D&B Hoover’s Enhancements: COVID-19 Impact Index

Soon after the pandemic began, Dun & Bradstreet developed a COVID-19 index which allowed companies to assess the pandemic risk to their loan portfolio, suppliers, and customer base. The firm moved to further enable analysis by implementing the scores within their D&B Hoovers sales and marketing intelligence platform.

“The COVID-19 Impact Index provides insight into how the Coronavirus pandemic is impacting a company’s location, industry, and financial strength,” wrote VP of Product Management McWade.  “This data can help you actively monitor the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on accounts and prospects and refine targeting strategies accordingly.”

“The Index assesses impacts to a business based on the proximity of corporate locations to the pandemic, as well as the level of disruption to the company’s network due to site suppliers and business customers impacted by the pandemic.  Each week, the company and network situation are assessed, and a score ranging from highest to low is assigned to five key impact areas to provide visibility into the level of disruption that may be impacting the account.”

D&B VP of Product Management Phil McWade

The new index is displayed in the Company Summary with simple Green / Yellow / Red indexing.  The five variables have also been added to the Advanced Insights section of Search & Build a List.

The COVID-19 Impact Index Variables are

  1. Financial Impact – Leverages Dun & Bradstreet’s trade credit and risk data to understand financial health by assessing a company’s ability to meet payment obligations, as well as the probability of declaring bankruptcy, experiencing significant financial distress, engaging in M&A activity, and other high-risk activities.
  2. Location Impact – Reviews business site and corporate family locations subject to lockdown, stay-at-home, and shelter-in-place orders and weighs this information by the number of confirmed cases and growth in cases by location.  Country, state, county, and city-level location restrictions are assessed.  Local hospitalization rates are also factored into the variables.
  3. Industry Impact – Looks at industry impact signals to understand industry-associated risk by identifying essential businesses, which can operate remotely, require the physical presence of customers, and need employees to be at a central location.
  4. Overall Impact without Network Effects – Combines the financial, location, and industry impact indicators to determine the overall risk of the business.
  5. Overall Impacts with Network Effects – Reviews business connections with other organizations, such as customers, suppliers, or other third parties, to understand impacts on the company’s network.  This score provides the most comprehensive view of the current situation by adding network impacts to the company’s financial, location, and industry elements.

In Build a List, sales reps can filter for companies that are less impacted by COVID-19.  For territory reps located in hotspots, the location filter should be removed so they can identify companies that are better sheltered from the pandemic.  For example, both Carnival Cruises and Univision are headquartered in Miami, but Carnival would be a weak prospect due to COVID (all five indicators are highest) while Univision would be a good target (Location is highest, but the remaining variables are low).  Conversely, verticalized reps that sell into one or a few industries would omit the industry risk variable but include the location variable.  This strategy would identify firms that are otherwise low risk.

Lists can be saved as SmartLists of low-risk prospects that are updated weekly.

COVID-19 Index variables should not be employed as ABM variables for determining which companies to target strategically.  The variables are ephemeral and are unlikely to align with strategic fit.  However, they provide a valuable overlay to ABM lists for focusing on companies that are better sheltered from the economic and operational impacts of the pandemic.  They also provide a warning flag to Customer Success Managers and Account Executives around which firms may be looking to downgrade or churn, allowing sales to plan for one-time discounts, additional services, or alternative financing terms.

Variables are view-only in the desktop and CRM editions, but not downloadable to the desktop or synced with CRMs.  

The index variables are global.


Other recent enhancements to D&B Hoovers were discussed yesterday.

CIO Concerns – July 2020

Boardroom Insiders CEO Sharon Gillenwater discussed the top of mind issues for CIOs due to the pandemic.  Initially, the CIOs’ focus was on transitioning to work from home along with tightened security.  There were also “stepped up initiatives around cloud, automation, and e-commerce in order to keep the business running.  In fact, COVID-19 did more to speed up their digital transformation plans than anything else in recent history.”

“You can’t speed up the culture of an organization. You can roll out technology maybe faster… You have to be careful about speed over perfection. Speed is one thing, but you have to make sure that you don’t introduce any security risks, so it’s sort of combining those two things together [that] I think is extremely important at this time.”

Box CIO Paul Chapman

The Boardroom Insiders research team spent two weeks reviewing recent CIO interviews and identified five positive by-products of the pandemic that are improving the resiliency and capabilities of the enterprise.  First off, tech leaders have emphasized upskilling and reskilling their teams to address skills gaps.  Tech vendors have rolled out “a whole host of free training and education programs.”  As these programs are virtual, CIOs are encouraging their staff to attend these sessions with zero travel costs and registration fees.

Likewise, CIOs are using the time at home to hone their leadership, communication, and team engagement skills.  CIOs have found their teams to be more productive, collaborative, and agile, with rising morale.

The third silver lining is the acceptance and integration of new tools into business workflows.  Many of these changes were a necessity due to operational dislocations, but these new tools are “driving new levels of productivity and employee self-service across the enterprise.”

The work from home experience has also served as a “future of work lab” which forced executives and managers to “rethink business processes.”  This rethinking has “driven a wave of innovation internally” and let management observe how a remote workforce behaves.  This forced experiment has helped CIOs “map out a vision of what the future of work should really look like at their companies.”

Finally, the pandemic has encouraged CIOs to test and revise their business continuity plans and enhance security tools and protocols, readying the firm for the next crisis.

Gillenwater described the current situation as a balance between navigating COVID and growth-focused initiatives:

  • Evolving work-from-home into a long-term roadmap for the future-of-work
  • Enabling security everywhere and agile/mobile/digital/cloud everything
  • Scenario and business continuity planning, in an attempt to plan for future changes and challenges
  • Accelerating digital initiatives, at a pace that many say they’ve never seen before 
  • Cost cuts/expense management, an inevitability in an economically trying time 
  • Reprioritization and refocusing of IT investments and projects
  • eCommerce, as part of the rush to digitize
  • Innovation, to identify and capitalize on future opportunities 

Microsoft Global Skills Initiative

Microsoft launched a global skills initiative to provide digital training to 25 million global workers.  The online courses will be delivered through Microsoft, LinkedIn, and GitHub.  

A new “System of Learning” app will be released later this year on Microsoft Teams.

“Increasingly, one of the key steps needed to foster a safe and successful economic recovery is expanded access to the digital skills needed to fill new jobs.  And one of the keys to a genuinely inclusive recovery are programs to provide easier access to digital skills for people hardest hit by job losses, including those with lower incomes, women, and underrepresented minorities.”

Microsoft President Brad Smith

The Microsoft Data Science team leveraged the LinkedIn Economic Graph to estimate global digital job growth over the next half-decade.  Microsoft estimates that by 2025, there will be 100 million new software development positions, 20 million cloud and data roles, 20 million data analysis, machine learning, and AI jobs, and 10 million cybersecurity, privacy, and trust roles.

LinkedIn has already setup digital training tracks for ten of these key positions: Software Developer, Sales Rep, Project Manager, IT Administrator, Customer Service Specialist, Digital Marketing Specialist, IT Support / Help Desk, Data Analyst, Financial Analyst, and Graphic Designer.  These roles were selected as they have “the greatest number of job openings, have had steady growth over the past four years, pay a livable wage, and require skills that can be learned online.”

Microsoft noted that investment in employee training has declined over the past few decades, leaving fewer employees with on-the-job or employer paid training benefits. Since 2008, investment has remained flat.

“Exacerbating the challenge is the fact that existing training is not reaching the populations who need it most. On-the-job training far outpaces distance learning and other alternative modes, limiting options for prospective employees. Perhaps more significantly, on-the-job training is more than two times as prevalent among workers who are already in higher-skilled roles, leaving those in more automatable positions even more vulnerable to displacement.”

Microsoft President Brad Smith

Emphasis on Virtual Training

The availability of low cost or free training tools is one of the silver linings from the pandemic. Boardroom Insiders, a profiler of C-level biographies and executive concerns, spent two weeks reviewing recent CIO interviews. They observed that technology leaders have emphasized upskilling and reskilling their teams to address skills gaps while working from home.  Tech vendors have rolled out “a whole host of free training and education programs.”  As these programs are virtual, CIOs are encouraging their staff to attend these sessions with zero travel costs and reduced or waived registration fees.

Likewise, CIOs are using the time at home to hone their leadership, communication, and team engagement skills.  CIOs have found their teams to be more productive, collaborative, and agile, with rising morale.

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.

D&B: Pipeline Health Analysis for Risk Reduction and Targeting Ideal Customers

Dun & Bradstreet, which has been running pipeline health analyses for its clients over the past three weeks, assessed over 35 million accounts across 125 pipelines.  They found that 21% of accounts were subject to high financial risk based on several factors: slow payment, bankruptcy, unpaid debt, and business viability, a statistic which VP of Product Marketing, Dun & Bradstreet Sales & Marketing Solutions Dennis Olcay called “jarring:”

“We continue to keep a close eye on this number, but that is a jarring statistic that demands attention as it relates to go-to-market strategies,” wrote Olcay.

“The dominant theme of our customer conversations today is how to be both sensitive and impactful in the new environment.  We have found the new environment has unleashed entirely new forms of sales and marketing campaigns – far less driven by self-positioning and more characterized by seeking to meet customers where they are.”

Digital Marketing Solutions CRO Michael McCarroll

Dun & Bradstreet offered a high-level risk segmentation based upon SIC codes and each industry’s risk profile (see chart on the right).  Industries were stratified across five categories: Essential businesses (e.g. food supply, hospitals), Supports Remote (i.e. businesses which were able to transition to WFH), requires contact (e.g. hospitality, entertainment), delivery-based retail (e-commerce, e-delivery, logistics), and central production (e.g. manufacturing, natural resource extraction). 

Dun & Bradstreet cautions that simple SIC analysis is only the first pass in performing a risk assessment.  Firms may be in the same industry but have different go-to-market and operational strategies that impact their risk profile.  Another factor is their exposure to supply chain and customer risk.

“Despite the promise of MarTech to enable speed and scale for your go-to-market strategy, this is a time to hit the pause button and rethink your go-to-market approach,” cautioned Olcay.  “Don’t sacrifice tailored messaging for the sake of scale and speed to market – the additional thought you put in now to think about fit, intent, and risk will pay dividends when your audiences notice you’re empathizing with them and offering real value that aligns to the specific challenges they are experiencing.”

And Dun & Bradstreet isn’t the only firm that is promoting pipeline analyses for its clients. Zoominfo is offering a similar service which I will cover in my next blog. If you don’t know where to find revenue in June and Q3, a pipeline analysis is an excellent place to start.

Dun & Bradstreet and DueDil (UK) are offering industry barometers to help refine your targeting. Vertical IQ is offering industry-specific pandemic analysis as part of its industry overviews. Experian is providing a regional and industry analysis by risk level.

And on the marketing side, HubSpot has been publishing weekly marketing metrics for their 70,000 customers. Data includes deal open rates, deal close rates, email prospecting, site visit rates etc. Users can even drill down by segment and country to benchmark their sales and marketing performance against peers. The most recent analysis is for the week of May 18.

Outreach Preaches Strategic Pivoting

CEO Manny Medina used his Outreach Unleash virtual conference, which was rescheduled from an early April live event, to inspire and motivate leaders to pivot their businesses.  Noting that his company nearly failed before finding value in some internal sales engagement tools that saved his company, he discussed two strategies for companies: hunkering down or pivoting.  His recommendation was to pivot into new markets, products, and messaging.  For most companies, their “customer’s realities have changed, and the old value proposition won’t work.”  

Some will hunker down, pare employees, marketing, and spend, hoping to wait out the storm.  This is a survival strategy, but it leaves the company weakened when things improve and demand returns.  Hunkering down assumes that the current situation is temporary and won’t have a long-term impact on their markets.  Firms that hunker down may survive, but they cede market share, ongoing product development, and an understanding of evolving market requirements.  Bolder competitors continue to build their product, establish relationships, and prepare for the thaw.

There are a few companies in segments where demand is exploding.  These lucky firms need to manage explosive growth around e-commerce, e-delivery, or digital services.  To these firms, Outreach is asking how can we best meet your needs?  But most companies do not fall into those categories.

“A lot of customers are coming to us looking for guidance on how to get through this.  They want insight into how to manage their teams remotely and how to pivot their business.”

Outreach CEO Manny Medina

Medina recommends pivoting in search of new markets, products, and opportunities.  Doing so requires that firms carefully analyze their skills, assets, and messaging.  Firms need to “measure and iterate,” “be one with the customer,” and “act with urgency.”  Sales reps and management need to be doing more check-ins with clients.  The goal isn’t to be selling today, but sharing ideas, building trust, and empathetically discussing needs.  Sales reps need to be disciplined and ”listen to understand, not to respond,” while management must identify new markets, personas, and messaging.

Medina views the pandemic and subsequent crisis in demand as an opportunity to grow, become more efficient, and get closer to one’s customers.  In a shrinking market, the bold may not grow revenue; still, they will increase market share, investigate new opportunities, and build relationships, which will allow them to outperform when the market improves.

Outreach is “working hard to master the ability to create trusting relationships — at a distance,” said Medina.  “Only two months ago, it was religion that you needed to meet someone in person to build trust – now we are doing it all over video.”

Now, COVID has given everyone an excuse to come in below their number this year.  However, you have no excuse for not answering yes to the following questions.

– Did your teams become more efficient?
– Did you iterate and pivot until you found a sweet spot that worked?
– Did you level up your sales process to make WFH successful?

Now is the time to act on the things you CAN control.  To build for the future.

Outreach CMO Max Altschuler

Internally, Medina has emphasized communications, switching from weekly emails to weekly videos and weekly office hours via Zoom.  “It helps me be visible and showcase both a serious tone and an optimistic one.”

Outreach is also building loyalty amongst its staff.  It has retained all of its 550 employees.  To assist WFH parents, Outreach is providing $100 per week for educational materials, tutoring, tools, and supplies.   Outreach has also provided additional support beyond its healthcare plan to employee families impacted by COVID-19.

Outreach chose not to apply for PPP loans even though its investors suggested they do so.  The firm, however, continues to invest 40% of its revenue in product development, preparing for the next market inflection point.

Outreach also chose to continue its expansion. It opened a London EMEA office in February with plans to its first East Coast office in New York City later this year.  The firm has over 400 clients headquartered in NYC, nearly ten percent of its customer base.  The new office will be led by Regional VP David Rubenstein who has over fifteen years of industry experience, the past six years at Salesforce.

Zoominfo Reaffirms IPO Plans

I have put together a detailed analysis of Zoominfo as it prepares for its IPO. The analysis is based upon twenty years of experience in the Sales & Marketing Intelligence Space, the past eight as an independent analyst.

Topics include an Overview, COVID Impact, Risks, Market Overview, Key Industry Trends, Content & Functionality, Growth Strategy Analysis, SWOT Analysis, and Key Events. The 100+ slide presentation is bundled with a phone consult. If you are interested in licensing the analysis, please contact me.

I also publish a weekly subscription newsletter which covers Sales & Marketing, B2B DaaS, and B2B Data. Here is my article on the planned IPO:


Zoominfo reaffirmed its plans to IPO, possibly launching a virtual roadshow next month.  In Q1 2020, revenue nearly doubled to $102 million year-over-year.  The firm also significantly reduced its losses to $5.9 million in Q1 compared to $40.2 million in Q1 2019.  

Losses were driven by debt, much of it associated with the Zoom Information acquisition in February 2019.  EBITDA rose 55%, year-over-year, to $51 million in Q1.  At the end of Q1, long-term debt stood at $1,238.8 million.

Zoominfo included Annualized Contract Value (ACV) data in its amended prospectus.  They likely wanted to emphasize that they are doing well during the recession, and revenue figures, which are a trailing indicator of sales success at subscription services, were not going to make that case as strongly as the ACV data.

ACV grew 87% year-over-year in April, with the customer base now above 15,000.  As revenue is recognized over the life of a subscription contract, ACV increases precede revenue growth.  Prepaid subscription revenue is displayed as a Balance Sheet liability that is reversed over the lifetime of each deal.  

Paid users rose to 202,000.

Net ACV growth remains strong, with ACV increasing $9.9 million in March and $10.4 million in April.  The April growth was their best first month of any quarter, surpassing October 2019 by ten percent.

The number of customers with ACV greater than or equal to $100,000 grew from 580 on December 31, 2019, to 630 on March 31, 2020.  Over 25% of ACV is tied to multi-year contracts.

The size and date of the IPO were not disclosed.  In February, a placeholder value of $500 million was provided.  The Zoominfo NASDAQ ticker will be ZI.

“Because of our largely subscription-based business model, the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic may not be fully reflected in our results of operations and overall financial condition until future periods, if at all.”

Zoominfo Amended S-1, May 11, 2020

As the original S-1 was released before COVID-19 hit the US, this week’s amended prospectus contained the first mention of COVID as a business risk.  The pandemic has disrupted global business and could negatively impact Zoominfo’s stock price.  Zoominfo listed retail, restaurants, hospitality, airlines, oil, and gas as affected industries.  While none of these segments are part of their ICP (except for possibly their NeverBounce email verification subsidiary), they will be negatively impacted in recruitment (roughly ten percent of revenue) and event management.  Zoominfo lists recruitment as a targeted job function for ongoing development.

Furthermore, Zoominfo’s strategy is to expand beyond its moat of technology firms into broader sales intelligence and marketing services.  The recession reduces the number of favorable segments for executing this expansion strategy.

Zoominfo lists its Total Addressable Market (TAM) at $24 billion with a 2% penetration rate.

“As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, we expect we will experience slowed growth or decline in new customer demand for our platform and lower demand from our existing customers for upgrades within our platform, as well as existing and potential customers reducing or delaying purchasing decisions.”

Zoominfo Amended S-1, May 11, 2020

A secondary impact of the pandemic and subsequent recession is increased buyer negotiating power.  Customers are expecting more significant discounts and more favorable contract terms.  They are also asking for early contract terminations and waivers of payment obligations.

However, Zoominfo’s core business is reasonably well protected from the recession.  In 2019, 39% of their ACV was generated in the software industry and 29% in business services.  These segments are less exposed than retail, travel, hospitality, and energy.  Software has heavily shifted to subscription models over the past few years, making revenue less volatile.  While their core industries are subject to layoffs in revenue operations, Zoominfo offers multiple features that make sales and marketing more efficient and effective in reaching WFH buying committee members.  Features and content sets that support WFH outreach include direct-dial and mobile numbers, org charts, deep contacts across the organization, data as a service for enriching and updating enterprise software platforms, the ReachOut Chrome plug-in, ICP/TAM tools, technographics, Scoops (sales triggers), Bombora intent data, and executive change alerts.  

New services such as Form Complete (web forms), WebSights (visitor intelligence), Komiko InboxAI (email insights), and Workflows (triggered sequences) help with collecting and enriching activity data.

Zoominfo, which has significant operations in Washington, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Israel, has fully transitioned to remote employment.  They have also implemented travel restrictions and shifted to virtual event marketing.


Continue on to a post-IPO follow-up article.

Dun & Bradstreet: Business Insights for Business & Government in the Age of COVID-19

Dun & Bradstreet launched a free COVID-19 Business Impact Research Platform for government agencies.  The service provides data, analytics, and insights to government decision-makers to assist with

  • Risk mitigation and risk initiatives
  • Prioritizing emergency management and economic support programs
  • Determining workforce disruptions and supply chain risks.

British and Canadian versions of the service are in development.

Dun & Bradstreet is also providing services to FEMA, the US Small Business Administration, and the National Economic Council at the White House to assist with CARES Act funding and administration.

Small businesses may review and update business information at no charge before applying for CARES Act funding.  They can then monitor their Dun & Bradstreet scores and ratings.

“We recognize that communities are managing through unprecedented circumstances.  Our team of data scientists are lending their skills and analytics capabilities to help organizations across public and private sectors as they face the economic downturn resulting from this global pandemic. We are all in this together and consider it our duty as a trusted advisor to find ways to use our insights and mission-critical data and analytics to help businesses manage risk and turn uncertainty of the moment into confidence in the future.”

Dun & Bradstreet President Stephen C. Daffron

Dun & Bradstreet is also offering free health scan tools for supply chains, portfolios, and pipeline risk.