and marketing platform activity across its 70,000 customers since the pandemic began and benchmarking this activity against the pre-COVID level (January through early March).  Looking back at Q2, CMO Kipp Bodnar noted that “the data shows steady and sustained growth in buyer engagement, and that businesses with an online presence were ready to capture that interest.”

Marketing teams have risen to the challenge of keeping prospects interested in a messy, chaotic crisis and met an audience of buyers who suddenly spend all day at their computer,” commented Bodnar.  “While email volume has risen significantly — typically a no-no for teams hoping to keep their open rates up — open rates have risen faster than volume has grown, demonstrating that teams have been successful at providing relevant and helpful content.”

Marketing email open rates are up ten to twenty percent above pre-COVID levels, with the last week of June running 18% above the baseline.

Sales teams have been less successful in their outbound communications.  While sales emails have risen 60% since mid-March, “response rates have been dismal. Marketing teams have been able to connect, but sales teams haven’t. This is a huge area of opportunity for businesses as they enter the next quarter of COVID-19.”

Sales email open rates are down 25 to 30%.  “As sales teams increased email sends, customers began to tune these messages out or even mark them as spam in their inboxes,” warned Bodnar.  “So far, it seems if email send rates remain this high, we can expect response rates to trend in the opposite direction.”

“Volume and quality is a tradeoff — the time a team saves by sending out email blasts is wasted if that outreach isn’t personalized, relevant, and helpful. These gaps are clear in the data. At this point, sales teams should be working closely with marketing to understand how they can improve their email engagement rates, and sending far less email.”

HubSpot CMO Kipp Bodnar

Website traffic increased during the pandemic as decisionmakers and influencers began working from home.  Global site traffic is up 16% in Q2 vs. Q1 with it peaking at 24% above the benchmark on April 20th.  Software industry site traffic is running at 40% above pre-pandemic levels.

Customer-initiated chat levels have also risen sharply during the pandemic.  Total volume is up 31% over the pre-pandemic baseline, with every measured industry seeing increased volume.  “Sales teams have pivoted to chat to grow their pipelines, while customer service teams are leveraging this medium to manage the increased demand for support,” observed Bodnar.

Call prospecting has dropped significantly during the pandemic as it has become more difficult to reach individuals who are now working at home.  Call prospecting fell as much as 27% below baseline the week of April 6th and now is down around 9%.  Before COVID, there was a rough balance between phone and email prospecting, but in Q2, email activity doubled that of phone calls.  “Sales teams will need to return to their pre-COVID balance in order to see improvements in response rates,” argued Bodnar.

Deal Creation has improved in eight of the eleven weeks since April 6th, with deal creation up the past four weeks.  APAC deal creation was down 5% in Q2, North America down 6%, EMEA down 12%, and LATAM down 12%.  Large companies have recovered deal creation activity faster than small firms.  Computer Software deal creation was down 3% in Q2.

Deal Won has improved ten of the last eleven weeks, after dropping to 36% below baseline the week of April 6th.  For the full quarter, deals won were down 11%.  Smaller firms did best at closing deals, with larger firms posting the weakest performance, likely due to large firms selling a greater percentage of high-dollar, strategic deals that would have stalled in their pipeline.  Computer software Q2 was 14% above baseline, but this probably overstates industry performance due to Q1 often being the slowest month of the year and the loss of many “hockey stick” end of quarter deals at the end of Q1 as the pandemic struck.  Some of these likely slipped into Q2.

Bodnar provided three suggestions for Q3: invest in chat, shift from quantity to quality in sales prospecting and communications, and invest in online discoverability.

Clearbit for Clari

B2B Marketing Data vendor Clearbit partnered with Revenue Operations Platform Clari to deliver enriched contacts into CRMs.  Clari identifies external contacts from emails and meeting activity, helping fill out the buying committee.  According to Clari, only 30% of sales-engaged contacts are entered into the CRM.  By automating the contact identification process, sales reps have a clearer view of the full demand unit, allowing them to target messaging by function and recognize potential gaps in their knowledge of the buying committee.

By expanding knowledge of the demand unit, Clari can identify the broader set of decision-makers and reduce deal risk through multi-threaded relationship building.  Relying on one or two contacts has multiple risks:

  • The sales rep may not be messaging to the full demand unit
  • Their point of contact may be sidelined or leave the firm
  • Multiple points of contact may be set up dealing with different vendors, each providing a siloed perspective on the deal.
  • Post-sale, if users and administrators weren’t involved in the decision, adoption rates might be low, leading to higher churn rates.
  • The project champion may depart before renewal, forcing the rep to scramble to re-establish relationships at renewal time.

The expanded knowledge also helps marketing teams identify the key personas involved in deals and customize content and messaging.

“Now all the contacts that showed up for a sales meeting, even the ones that were added to the invite by the prospect, are automatically associated with the opportunity without your rep needing to lift a finger.”

Clari Marketing Programs Manager Maggie Kullman

Clearbit enriches the contacts with title, job function, and level. Firmographic and technographic details are also appended.

“As budgets get tighter and operating plans are reworked, having your prospects’ finance team involved early on is critical to accelerating the deal toward close,” wrote Clari Marketing Programs Manager Maggie Kullman.  “With the combination of Clari, Clearbit, and a little bit of automation, you can trigger an update to an opportunity field any time a CFO gets added to a meeting with the sales rep.  Now you can easily track which of your deals are missing a critical decision-maker and take actions to drive that relationship.”

Demand Units are a term coined by SiriusDecisions a few years ago when they updated their Demand Waterfall model for B2B sales and marketing. Each opportunity is associated with a set of decision-makers (e.g. technical, financial, functional directors) and influencers (e.g. users, admins). Demand Unit discovery is still in the early stages of development, but looking at email headers, out of office messages, and meeting attendees is a promising approach for organically identifying buying committee members.

Outreach KAIA Meeting Assistant

Sales Engagement vendor Outreach presented its 2020 product roadmap at its Unleash virtual conference.  The most compelling announcement was Kaia, its voice-enabled sales assistant that works alongside sales reps during video calls to record, transcribe, and deliver real-time assistance.  Other new capabilities include Sequence Intent Reporting, Outreach Voice Connectors, and Bombora Intent Scores.

“I’ve been waiting five years for Outreach Kaia.  This is the most powerful tool to be introduced in the sales industry in a long time, and we are very excited to be bringing the next generation of sales technology to life,” crowed Outreach CEO Manny Medina, who demoed the digital assistant during his keynote.  “Now more than ever, sales teams need Outreach Kaia — especially when so many of them are working remotely.  Outreach Kaia’s ability to surface real-time information exactly when a sales rep needs it during a live conversation is powerful.”

“Imagine you’re on a sales call, and someone asks you a question about your product or your competitor’s pricing, and you don’t know the answer.  Well, Outreach Kaia will automatically pull up the information you need – in real-time.  This level of intelligent assistance will make sales teams productive immediately.  Outreach already drives a nearly 5x return for our customers.  Now, with Outreach Kaia, we expect that ROI to soar.”

Outreach CEO Manny Medina

Kaia (Knowledge AI Assistant) delivers guided engagement for sales reps.  At the outset, reps are shown meeting and attendee information.  Tabs provide additional details on the account and opportunity, providing a quick pre-meeting review opportunity.  As the call gets underway, real-time transcription and analysis take place so that reps do not need to jot many notes during the call.  At any point, the rep can set a bookmark or add a short note.  As the note is stored in context, it might only require a word or two (e.g. Roadblock, Budget).  

Outreach Kaia operates as a real-time intelligent assistant that supports sales reps during customer calls. It transcribes the call, sets bookmarks for review, notes attendees and action items, and provides topical summary cards.

Kaia both records and analyzes the discussion, providing in-line prompts to the rep, such as a quick overview of a third-party mentioned during the call, short answers to technical and product questions, or objection handling tips.  The answers and objection handling are customer-defined, ensuring that company-specific details are displayed on a just-in-time basis.  Not only does each content card provide a technical and product backstop for new sales reps, but it allows experienced reps to speak with confidence on more technical details or dynamic topics from which they might shy away.

Content and people cards are trackable, “so managers can see which cards produce the best results and scale these insights across their teams,” wrote Product Storyteller Sunny Bjerk.

Kaia also notes action items during the call, again relieving reps of note-taking duties.  After the call, a summary is emailed to the rep with a set of action items, bookmarks, notes, and attendees.  The rep can then customize the document and share it with other stakeholders.

Kaia is displayed as a meeting participant, with attendees alerted at the beginning of the call that is it being recorded.  Transcripts and recordings are “securely stored within Outreach, which has enterprise-grade security measures already in place.”  Transcripts are available for training or review after the call.

Outreach Kaia is available for Early Access Signup for the summer 2020 beta and will be generally available in late 2020.  It is currently available for Zoom video conferencing with additional video partners in development.