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.

D&B Optimizer: Global Contact Cleanse; Global Company Targeting

Custom Optimizer settings include match confidence, bad and dangerous email flagging, and technology enrichment.
Dun & BradstreetCustom Optimizer settings include match confidence, bad and dangerous email flagging, and technology enrichment.

This month, Dun & Bradstreet rolled out a pair of enhancements to their Workbench Data Optimizer product line.  The first release, which is already available, adds global contact cleanse and enrich functionality to the Optimizer module.  Additional features include URL matching, expanded attributes, and custom match settings.  The second release, with a planned release date of June 16th, provides global company targeting and an enhanced interface.

Our customers were asking for us to manage more of their data and for access to more of our data.  So, we really went for it with this release.  For one, we can now append up to 190 different data attributes.  We can also process contact records outside of the US.  We included 8x as many web domains to match to.  We added data stewardship rules to pass control to the customer.  Finally, we modernized the user experience.  If you combine all of this with the work we did to enhance our email verification process in March, it adds up to a complete solution for optimizing marketing data.

  • Director of Product Management John Zilch

Dun & Bradstreet acquired NetProspex and its Contact Optimizer product in January 2015 and has continued to invest in the offering.  The original product was already quite useful as it supported contact validation (email, phone, address), technographic enrichment (HG Data product vendor data), a freemium Data Health report, and segmentation analysis.  Post-acquisition, Dun & Bradstreet integrated WorldBase firmographics, linkage, and D-U-N-S Numbers into the product and implemented DUNSMatch logic for match and enrich.  More recently, they enhanced their Marketo and Eloqua connectors and added a Profiler module which supports advanced segmentation analysis and net-new account and contact prospecting based upon current accounts.  The most recent release continues the product evolution.

Data Insights Analysis (New UX)
Data Insights Analysis (New UX)

The Optimizer module first matches using company name, address, and phone.  If it is unable to match to specific locations, URL matching is performed as a secondary match process.  The firm has 8.3 million mapped domains.  Domain matching associates contacts and companies with D-U-N-S Numbers and associated firmographics.  However, domain matching is less accurate as it is likely to map to the ultimate parent or a major subsidiary (if the subsidiary has a separate domain).  Thus, domain matching is more generalized.  It should be noted, however, that several vendors only offer domain matching so using domains as a secondary match algorithm still provides stronger matching and enrichment than these vendors.

Domain matching is also useful when address information and phone information is not provided by leads.

Dun & Bradstreet extended the number of fields available for matching to over 170 from their SDMR “Strategic Layout.”  As the firm offers custom layouts, admins can choose which fields to map between Optimizer and their company and contact data sets.

Custom Optimizer settings include match confidence, bad and dangerous email flagging, and technology enrichment.
Custom Optimizer settings include match confidence, bad and dangerous email flagging, and technology enrichment.

Users can also employ confidence codes for matching (they recommend using match confidence levels of six or higher for the “best quality and output”) or select from turnkey file layouts.  Thus, matches based on the name (but not address) or address (but not name) are excluded.  Workbench supports native integrations with Eloqua (Oracle Cloud) and Marketo for lead matching.  Contact matching adds phone; job title, phone, and level; social handles; and firmographics.

On June 16th, the firm will begin adding net-new accounts to its Target module.  Target defaults to US companies but can also be run at the global or country level.  Coverage has been expanded to 110 million companies including 9 million UK entities.

When prospecting in Target, users are provided with four counts:

  1. Contact Records Company Type (emails)
  2. Contact Records Campaign Type (emails and phones)
  3. Company Records Firmographics
  4. Cookies and Mobile ID’s for programmatic and mobile targeting

Emails have a 90% confidence rate for deliverability.

ReachForce Unveils 3×360 Lead Hygiene

Data Quality Automation vendor ReachForce unveiled a new technology update it calls “3×360.”  The new release provides improved visibility & control, full-spectrum intelligence, and implementation & integration flexibility.  The MarTech hygiene platform provides real-time data enrichment, cleansing, and updating for Marketo, Eloqua (Oracle), Silverpop (IBM), Hubspot, and Salesforce.  The improved technology enhances both their SmartForms web form enrichment and Continuous Data Management services.

“Marketing technology stack options continue to evolve and change, however, a single fundamental factor remains unchanged in determining the success of any marketing operation – the quality and depth of the marketing lead data that flows through it,” said ReachForce CEO Bob Riazzi. “With our 3X360 update we’ve worked hard to consider multiple aspects of the marketing technologist’s needs and are proud to introduce a full spectrum of new product capabilities that will support them and the way they leverage data through their tech stacks. And why 3X360?…well, we’re a bunch of geeks from Austin.”

A new 360° Console provides a central dashboard for tracking lead enrichment and data quality.  Analytics include

  • The health of web forms that use SmartForms and the enriched leads submitted.
  • Rich drill-down reporting for Submits by form, Abandons by form, Match Rate by Geo and Marketable Submits.
  • [A] “Service Snapshot” provides summaries of enriched leads, match rate & usage enabling timely tracking and management of service contract.
ReachForce Service Snapshot for SmartForms
ReachForce Service Snapshot for SmartForms

Future Console enhancements include “client-driven configuration management and on-demand file uploads for immediate data quality improvements and enrichment.”

While ReachForce has long provided firmographic enrichment combined with contact validation and verification, they are now supporting contact-level data enrichment.  The new matching capability enriches leads with business card details, job role and function, and a social profile.

SmartForms before and after Contact Enrichment.
SmartForms before and after Contact Enrichment.

ReachForce simplified their SmartForms integration via a “simple, one-line implementation” for one or multiple forms.  The new functionality helps marketers rollout SmartForms “via multiple unique configurations without additional implementation steps.”  Their JavaScript API also “allows developers to integrate SmartForms into dynamic lead form workflows and enables decision-making based on individual SmartForms interactions.”

DiscoverOrg Data Quality Put to the Test

DiscoverOrg contact and firmographic intelligence displayed within SFDC.
DiscoverOrg contact and firmographic intelligence displayed within Salesforce.com.

Sales Trainer Steve W. Martin recently ran an independent study of DiscoverOrg contact data quality which found that the vendor lives up to its high quality data claims and SLA.  According to Martin, “DiscoverOrg had no foreknowledge that I was measuring their data accuracy and no influence over the sample data set I used.”

Martin randomly selected 100 contacts from a file of 10,000 and conducted the study himself.  He evaluated seven fields and found very high data quality levels:

  • Full Name Accuracy was 99%, including spelling.
  • Contact Company name was 98%
  • Title Accuracy was 96%
  • LinkedIn URL accuracy was 97%.  The three contacts that lacked LinkedIn URLs confirmed that they did not have LinkedIn profiles.
  • Seniority Level accuracy was 100%
  • 97% of the emails were deliverable with only a 3% bounce rate.  As contacts decay at a 2% rate per month, 97% is at the upper end of expectations.
  • Twitter Handles were correct 100% of the time, but only 10% of the contacts had the field populated.

With the exception of Twitter handles where there is likely a significant underpopulation of the field, the dataset lived up to its 95% SLA and data quality claims.  It should be noted that Martin did not evaluate DiscoverOrg’s technographics, org chart relationships, responsibility data, or event alerts.  These are other areas where their editorial data distinguishes the firm.

“This study confirms what I have personally heard from a wide cross-section of the technology companies I work with,” said Martin.  “DiscoverOrg provides highly accurate contact data. In addition, this study was based on a small subset of the data that DiscoverOrg provides. Of primary importance to my clients are the detailed IT organization charts, the identification of the different technologies installed, recent trigger events such as personnel changes, and the direct phone numbers of contacts.”

These types of studies are often expensive to conduct and difficult to construct when comparing vendors.  I performed similar studies as internal benchmarks when I worked at OneSource (now D&B Hoovers) and for clients since becoming a consultant and no vendors approach this level of data quality (Note: I have never evaluated RainKing which utilizes similar data collection methods).  What is clear is that the smaller universe, editorially-crafted DiscoverOrg file of 60,000 companies and 1 1/2 million contacts clearly has higher contact data quality than other vendors (again, excluding RainKing).  When discussing DiscoverOrg and RainKing with clients, I describe them as using traditional artisanal research methods which entail focusing on a smaller universe of companies and contacts at these companies.  This approach makes for a strong fit for firms employing an ABM approach to target large accounts, but may be insufficient for more transactional marketing approaches which are more sales development and demand generation focused.  Both cost and lack of coverage of SMBs would be issues at those firms.

“Bad data is costly and can be the single point of failure in an otherwise successful campaign,” says the firm on their website.  “We don’t just pay lip-service to the quality of our data. We contractually guarantee it. We know that success in every sales and marketing effort begins with highly accurate, verified data that your team can trust.”

What is clear is that this quality-centric approach to gathering data has proven successful.  Both RainKing and DiscoverOrg have high growth rates and regular Inc. 5000 membership.  DiscoverOrg closed last year with $71 million in annualized recurring revenue so is almost assured of making the Inc. list for the seventh year in a row.

Martin published his results online as a PDF.

Trillium Software Sold to SyncSort

"Why Good Data Matters" Statistics from Trillium Software
“Why Good Data Matters” Statistics from Trillium Software

Harte-Hanks, which has been looking to sell off its Trillium Software data quality division for several quarters, found an acquirer in SyncSort.  The $112 million transaction will combine the data quality and integration capabilities of the two firms with a focus on extending Trillium services into the Hadoop big data platform.  The transaction is subject to regulatory approval.

“With most large enterprises making significant investments in Big Data for business and operational analytics, core data integration and data quality workloads are moving into Hadoop at a rapid pace,” said SyncSort CEO Josh Rogers. “As a pioneer in bringing high-performance data integration software to the Hadoop ecosystem, Syncsort sees an opportunity to extend our unique value with Trillium’s proven, best-of-breed data quality products. Together, we are a clear leader in the data integration and data quality market, and the logical choice for large enterprises seeking to chart a path to Hadoop. We look forward to working closely with Trillium’s customers and investing in the great products they have come to rely on.”’

Harte-Hanks has been slimming itself down the past few years.  They sold off both their publishing group and Trillium Software and spun off Aberdeen Services (Aberdeen market research and Access CI technology database).

“Our announcement today is the result of a comprehensive process to maximize the value of the Trillium Software business in the growing Data Quality and Data Governance segment,” said Harte-Hanks CEO Karen Puckett. “Now Harte Hanks can wholly focus resources on our core strengths and capitalize on our unique combination of marketing strategy, analytics, and execution capabilities. The sale of Trillium Software, along with the cost reduction program we implemented in 2016, provides Harte Hanks with a stronger balance sheet as we move the Company on its path toward revenue stability and historically strong cash flows and improved profitability.”

In a recent Magic Quadrant on Data Quality Tools, Gartner placed Trillium in the Leaders quadrant and gave them high marks for the “strength and stability” of their core profiling, parsing, standardization, and matching functionality.  Trillium also was noted for its “strong mind share and a very long and solid track record of delivering data quality solutions” and its growth in the cloud-based deployments.

On the negative side, Gartner noted concerns about pricing, “ease of installation, upgrade, and migration,” and the uncertainty that surrounds the Harte-Hanks divestment (the analysis was prior to the announcement).

Social123 Rebrands as Synthio

Synthio Logo

Social123 has rebranded as Synthio to emphasize the “synthesis and maintenance of data sources.”  The rename denotes a shift from data provision to “empowering users with a Data as a Service platform that automates synthesizing non-standard and free-form data into clean, standardized, and impactful solutions.”

The firm also discussed its SynthCenter platform which supports  the following legacy functionality:

  • SynthSearch: Company and contact searching
  • SynthEnrich: Database enrichment spanning 45 fields

And new capabilities:

  •  SynthClean: Merge datasets; remove duplicates; normalize titles, company names, and phone numbers; and validate email addresses and URLs.
  • SynchConnect: Connect freemail email addresses to B2B email addresses and personas
  • SynchTech: Enriches company records with installed technology including back-end platforms.
  • SynthForce: A Salesforce connector for I-frame display of contact information and news.
  • SynthCard: A digital business card following SynthSearch
  • SynthBridge: Integrations with Oracle Marketing Cloud (Eloqua), Marketo, and HubSpot.  The Eloqua and Marketo connectors support SynthSearch and SynthAppend.  The HubSpot connector enriches leads with contact and firmographic intelligence.

The firm did not discuss whether they license their technology data or gather it directly.

“Our goal is to put the new SynthCenter platform squarely in the middle of a modern marketer’s stack,” said Synthio CEO Aaron Biddar. “As marketing and technology management converge, marketers find themselves with the new responsibility of managing increasingly large and complex datasets. Unfortunately, they are still using tools designed for a simpler, email centric, world. The new SynthCenter platform is designed to address and ease many of these pain points, and comprehensively make contact data more accurate, more standardized, and more ingestible directly into major Marketing Automation Platforms and CRM systems. With SynthCenter, users now have actionable intelligence, not just spreadsheets of contact data.”

Synthio’s database spans 320 million contacts gathered from social and other sources.  Emails are validated in real-time.  The firm claims a 40% append rate, but that is dependent upon the quality of the customer’s match file.

Services are available on both a subscription and pay as you go model.

Synthio has been growing rapidly.  Last year, Social123 ranked #377 on the “Inc. 5000” list with a 123% three-year Compound Average Growth Rate (CAGR) on $2.8 million in 2015 revenue.

Synthio (FKA Social123) Use Cases
Synthio (FKA Social123) Use Cases

Zoominfo: Expanded Enrichment Attributes

New Zoominfo attributes include employment counts by function, marketing and e-commerce product flags, ranking variables, country presence flags, etc.
New Zoominfo attributes include employment counts by function, marketing and e-commerce product flags, ranking variables, country presence flags, etc.

Sales and Marketing Intelligence vendor Zoominfo expanded their prospecting selects with the launch of a new attributes feature spanning two hundred filter variables including sales and marketing technologies used, department sizes and structures, locations, founding date, Alexa website ranking, presence of a warehouse, international locations, and existence of a mobile application.

With Company Attributes, customers have a simpler, more efficient way to determine which accounts will offer the greatest ROI and to pinpoint key decision-makers and influencers.  Using this new feature on top of our existing Growth Acceleration Platform gives marketing and sales professionals one unified source for actionable marketing insight.  Our customers have been able to find information on decision-makers and influencers at key accounts through our powerful prospecting functionalities.  Now, with the launch of Company Attributes, they can go deeper into each of their target accounts using additional insights, allowing them to predict and repeat business success.”

  • Hila Nir, Vice President of Marketing and Product at ZoomInfo.

The two hundred variable count is overstated by 40% due to splitting many variables into ranges.  Thus, 75 variables consists of five employee counts across fifteen job functions.  Nevertheless, the growth in high-value selects (e.g. Uses Marketo, Has Locations in Brazil) is impressive.

75 of the 200 new attributes consist of five employee count ranges across fifteen categories or other multi-ranged variable sets.
75 of the 200 new attributes consist of five employee count ranges across fifteen categories or other multi-ranged variable sets.

Similar bands are also applied for location counts, years since founding, Alexa rank, bank branch counts, bank assets, and credit union branches.

Amongst the other variables are 29 technology selects with a focus on marketing automation and e-commerce and 27 location flags spanning countries and regions.  The full set of new attributes is available in their knowledgebase.

Zoominfo’s Growth Acceleration Platform has expanded to 175 million executives (active and inactive) and 13 million companies.