Drift & Cognism Make LinkedIn’s Hot Companies List

How Drift Automation Works (Source: Drift)

Congratulations to conversational marketing vendor Drift and sales intelligence vendor Cognism for making LinkedIn’s Top Startups: Hottest Companies to Work for Now lists.  

Boston-based Drift was ranked 46 in the US.  The firm has grown from 65 employees to 280 over the past year and plans to “double down” on its product and sales teams.

Yesterday, at their Hypergrowth conference, Drift announced the acquisition of Giant Otter, an AI and machine learning company, and the launch of Drift Automation.

Drift Automation understands the specific context of what someone is asking and can engage in conversations that go in a variety of directions. For the first time, this puts the customer is in control of the conversation — not the chatbot.

Lacey Berrien, Drift Senior Manager, Public Relations

Drift co-founder Elias Torres was impressed by Giant Otter which is based on research led by Dr. Jeff Orkin at the MIT Media Lab.

“When I met Jeff Orkin and he showed me what Giant Otter could do, I knew that I had seen the future of marketing automation,” said Torres. “We’ve been working on Drift Automation behind the scenes with early customers who have been seeing incredible results — including improvements in inbound sales velocity, pipeline and revenue growth, time back for the marketing team, and the ability to put the customer in control of the buying experience.”  

Cognism Refresh
Cognism Refresh

London-based Cognism was ranked 21 on the UK list with plans to open offices in the US and Singapore and triple its headcount to around 200 over the next year. Cognism products include

  • Cognism Prospector for lead list building, prospect research, and prospect/account current awareness.
  • Cognism Refresh for CRM data maintenance and enrichment.
  • Cognism Wealth list building and TAM analysis for financial services firms and wealth managers.

Cognism closed on its Series B back in July. According to CEO James Isilay, the firm has already “won significant business remotely” in both regions. Isilay noted that Asia is a particularly compelling market due to SaaS being relatively immature in the region.

Cognism is hosting its first RevenueAI user conference at the Science Museum London on 19 September. I will be speaking on Trends in Sales and Marketing Intelligence at the conference.

TechTarget Priority Engine Express

TechTarget Confirmed Projects

TechTarget is taking a soft launch approach to their new Priority Engine Express service for small software vendors and VARs with an early 2020 launch date.  CEO Michael Cotoia said the firm is building a platform which is “simple, streamlined, and scalable.”  Cotoia noted how smaller firms differ in sales and marketing requirements and capabilities from TechTarget’s enterprise clients:

Our smaller customers lack a lot of resources.  They don’t have a marketing automation [platform] many times.  They don’t have an integrated nurture campaign.  They need to understand and have a very friendly user interface, and they’re also very focused on identifying and using this solution as a sales use case with their inside sales reps and even their outside sales reps.  So what we’re really focused on is doing a very simple user interface, focus very much on a sales use case, and understand that we can help them build different types of lists and customized lists; for example, an ideal customer profile list, which is really going to focus on exactly their sweet spot so we can get them the right updates at the right time. They don’t have the resources; they don’t have the complexity.  If they need it simple, they want it towards sales use cases, and we’re learning a lot from that.

TechTarget CEO Michael Cotoia

Cotoia said that TechTarget is taking a market feedback approach to Express development.  As they engage with small customers, they are pausing during the sale to gather feedback to better understand what smaller firms are looking to do.  As they bring on early Express users, they are “tweaking, modifying, adjusting and getting ready to go into 2020.”  Cotoia called the initial feedback in this new market “very positive.”

TechTarget began building an SDR team two years ago to provide a team of appointment setters for their outside sales reps.  “We built that with a vision that we’re going to be looking at additional products that we are going to roll out,” said Cotoia.  “We want to make sure we have the resources on the bench” who are trained in the TechTarget methodology and ready to support new opportunities such as Express “so they are ready to make and take action when we see fit.”

TechTarget has raised the price for Priority Engine since it was launched a few years ago.  “We believe we have pricing power,” said Cotoia.  “We’ve had a couple of pricing increases year-over-year, and we believe we are in the best position to deliver real and observed purchase intent, make it very clear who’s in-market, by which technology segment, by which region and help our customers rank, prioritize and mobilize their sales and marketing efforts again, and we hope that creates some pricing leverage.”


Yesterday, I discussed TechTarget’s strong Q2. The above discussion was held in their Q2 2019 earnings announcement.

TechTarget Posts Strong Q2

Priority Engine provides rich company data including intent data (buying stage, competitors under evaluation, top trends), contacts, social links, and firmographics.

TechTarget posted a strong second quarter with revenues up 9% to $34.3 million.  Growth was led by their Priority Engine technology sales intelligence service which added 38 new customers in Q2 and grew revenue by 44%.  

Long-term contracts now comprise 33% of revenue.

TechTarget expanded its Total Addressable Market (TAM) from 1,500 Enterprise IT vendors to an additional 5,000 IT vendors consisting of small software companies and regional VARs.  The firm has been executing a soft rollout of Priority Engine Express to this expanded universe.

“We are still in the learning stage but the early feedback is that this customer segment is embracing the value proposition,” the firm told shareholders.  “We are increasing the number of salespeople dedicated to this product in the near-term and remain on track for the full product roll-out in 2020.”

“We added several enhancements to Priority Engine in May including Personalized Account Rankings that reflect organic research with TechTarget and direct engagement with the customer to improve marketing and sales effectiveness. Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) creation and filtering directly within Priority Engine to efficiently find, track and convert identified best-fit customers. Enhanced Qualification Intelligence showcases the key attributes that make accounts high priority targets, including buying stage, ICP match and if there is a confirmed project. Improved Engagement Signals show you precisely when accounts visit your website, click on your banners and/or download your content. Indicators of New and Recent Activities give sales users new reasons to call and help them engage the buying team with highly tailored outreach.”

TechTarget Q2 2019 Shareholder Letter

TechTarget provided Q3 revenue guidance between $33 and $34 million and annual guidance of $133 and $134 million.

The firm is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month and used the opportunity to credit its employees.  “We are incredibly grateful to our dedicated team of employees who are smart, innovative, motivated, passionate and hard-working. This team makes us look good and creates a win-win scenario for customers, investors, partners and the communities where we operate. We are especially proud of the transition that the Company has been able to make over the past 5 years from an online media company delivering quarterly marketing campaigns to a purchase intent data company selling annual subscriptions. We think most people would agree that is not an easy transition to make. We are very confident that our best days are ahead of us as we are now a leader in the fast growing data intelligence market.”

TechTarget added Christina Van Houten to its Board.  She currently serves as the Chief Strategy Officer for Mimecast Limited, a public email management company, where she is responsible for driving corporate development, product management, and market strategy.  She previously held senior positions at Infor, IBM Netezza, and Oracle.  Van Houten has “more than two decades of extensive, focused experience in marketing strategy with some of the world’s largest firms as well as significant corporate and business experience.”  She has an MBA from the Booth School (University of Chicago) and a BA from Georgetown.


Continue to Part II on Priority Engine Express and the expansion of their target market to include small software vendors and value-added resellers.

Cognism Series B

Cognism logo

Sales Acceleration Platform Cognism closed on a $10 million Series B from PeakSpan, bringing total funding to $16.5 million.  Previous investors included Oliver Wyman, South Central Ventures, LCIF, and Newable Ventures Limited.  The firm, founded in 2016, grew ARR over 4x last year.  

The funds will be deployed for opening local offices in Singapore and New York City as well as growing its machine learning team.  According to CEO James Isilay, the firm has already “won significant business remotely” in both regions.

Isilay called Asian expansion “particularly interesting” due to SaaS being relatively young in the market.  Cognism has already leveraged its partnership with investor Oliver Wyman to acquire two “blue-chip financial clients” in Asia.  “Investment here looks to be a promising tonic to the barriers to trade growth that are disrupting business in Europe and America.”

“Having been granted our first machine learning patent in December 2018, Cognism is now building a portfolio of IP which will drive the next evolution of sales and marketing technology,” said Isilay.

“Sales and marketing technology has been a core focus of ours for many years, arming us with a long-term perspective on the segment and a nuanced understanding of market trends and buyer dynamics that drive strategic value.  With such a proliferation of tools and technologies emerging across the marketing and sales landscape over the last decade, it’s no secret that go-to-market leaders today aren’t asking for more software tools – they’re demanding better outcomes.  Cognism’s pragmatic application of AI, which underpins the whole solution suite, is paving the way for a new category focused on turning disparate data points into coordinated insights to drive predictive and prescriptive lead generation and improve conversion across all engagements.”

▪ Matt Melymuka, Co-Founder and Partner at PeakSpan

The Cognism database spans 400 million contacts and 10 million businesses.  Cognism’s products support Prospecting, Sales Triggers, and CRM Enrichments.   CRM Connectors are available for Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, HubSpot, and PipeDrive.  A cadence tool sends templated emails through Gmail and Outlook.  

Marketing Features include A/B testing, Personas, ICP and TAM Analyses, and webform enrichment.

Cognism for Salesforce supports lead prospecting, contact enrichment, and ongoing data maintenance.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator Q2 2019 (Part II) – Alerts

Last month, LinkedIn Sales Navigator rolled out a set of alert enhancements as part of its Q2 release. Alerts are intended to deliver “timely, relevant, and actionable insights” which allow reps to shift from researching to selling and building relationships.  As with other recommendation engines, Navigator alerts call out the “Next Best Action” with an “instant snapshot of the things that matter most about your prospects along with recommended action step for each.”

“At LinkedIn, our goal is to arm you with timely, relevant, and actionable insights so you spend less time sifting through information and more time focused on what matters: building relationships and closing deals,” stated the firm in its release notes.  “Alerts on the homepage gives you all the functionality of Newsfeed in a compressed, easy-to-use dashboard.  Don’t worry about missing anything — all of your favorite items from the old Newsfeed live on as alerts.  We’ve also added some new types of alerts as well!”

New alerts are highlighted in blue at the top of the feed.  Each alert contains an action step (e.g. Message, See Article, See List).  Alerts may be filtered by type and individual alerts may be deleted or turned off.

Three new alert categories were released

  1. An account has had a funding event
  2. A colleague shared a custom list
  3. Pending actions in Sales Navigator Coach

LinkedIn recommends that Navigator Alerts be reviewed once or twice a day.

“Every sales professional faces the challenge of how to best spend their time, maximize their productivity and close more deals,” said Camplejohn.  “That’s why Sales Navigator is now centered around alerts — making it easier for salespeople to identify important changes and prioritize the best next steps to take.”


On Monday, I covered enhancements to the Sales Navigator Sales Coach. On Friday, I will discuss other Q2 2019 enhancements.

Vertical IQ: Freemium Industry Profiles

The new Vertical IQ freemium service provides the first three chapters of Vertical IQ industry profiles at no charge.
The new Vertical IQ freemium service provides the first three chapters of Vertical IQ industry profiles at no charge.

Vertical IQ launched a freemium market research service that provides “foundational information” for over 280 industries.  Vertical IQ writes plain English industry overviews for bank managers, consultants, and accountants.  However, the research has broad value to other functions such as strategic sales, market planning, and procurement.

Previously, professionally sourced industry research was only accessible by purchasing individual reports or subscription licenses, but the business model is evolving.  To fill a market need, Vertical IQ is now offering much of its valuable industry insights for free.  This innovative approach delivers market research on a freemium, just-in-time basis – a first in the marketplace.

“Vertical IQ Freemium was created to fill the void for an easily-accessible, user-friendly industry research product.  This new free version of our popular research platform puts valuable industry insights at the tips of your fingers in a matter of seconds.”

Vertical IQ co-founder, Bobby Martin

The free content covers the first three sections of the Vertical IQ reports: Overview, Industry Structure & Forecast, and Industry Trends.  Full reports are available on a pay per view basis ($99) or via a subscription ($1,099). The Full report spans an additional nine chapters:

  1. How Firms Operate
  2. Risks to Watch Out for
  3. Quarterly Insights
  4. Working Capital
  5. Call Prep Questions
  6. Financial Statistics
  7. Business Valuation
  8. Web Links
  9. Terms

The Full report is downloadable as a PDF file and includes access to report updates over the next year.

The annual subscription covers 400 industries and 325 local US economies.  Updates and industry news alerts are emailed quarterly.  The subscription service also supports mobile access, a Sales Kit which “Integrates industry insight into your contact strategy by sharing deliverables with business owners,” and an industry ranking tool.

Vertical IQ competes against D&B First Research and IBISWorld.  All three provide plain English market research for financial services firms and sales professionals. Vertical IQ has over 35,000 users.  Research is updated monthly.

The Vertical IQ Industry Forecast and Structure report displays historical and projected growth rates, the characteristics of an average firm within the industry, and industry structure (e.g. concentration, female and minority ownership rates) and the top firms.
The Vertical IQ Industry Forecast and Structure chapter displays historical and projected growth rates, the characteristics of an average firm within the industry, and industry structure (e.g. concentration, female and minority ownership rates) and the top firms.

People.AI Launches The Wire

People.AI announced availability of The Wire, their new artificial intelligence service for sales reps which suggests next best actions. According to the firm, “Like a brilliant personal assistant who’s always on top of his game, The Wire uses AI intelligence to remind you when to follow up on key accounts, suggest next-best-actions, warn you when a rep or account is falling behind, let you know when customer champions switch jobs, and ensure you’re always prepped for every meeting.”

The Wire suggests emerging opportunities, opportunities requiring attention, and champions that have departed to other companies.

The Wire flags opportunities that are in jeopardy of slipping due to inaction.
The Wire flags opportunities that are in jeopardy of slipping due to inaction.

Managers are alerted when sales reps are falling behind targets.  A Rep Ramp Alert “helps you move from data-aware to data-driven, proactively leveraging industry data to guide and coach your teams.”

Ramp Alerts identify reps that are lagging behind best-in-class recent hires and suggest when a one-on-one meeting may be required.
Ramp Alerts identify reps that are lagging behind best-in-class recent hires and suggest when a one-on-one meeting may be required.

The Wire also supports meeting intelligence with meeting prep reminders and post-meeting note capture and CRM sync.


Last Friday, I covered People.AI’s Round C and the company more broadly.

Quora: Once your ideal client profile is established, how do you find the company’s decision maker and how to reach out to that person?

Your ideal customer profile (ICP) defines who are your best customers and prospects. It is defined by firmographics, intent data, technographics, business signals, etc. ICPs are focused on Accounts.

Your question implies that the firm has a single decision maker. But that is generally only the case at small firms. Generally, B2B mid-sized and larger procurement decisions are made by a buying team which can consist of multiple individuals at different levels and functions / departments. For these, you should define a set of personas that cover economic decision makers, users, influencers, reviewers (e.g. technology gatekeepers).

Many of the ICP vendors support contact searching for ABM accounts. Once the ABM list is defined, they allow users to prospect for contacts by persona (job function/level/title) at ABM accounts.

I discussed this process broadly on DealSignal’s blog and on my blog.

Products which support both ICP definition and persona searching against ABM lists include (alphabetical list):

  1. Cognism
  2. D&B Datavision
  3. DealSignal Total Audience Platform
  4. DiscoverOrg AccountView
  5. InsideView Apex
  6. SparkLane Predict (UK and France)
  7. Zoominfo Growth Acceleration Platform

These vendors include emails and direct dials for contacts along with company profiles, sales triggers, financials, technographics, family trees, filings, etc.

While LinkedIn Sales Navigator does not offer an ICP tool, it includes a Buyer’s Circle which allow sales reps to quickly identify potential contacts at accounts and drag and drop them into their role. They can then review all open opportunities, including buying committees, via a single-pane Deal report which combines LinkedIn intelligence with Salesforce or MS Dynamics.

Sales Navigator Buyer's Circle supports dragging executives to their function within the buying committee.
Sales Navigator Buyer’s Circle supports dragging executives to their function within the buying committee.

ABM Research Vendors

When conducting account based (ABM) research, it is necessary to develop a broad view of your customers and prospects which includes company, contact, and industry research.   Unfortunately, open web research is quite time-consuming and your sales reps are unlikely to consistently engage in general research, so consider Sales Intelligence vendors with editorial research teams. 

Executive research should go beyond the Leadership page and LinkedIn profiles.  One option is Boardroom Insiders which gathers rich executive profiles on CxOs written by business journalists.

For industry research, look at Vertical IQ, IBISWorld, or First Research.  Vertical IQ and First Research are strong offerings for sales teams that sell broadly across many segments but are not verticalized.  They are written in plain English and include Q&A sections. The content in IBISWorld is more formal but better suited for verticalized teams.

At the company level, consider Dun & Bradstreet Hoovers, InsideView, or DiscoverOrg.  All three provide company and contact profiles, list building, and sales triggers.  D&B Hoovers goes deeper on global coverage, family trees, and industry profiles, DiscoverOrg offers the deepest set of technographics and rich bios, and InsideView provides excellent sales triggers and social media intelligence.

Quora: How can you export Linkedin leads/contacts into a database?

LinkedIn does not permit lead/contact downloading. This is part of the privacy agreement they have with their members.

That being said, there are some workarounds. The first is to license Salesforce Navigator which maintains a set of Accounts (companies) and Leads (contacts) within the product. While not downloadable, you receive alerts on those contacts along with messaging tools (InMail, messaging, and PointDrive).

You can also download accounts and contacts (called Leads within Sales Navigator) from Salesforce or MS Dynamics to LinkedIn Sales Navigator. While company and contact data is view only within CRMs, any data entered into LinkedIn (e.g. Notes, InMails) is uploaded to your CRM.

Sales Navigator includes a set of SNAP connectors for CRM, Sales Engagement, and other platforms. This tool provides a subset of Sales Navigator and Functionality within enterprise software. Features include profile viewing, InMail, connections, and icebreakers (talking points).

LinkedIn SNAP Connector within a Salesforce Opportunity Record (View Only).
LinkedIn SNAP Connector within a Salesforce Opportunity Record (View Only).

Option 2 is to license a chrome extension which recognizes domain names and LinkedIn profiles and matches them against their reference database. They then provide contact details and company firmographics within a right-handed side window. These databases usually include email and phone information not available in LinkedIn. Some include other details such as company technographics, news, and Alexa scores. Vendors with Chrome extensions include Zoominfo ReachOut, DiscoverOrg, HG Insights, DataFox, RingLead, Sigstr, PersistIQ, and Pitchbook.

The Zoominfo ReachOut Chrome extension supports contact prospecting at companies along with on-demand company and contact profiles based upon the current LinkedIn page or company domain.

Chrome extensions support send to Salesforce, MS Dynamics, Outreach, and SalesLoft features. Thus, you can be researching a company or contact, click on the extension icon, and kick off a sales engagement cadence within a few seconds (longer if you pause to review the enhanced profiles). A few even include contact prospecting for companies so you can search for specific company roles and

  • Add them to your CRM as contacts or leads individually or in bulk
  • Be notified of contacts already in your CRM (to avoid duplicates)
  • Kick off a Sales Engagement cadence / sequence
  • Research employees