TechTarget Acquires ESG

TechTarget continues to build out its technology content set with the acquisition of Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), “a leading provider of decision-support content based on user research and market analysis for global enterprise technology companies.”  ESG has twenty-seven researchers and analysts who cover Cloud Services & Orchestration; Converged Infrastructure; Cybersecurity; Data Platforms, Analytics & A.I.; Data Protection; Digital Workspace; Networking; and Storage.

TechTarget called ESG a “natural complement and extension” of its value prop.  It expands TechTarget’s “decision support content” and provides it with “new fact-based, research-driven content” for sales and marketing outreach “identified by purchase intent insights.”  ESG’s segment expertise and analysis support technology purchase decisioning that extends TechTarget’s value beyond its 140+ technology research websites.

ESG works with its customers to develop custom content, including technical validation, economic analyses, and bespoke end-user research that “enables the creation of highly actionable, extremely useful, interactive content deliverables and tools.” Content types include white papers, videos, infographics, dynamic content (HTML 5), online event support, and social media support.

Clients commonly use ESG content to support product launches, competitive positioning, channel enablement, and ABM-focused outreach.  Thus, TechTarget’s websites identify who is currently in-market for specific solution types, and ESG’s custom content delivers mid-funnel tools to assist with messaging across the demand unit.

“ESG delivers highly relevant, purchase cycle-focused content specifically built to support buying and selling. As such it helps fill critical gaps that have long increased costs and cycle times on both sides of the process.  Adding depth to and building on TechTarget’s existing strengths in content, process support, and data creates clear, easily accessed value for both clients and end-users.”

ESG Founder Steve Duplessie

The ESG acquisition is TechTarget’s third over the past year.  In December, TechTarget closed on its $150 million BrightTALK purchase that provided it with event marketing and event-related intent signals.  In March, TechTarget tucked in Data Science Central, a digital publisher that focuses on data science and business analytics.

“We’re super excited about the value ESG provides to our clients and our members,” said Michael Cotoia, Chief Executive Officer, TechTarget. “Together, we can provide enterprise technology buyers much richer information support across their buyer’s journeys.  For our clients, adding ESG to the unmatched intent data and services we’ve long-provided means we can further increase their productivity gains and business yields end-to-end across go-to-markets.”

The acquisition price was not disclosed.  Both firms operate in the Boston suburbs. The BrightTALK acquisition closed on December 23rd.

2020 Sales & Marketing Trends

With the pandemic and recession, the sales intelligence and B2B data space held up well.  Most of the vendors I speak with indicate an increasing demand for sales and marketing intelligence and B2B DaaS offerings.  In January and February, I’ll be reporting on those numbers.

As part of my annual trends analysis, I put together a list of the top events and trends in our space this year:

  1. COVID: Sales & Marketing Intelligence continued to grow during the pandemic as sales and marketing needed to pivot to new verticals, reach the buying team working from home, and double down on segments that benefited from or had limited impact from the pandemic.
  2. Zoominfo: $ZI had a very successful June IPO and acquired Clickagy (intent) and Everstring (firmographics).
  3. Dun & Bradstreet: $DNB was taken public 18 months after being taken private.  The firm has regained some swagger through acquisitions.  They began the year with Orb Intelligence (firmographics) and closed it with Bisnode (Central European partner).  Dun & Bradstreet also launched several new B2B S&M offerings (D&B Intent, D&B Connect, D&B ABM, D&B Analytics) and expanded its contact acquisition process with the Outlook-based D&B Email IQ.
  4. Intent Data: Intent data has become the hottest content set in the B2B space as firms move to integrate multiple categories of intent within sales and marketing workflows.  Zoominfo, Dun & Bradstreet, and TechTarget all enhanced or announced integrated intent data offerings with custom models.  TechTarget’s acquisition of BrightTALK and Spiceworks Ziff Davis of Aberdeen are also partially motivated by intent datasets.
  5. European Vendors: The European market is growing rapidly, with UK vendors extending their services across the EU (e.g., Global Database, Rhetorik) and Continental vendors entering the UK (e.g., Echobot, Vainu).
  6. Consolidation: Market consolidation stalled in H1, but by Q4, there were weekly M&A announcements with several other deals rumored to be in the works in Q1.
  7. Data Privacy: CCPA was implemented in California, and the EU Court of Justice struck down the EU-US Safe Harbor (Privacy Shield) agreement, forcing companies to restrict EU data flows into the US.
  8. Spiceworks Ziff Davis: SWZD acquired Aberdeen, positioning it as a competitor in both intent data and technographics.  Spiceworks Ziff Davis has the potential to copy TechTarget’s model.

My Trends Analysis runs over 100 slides. It includes a 90-minute phone consult and is available for purchase.

TechTarget Acquires BrightTALK

Technology purchase intent data vendor TechTarget added another arrow to its intent quiver with the acquisition of BrightTALK, a leader in the marketing and virtual events space.  BrightTALK said virtual event attendance has “high predictive value because IT buyers are making a material investment of their time to engage with vendor-produced content.”

The acquisition increases TechTarget’s universe of opted-in professionals.  TechTarget already has over twenty million opted-in business contact records (mostly in technology positions from its 140 enterprise technology sites), and BrightTALK has eight million registered attendees on its media platform.  There is likely to be some overlap in names, but having a second source of opted-in professionals increases the scope of measured intent across TechTarget, BrightTALK, and corporate websites (a KickFire OEM deal).

The acquisition offers substantial cross-selling opportunities in 2021 as vendors continue to focus on virtual events in lieu of face-to-face trade shows and conferences.  Furthermore, “BrightTALK generates a large volume of valuable content in webinar and video format that is incremental to TechTarget’s current offerings.  This content improves TechTarget’s potential ability to attract new users and diversifies the content available via TechTarget’s portfolio of web sites.”

And because both platforms are opted-in, the intent data does not need to be anonymized.  TechTarget can deliver person-level intent data that includes contact information, articles read, webinar sessions viewed, potential competitors, and their stage in the buyer’s journey.  What’s more, these rich intent datasets are GDPR-compliant across both platforms.

“TechTarget’s leadership position in the market is further strengthened by the acquisition of BrightTALK. This acquisition checks all the boxes. It allows us to increase our original content, grow our opt-in audience of registered members, and add a material amount of proprietary first-party purchase intent data. It’s a very powerful combination that will enhance our customers’ abilities to use our purchase intent data to grow their revenues and increase their market share.”

TechTarget CEO Michael Cotoia

“We are excited to join forces with TechTarget. They are the leading provider of original expert content and distributor of vendor decision-support content in the B2B tech market, which has allowed them to develop the preeminent first-party purchase intent offering,” said BrightTALK CEO Paul Heald. “Combining our leading platform for online IT events is a winning combination.”

BrightTALK has over 1,000 customers who created 25,000 webinars and videos over the past year.  The platform generates over 200,000 unique monthly viewers and six million annual content engagements.

BrightTALK also fits with TechTarget’s financial objectives.  It is on track for $50 million in 2020 revenue, with approximately half this revenue under long-term contracts.  TechTarget hit 35% in subscription revenue last quarter but has stated a 50% subscription revenue goal.  With Priority Engine on track for approximately $50 million in 2020 subscription revenue and BrightTALK posting roughly $25 million, the combined pro forma company would generate $75 million in subscription revenues on $195 million in 2020 revenue (Q3 YTD + mid-point Q4 guidance + $50M BrightTALK estimate), or approximately 38 – 39% in contract-based revenue.

BrightTALK has also done well during the pandemic, with revenue on track to grow 30% this year.  It added one million additional opted-in professionals over the past year.

The deal is priced at $150 million, a 3X multiple over projected 2020 earnings.  The cash transaction will close before the end of the year.

BrightTALK has four offices in the US, two in the UK, and two in APAC (Sydney and Singapore).  LinkedIn lists them with 275 employees, a headcount growth of 15% over the past year.

Intent data is the hottest category in B2B data. There have been a series of acquisitions in the space over the past month as vendors look to acquire and integrate data sources. Recent transactions include Zoominfo’s acquisition of Clickagy and Spiceworks Ziff Davis’ purchase of Aberdeen. We have also seen the launch of next generation intent solutions such as D&B Intent and Zoominfo Streaming Intent. Bombora has been working with its partners to launch integrated workflow solutions.

Spiceworks Ziff Davis Acquires Aberdeen

Spiceworks Ziff Davis (SWZD) acquired intent and technology intelligence vendor Aberdeen.  The acquisition brings together intent data from Spiceworks and The Big Willow, Aberdeen and SWZD market research, Aberdeen’s technology profiles (the old HHMI / Access CI datasets), and Ziff Davis B2B media sites.  

SWZD describes itself as “the trusted global marketplace for connecting technology buyers and sellers across all marketing channels and the leader in demand generation and integrated intelligence-driven marketing, connecting technology buyers and sellers across IT, marketing, HR, and finance.  SWZD has a massive reach into the entire buyer’s collective with a monthly audience of 71.5M across powerhouse IT brands.”

Aberdeen will be managed as a wholly-owned subsidiary of SWZD, but initially operate independently.  Along with third-party intent, Aberdeen adds a library of industry intelligence, technographic and firmographic data, and a demand generation call center.  

The union positions SWZD as a credible competitor to Zoominfo and TechTarget in the B2B technology intent space, helping customers identify “businesses that are truly in-market for their product.”  Unlike the two larger technology sales intelligence vendors, SWZD does not offer a sales intelligence platform.

“We give our clients actionable visibility into the businesses that are truly in-market for their products and unparalleled access to quality, scale, and diversity of B2B tech intent data to make meaningful connections with those buyers.  With the union of businesses, we immediately married our data and boosted our intelligence, resulting in a 15% increase in businesses, 70% increase in segment scale, 30% richer intent data, and expansion into fifteen new verticals.”

Richard Jalichandra, EVP and Global GM of SWZD

Continued Jalichandra, “We’re just starting to explore opportunities to further enhance our business-level data and invest in our combined product roadmap.”  

Jalichandra also identified “synergies around research,” a core function at both firms.  Aberdeen offers a “rich library of data-backed reports,” while SWZD offers custom market research.

The combined resources deliver account-level insights across 14 million companies and 24 million contacts.  Over 11 billion intent signals are collected monthly from over 10,000 B2B websites.  Intent data is available for over fifty technology segments.

The merger improves the depth of B2B intent data, expands the scope of account and contact intelligence, and grows their market research capabilities.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to expand the reach and identity of Aberdeen as a subsidiary of SWZD to put customers in even closer contact with the very buyers and influencers they’re targeting,” said Aberdeen CTO Mark DePalma.  “Through the power of our combined data sets, vertically integrated demand generation capabilities, and continued innovation in our technology and services, we help customers with unparalleled targeting and marketing outcomes.”

SWZD’s Intelligent ABM delivers “actionable intent signals,” target account list prioritization, data appends, look-a-like expansion, built-in campaign activation, purchase intent scores, campaign analytics, and “seamless integration with marketing automation platforms.”

“With the combination of SWZD’s first-party intent data and Aberdeen’s third-party intent data, you get greater visibility into the entire buying collective. Not just that, our intent signals captured on the basis of the actions our audience takes; whether it is troubleshooting tech issues, comparing product reviews, connecting with an expert or accessing strategic content, provides an incredible quality and diversity of data right from the boardroom to the server room.”

Spiceworks Ziff Davis Website

SWZD offers a set of technology marketing services, including

  • Direct and programmatic advertising
  • Email marketing and newsletter sponsorships
  • Content marketing (e.g., whitepapers, e-books, infographics, case studies, interactive content, custom video, and market research)
  • Lead generation (e.g., content syndication, BANT qualified leads, intent-based leads)
  • Market research (e.g., online surveys, focus groups, in-depth interviews)
  • Virtual events (e.g., webinars, video meetups, panel discussions)

Financial details were not disclosed.

Terminus Acquires GrowFlare

ABM Platform Terminus, which has been on an acquisition binge the past year, added another complementary asset to its platform with the acquisition of sales intelligence vendor GrowFlare.  GrowFlare offers Ideal Customer Profiling (ICP) based on psychographics, which are the common phrases and interests companies share.  Other features include account profiling, prospecting, alerting, and a Chrome extension.  GrowFlare recently doubled its US company dataset to 500,000+ firms.  GrowFlare coverage spans over 90% of “US businesses with Purchasing Power.”

“GrowFlare adds a highly-differentiated level of account intelligence to the Terminus platform,” said Terminus CEO Tim Kopp. “Now teams can identify best-fit target accounts instantly, leverage unmatched AI and psychographic data to know exactly what to say and when, all while being more budget efficient.  This kind of psychographic data has long been used by B2C marketers to profile their future customers and now B2B marketers can as well. This is the modern approach to uncovering target accounts, and accelerates our position as the most intelligent B2B sales and marketing and platform available.”

Terminus likens psychographics to Netflix and Spotify, which can recommend similar content based upon user behavior.  Psychographics extend this logic to account selection. GrowFlare’s unique value proposition is its psychographics.  Most vendors only employ firmographics and technographics in their ICP modeling.

Psychographics are based upon AI and natural language processing of company websites, social media, government filings, job listings, etc.  GrowFlare identifies the “key characteristics that are common across your favorite customers (or any set of companies you want to identify).  From there you can find brand new accounts that match up to your customers, the new product you’re launching, the vertical-specific case study you’re about to drop, and so on.  Enter your favorite customer into GrowFlare and it will spit out hundreds of companies that think and act just like they do, instantly,” blogged Terminus.

When users click on a trending psychographic, they are presented with in-context examples of the phrasing with the term highlighted.  The trending topics and psychographics are “invaluable for marketing and sales personalization,” said GrowFlare Founder and CEO Matt Belkin.

Terminus is also positioning GrowFlare as a new form of “observed intent” versus third-party intent that is simply inferred. “If you’re a data-driven marketer, this should make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up because you know this primary data is a powerful signal coming directly from the accounts you want to target,” crowed Eisenberg.

“Your friends in sales will receive alerts about accounts that are starting to become interested in different things, almost as if it was trending on Twitter. They’ll be able to understand the most important focuses for those businesses, the psychographic topics that are trending, and just how serious they are about those focuses. They’ll know who to reach out to, when to do it, and what to say to deliver a beautifully personalized experience.”

Terminus Blog

Belkin noted that the two firms complement each other, with GrowFlare helping sales and marketing teams efficiently find accounts and Terminus focusing on account engagement.  With the acquisition, revenue teams can target segments based on firmographic, relationship, intent, and now psychographic data.

In GrowFlare, a similar companies New Prospects list includes a Fit Score, which gauges the level of similarity to the target company along with the shared psychographics.  So if a rep just closed a deal at the target, he or she can be confident that the high fit scores are similar in their market positioning.  Fit Scores are exportable to lead scoring models.  A quick view magnifying glass icon displays the trending topics for any of the prospects.

Any Keyword Search or Prospector Active List is automatically setup for alerts, whereby GrowFlare notifies the customer each week of meaningful changes and new prospect opportunities.  When viewed, the table of new prospects includes a Trend score, which is the change in rank position from the prior week.  An Active List focused on competitors will notify sales and marketing when competitor positioning shifts.  This tool would also be valuable for competitive intelligence analysts and business development reps looking to track a narrow universe of competitors or partners.

” Everywhere you look sales and marketing teams are wasting millions of dollars trying to acquire the wrong customers and saying the wrong things.  It’s crazy and the whole approach is broken.  We started GrowFlare to fix it.  You already know your best customers, GrowFlare helps you find 100 more just like them based on their shared interests.  It’s easy to see how focusing on what buyers care about – their psychographics – is far more effective when marketing and selling to them.  It sounds fancy, but it’s the same magic that powers recommendations for Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify in the consumer world.  We just built it for B2B.”

GrowFlare CEO Matt Belkin

Along with Prospector, GrowFlare offers a Prospector Bulk feature that executes against a full customer list.  According to Belkin, “The resulting output averages between 25x-100x more high-fit prospects that sales and that sales and marketing teams can target with account-based outbound campaigns.”

GrowFlare also offers Keyword Search for identifying companies that are using specific terms in their marketing along with shared psychographics, locations, and company sizes.  Boolean operators such as AND, OR, and NOT are supported (e.g. “food delivery” NOT pet).   Keyword search “is valuable if you want to know what companies dominate specific messaging terms or if you are launching a new campaign and want to see who else may be positioned there,” said Belkin.

While many companies offer keyword searching, it is usually against a mined business description.  Only a few products, such as D&B Hoover’s Conceptual Searching, provide broader topical searching to build company lists.

GrowFlare is Terminus’ third acquisition over the past year.  They also acquired Ramble and its Chat Anywhere service and Sigstr for its email signature banner ads and relationship intelligence.

Belkin and the rest of the GrowFlare team are joining Terminus.  Belkin has twenty-five years of SaaS-industry experience at Adobe and Omniture.  At Domo Belkin was the Chief Operating Officer.  Belkin is Terminus’ new EVP of Data, Strategy, and Partnerships.

ABM platforms have emphasized top of the funnel audience engagement and given sales prioritization and messaging short shrift.  GrowFlare will help Terminus pass the ABM baton from marketing to sales.


I profiled the GrowFlare service back in June.

SalesIntel Acquires TUDLA; Adds Marketo Enrichment

Sales Intelligence Platform vendor SalesIntel acquired Latin American technology contacts vendor TUDLA.  The acquisition provides SalesIntel with Latin American data and the TUDLA research team. The TUDLA research team, based in Tijuana, supports a research on-demand call center in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

All TUDLA employees, including CEO Gary Gorton and contract research staff, are joining SalesIntel.

TUDLA has over sixty Fortune 500 customers that license human-verified contacts for the Latin American region.  TUDLA CEO, Gary Gorton will be assuming a strategic business development role, helping cross-sell the complementary contact databases and SalesIntel’s B2B DaaS offerings.

“This acquisition gives SalesIntel a fantastic opportunity to offer our customers high-quality B2B data and intelligence, which now includes the LATAM marketplace. We are especially pleased that Gary Gorton (CEO of TUDLA) and many members of the TUDLA team with decades of experience will join SalesIntel as we integrate TUDLA’s LATAM B2B data, customers, and research processes into the SalesIntel platform.”

SalesIntel CEO Manoj Ramnani

TUDLA covers 34 countries across Central and South America, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.  The firm has one million verified Latin American contacts and another six million mined regional contacts.

SalesIntel also expanded its EMEA coverage with contacts for fourteen new countries, including France, Germany, Benelux, Italy, Ireland, Spain, New Zealand, Israel, and the UAE.  The TUDLA dataset will be available later this month in SalesIntel platforms.  The SalesIntel database has grown to over 6.5 million human-verified and over 80 million machine-processed contacts.

SalesIntel also announced that it supports Marketo data enrichment on both a batch and real-time basis.  Marketers may auto-enrich web forms and maintain contact and account records with current firmographic, biographic, and technographic intelligence.

Data enrichment may be performed as

  • Triggered webhooks that execute when new records are added to Marketo
  • Scheduled webhooks that regularly execute to prevent database decay
  • Filtered webhooks that run against a subset of records such as MQLs, event lists, and webinar registrations

SalesIntel supports dynamic forms that hide fields available from their reference database.  The auto-fill feature reduces the time spent entering data, lowering the likelihood of form abandonment, and improving the ROI of marketing campaigns.  Dynamic forms also enhance the user experience as prospects have fewer fields to enter and improve data accuracy and form completeness.

With dynamic forms, you can significantly reduce the number of fields by skipping those that could be automatically filled using third-party data,” blogged Creative Director and Marketing Coordinator, Ariana Shannon. “This smarter type of web form will allow you to capture more leads without having to sacrifice the data your sales and marketing teams require to convert them.  Leads who fill out a form will easily navigate through the form, be prompted with suggestions, and avoid the frustrations and reservations associated with filling out multiple fields.”

SalesIntel already supports lead prospecting for Marketo.

SalesIntel is on track to more than double its revenue in 2020.  Ramnani sees many opportunities for his firm as market consolidation has reduced the number of vendors.  Ramnani positions SalesIntel as a high-quality data competitor to Zoominfo.

ZoomInfo Acquires EverString (Part III)

Company counts will hit 100M once the Everstring Business Graph is incorporated into their coverage.

Last week, ZoomInfo announced that it was acquiring Business Graph vendor EverString to grow its company coverage five-fold.


ZoomInfo CEO Henry Schuck noted that large enterprises license and integrate a broad set of content from many vendors.  They struggle to “stitch” all these disparate content sets together via “a complicated system relying on data analysts, engineers, and product managers.”  Furthermore, different analysts manage datasets for other countries, further complicating the situation.  “Each one restarts a process of understanding the nuances and integrating, normalizing, matching, managing, and maintaining that unique data source.”

This data sourcing and loading process is “inefficient, costly, and introduces a complex web of operational challenges and compliance vulnerabilities.”  Data ends up being siloed and fragmented, reducing its value to the organization.  “It has to be integrated, unified, validated, cleansed, enriched, deduplicated, and delivered to the right people and systems, at the right time, in the right form for it to unlock the value it was intended to create.”

Shuck argues that other vendors overly complicate data projects and offer expensive consultations and complex solutions.  ZoomInfo’s vision is to be the “first unified, single source of truth for sales, marketing, and all other go-to-market functions.”

“With the data from EverString, ZoomInfo will provide data on virtually every high-level parent company, local parent company, franchise, and satellite office in America.  This broader data set enables better search, scoring, and account assignment, and provides greater access to buyers and buying centers.”

CEO Henry Schuck

“The combined ZoomInfo and EverString data asset will be unparalleled in the marketplace,” said EverString CEO J.J. Kardwell.  “We’re excited to join ZoomInfo and work together to bring sellers and marketers the most extensive company and professional data that will help make their go-to-market motions even more effective and efficient.”

Kardwell will serve as an advisor to ZoomInfo and will remain with ZoomInfo through the transition.

ZoomInfo is moving to combine the two databases quickly.  As it has a track record of acquiring and rapidly integrating datasets, the merged database should be available soon (ZoomInfo declined to provide a target date).  In the meantime, customers can already enrich data via a superset of the EverString and ZoomInfo databases. Financial terms were not disclosed, but ZoomInfo indicated the deal was not expected to have a material effect on the fourth quarter.

ZoomInfo Acquires EverString (Part II)

On Friday, I began coverage of ZoomInfo’s acquisition of EverString. Continuing with part II…


Over the past few years, ZoomInfo has been rapidly building its go-to-market intelligence through acquisitions and capital investment.  Initially, ZoomInfo (then called DiscoverOrg) rolled up competitors iProfile and RainKing, but in February 2019, they acquired ZoomInfo, a leading global contact information source.  The firm also managed two tuck-ins last year: NeverBounce email validation and Komiko Inbox AI.

After going public in June, ZoomInfo acquired intent data service Clickagy in October before acquiring Everstring.

ZoomInfo is exceptionally strong across many of the core B2B data categories, including

  • Global contacts (e.g. emails, direct dials, phone numbers, bios, social links, job function, and job level)
  • Technographics (e.g. vendors, products, projects, IT professionals)
  • Intent data (1st Party IP-matching and the recently acquired Clickagy real-time intent signals)
  • Sales Triggers (e.g. M&A, Exec Changes, Partnerships)
  • Org Charts (human-verified and modeled)

However, ZoomInfo has lagged behind other vendors in firmographics and linkage.  The Everstring acquisition plugs this gap across core firmographics, SMBs, and company linkages, putting the firm in a stronger sales intelligence, digital marketing, and B2B DaaS position.  The expanded company universe will significantly improve ZoomInfo’s match rates for batch, real-time, and continuous data enrichment.

In a multinational telecom provider test, the match rate doubled to 98% due to three factors: M/L-powered matching, historical matching against outdated records, and record completeness.

“EverString’s machine learning powered entity resolution (aka matching) algorithms are designed to accept and process multiple identifying inputs from a customer’s file, such as phone number and address, alongside the company name and website, improving the likelihood of returning a matching record.”

ZoomInfo CEO Henry Schuck

Maintaining a historical file of inactive and out of date records provides significant value when batch processing enterprise records sitting in CRMs and MAPs.  Much of this legacy data is bad, but without a reference file with historical data (e.g. inactive and closed companies, former addresses, FKAs), operations teams don’t know which records are defunct businesses.

Everstring has nearly 100% fill rates on core firmographic fields such as employee count, revenue, and industry codes. The expanded firmographics improve field fill rates, lead scoring, lead routing, and analytics (e.g. ICP, TAM, segmentation).

Nevertheless, ZoomInfo has a few remaining gaps around public company financials and filings (e.g. SEC, Companies House, UCC) that would hold them back at financial services companies and European firms.  Everstring does ingest filing data (e.g. Secretary of State incorporations, UCC liens, 5500 ERISA filings with the Department of Labor, federal contract bids, OSHA, fleet data, UK Companies House) when building its business graph, but source data viewing is often required.


Continue to Part III.

VanillaSoft Acquires Autoklose (Part II)

Yesterday, I covered VanillaSoft’s acquisition of Autoklose and plans to integrate its email marketing capabilities into the VanillaSoft Sales Engagement Platform. Autoklose will also continue as a standalone offering for SMBs.

The acquisition included the DataUnlimited US B2B contact dataset. VanillaSoft users will be able to subscribe to or purchase leads from both the Autoklose and VanillaSoft platforms.  DataUnlimited spans 40 million US B2B contacts that are revalidated in real-time.  Contact records include name, company, email, phone, address, SIC, URL, and LinkedIn URL.  DataUnlimited is supported by a ten-person data team that verifies data and performs custom research.

Autoklose competitors include Mixmax, Reply.io, Apollo.io, and Cognism.

Following the acquisition, VanillaSoft described itself as a “Tier-2 data provider” that offers B2B contacts.  They target the SMB market and “real-world industries,” such as professional and financial services, manufacturing, and educational fundraising.  Their clients are not bleeding-edge tech firms or large enterprises but smaller firms with full lifecycle sales reps.  Typical customers are price sensitive and resource-constrained with high turnover.  As such, they are late adopters of technology that highly value a solution’s ease-of-use.  VanillaSoft noted that 40% of their customers have yet to deploy a CRM.

“SMBs are looking for ROI, not AI,” stated the firm.

According to VanillaSoft CRO Darryl Praill, “Sales Engagement will become the primary platform used by Sales teams, just as Marketing Automation has become the primary platform used by Marketers.”  Furthermore, the vision of SEPs will expand as they add ABM workflows, marketing automation, contacts, opportunity management, forecasting, chat, and video.

“VanillaSoft will offer a broad, pragmatic sales engagement platform that meets the diverse requirements and price-points of SMB sales teams or individuals in traditional industries,” said Praill.  This will include industry-specific versions of the platform to meet the unique requirements of their core industries.

“One of my favorite things to say when a customer or prospect praises our product is to point out that if they like what VanillaSoft is today, they are going to love what it is tomorrow. We’re making this promise a reality by continuing to grow internal development and incorporating great teams and technology to deliver the best sales engagement tools available.”

VanillaSoft CEO David Hood

VanillaSoft’s acquisition of Autoklose is a smart, strategic move that enhances both its email capabilities and its B2B prospect intelligence.  Sales Engagement vendors have been slow to integrate verified leads into their platforms.  Even the market leaders have developed little more than third-party ‘Send to SEP’ functionality.  

Integrated prospecting will be particularly valuable to VanillaSoft’s customer base of SMBs serving insurance, finance, and manufacturing.  This intelligence gap has led some Sales Intelligence vendors to incorporate a subset of SEP features into their offerings, thus becoming Hybrid Engagement Platforms.  HEP features include cadences (Zoominfo, Cognism, Data Axle Genie), dialers (Zoominfo, Data Axle Genie), email (Zoominfo, Cognism, Data Axle Genie), email signature management (Cognism/Mailtastic), messaging (LinkedIn Sales Navigator), and event-triggered workflows (Zoominfo).

Privately-held VanillaSoft is based in Plano, TX and Gatineau, Quebec.  The firm is profitable with 6oo customers and 4,000 users (pre-acquisition).  With Autoklose, they now have 88 employees, up 34% this year.  New executives include Shawn Finder (Sales GM); Marko Dinic (Fractional CTO); Vladan Djokic (Senior Dev Lead); and Vedran Rasic (Director, Marketing).

Autoklose was on track for a record year at the time of the acquisition, despite a revenue dip at the beginning of the pandemic.

VanillaSoft Acquires Autoklose

Sales Engagement Platform vendor VanillaSoft acquired outbound email automation platform Autoklose for an undisclosed sum.  The acquisition augments VanillaSoft’s email capabilities and adds Autoklose’s DataUnlimited contact database to its feature set.  

Autoklose offers an all-in-one outbound email automation platform featuring automated lead generation, drip campaigns, calendar scheduling, reporting, and CRM integration.  

“The Autoklose technology and team will make a significant contribution to our vision of establishing VanillaSoft as the number one sales engagement platform for SMB customers in real-world industries such as insurance and fundraising.  After evaluating a number of different technologies and companies in the market, we saw that the capabilities and technology in the Autoklose platform would be a perfect fit for what our customers are looking for to enhance their sales outreach and engagement capabilities.  Further, the founders have a great vision, a passion for the industry, and built up an extremely talented group of people.  We are incredibly excited to bring Autoklose into the VanillaSoft team.”

VanillaSoft CEO David Hood

VanillaSoft is a multi-channel sales engagement platform that supports email, phone, and SMS.  Autoklose provides them with enhanced email cadence capabilities, personalized email automation, and personal sales nurturing.  Autoklose email features include email tracking, email templates, scheduled send, bounce detection, A/B testing, unsubscribe support, multi-media and attachments, and integrated Vidyard and Calendly functionality.  Real-time analytics track emails sent, delivered, opened, CTR, replies, and bounces.

Autoklose email tracking supports Gmail, GSuite, Outlook Office365 inbox, or any other email account via IMAP.

“An integrated, easy-to-use solution is something that SMB organizations with limited resources have been waiting for.  With this acquisition, VanillaSoft stands alone in the marketplace – offering SMB sales teams and individuals in real-world industries an all-in-one solution to meet their unique sales intelligence, email automation, sales nurturing, and sales engagement requirements.”

Mark Hunter, Author & Public Speaker, The Sales Hunter

VanillaSoft will continue selling Autoklose as a standalone sales automation platform with lead data as an add-on and has begun integrating the Autoklose email platform as the back-end for most email sends.  Autoklose will support future inbound email functionality.  Eventually, Autoklose will support a “light” marketing automation service.

“The stand-alone Autoklose platform will remain available to customers and we will be working hard on future development to make it even better,” blogged VanillaSoft CEO David Hood.  “It’s a great option for prospects who aren’t quite ready for – or do not require – a complete sales engagement platform like VanillaSoft.”


Continue to Part II which covers the DataUnlimited contact data set.