2016 in Review: Sales Intelligence Functionality

InMail 2.0 provides full profile access, a signature block, attachment support, shared connections, icebreakers, and synch to CRM.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator InMail 2.0 provides full profile access, a signature block, attachment support, shared connections, icebreakers, and synch to CRM.

In yesterday’s blog, I discussed how expanded content is a common path for adding value to sales intelligence services.  Today, I am looking at how functionality, which usually leverages new or existing content, added significant value to product offerings in 2016.

Many of the vendors covered in my new 2017 Field Guide to Sales Intelligence Vendors added new feature functionality to their service:

  1. LinkedIn Sales Navigator: LinkedIn rolled out a series of enhancements to their service:
    1. Sales Navigator introduced InMail 2.0 with support for signatures, attachments, and conversational insights.
    2. Sales Navigator updated its prospecting user interface and added additional searching tools and screening variables. Sales Spotlights are LinkedIn specific variables that are displayed on top of screening results allowing for additional filtering:
      • Accounts with senior leadership changes in the last three months
      • Lead changed jobs in past 90 days
      • Leads with TeamLink Intro
      • Lead mentioned in the news the past 30 days
      • Lead posted on LinkedIn in past 30 days
      • Lead shares an experience with the sales rep
      • Leads that follow rep’s company on LinkedIn

       

    3. New prospecting filters include
      • Department [Job Function] employee ranges
      • Department [Job Function] employee growth (plus or minus 100%)
    4. Lead search results have been expanded to include a previously viewed flag, tenure at current company, and a quick drill down to TeamLink introductions.
    5. The Sales Navigator app added a new Discover tab which acts as a “Tinder for leads.” The tab provides five daily new lead and account recommendations.
    6. Sales reps may now add tags (e.g. Qualified) and notes to leads and accounts. Tags are searchable and synch with Salesforce.
    7. The Sales Navigator Android and iOS apps now display up to ten daily account or lead recommendations based upon user preferences. Recommendations will expire after 24 hours and be replaced with fresh recommendations.
  2. Artesian Solutions: Artesian rolled out V14 and V15 of its platform. New features include
    • Salesforce Opportunity rollup information in Artesian and Artesian intelligence within SFDC Opportunity records.
    • Improved Company Searching rolls up companies into a group
    • Improved de-duplication logic reduces news duplicates and rolls similar articles into a group.
    • Added North American prospecting filters for counties, business type, and the presence of specific job functions at a company.
    • A redesigned CRM connector for SFDC and MS Dynamics
    • Full sales trigger customization
    • Market sector alerts
    • An updated employees page which supports executive filtering by job role and seniority.

    Artesian rolled out version 3.0 of the Artesian Ready mobile app which provides company and executive insights synched with the mobile calendar. Ready also supports collaborative note taking and a “360° comprehensive profile of customers and prospects.”  New Ready features include company searching, company add to Watchlists, Twitter timelines and Twitter sharing, social links (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, AngelList, Crunchbase), job information, and a data quality form for reporting incorrect information.

  3. DueDil: Along with entering the US market, DueDil implemented a series of product enhancements.
    • Export Custom Company reports in PDF format.
    • DueDil Connect helps users identify and connect to decision makers, map and understand their network connections, and alert users on company news related to their contact network. Users can also filter by colleague connections within Advanced Search.
    • An ownership tab which makes it easier for users to perform due diligence (e.g. Know Your Customer compliance) and assess a firm’s governance structure. Ownership content includes directorship information, shareholders, and portfolio companies. The new tab also contains a Related Companies widget which identifies companies which are not formally linked but which have a high likelihood of sharing an economic interest. Related Companies may be registered at the same location, share several directors, have a set of similar investments, or have name similarities.
    • Dynamic company lists automatically update allowing firms to keep tabs on customers, prospects, partners, and competitors.
    • Alerts are provided on lists, with notifications displayed in a new DueDil dashboard which breaks events into news, opportunities, and risk sections. DueDil event alerts include changes in leadership or ownership, recent news, updates to budget windows, changes of address, changes in employee number, company blog posts and changes in credit score.
    • Upload a file into a list for matching, deduplication, and enrichment.
    • Custom list formats may be downloaded as CSV files.
    • Segment reporting on uploaded lists
    • Match and enrich functionality against uploaded files.
  4. Avention: Avention had a series of enhancements including content, UI, new products, and new connectors.  As each of these categories is being covered under a different blog, the number of strict functional enhancements is more limited.  These included
    1. New list management features including rename, pin to desktop, delete, modify criteria, and clone list.
    2. When lists are uploaded for match and append, improved matching heuristics and a larger reference database result in significantly higher match rates. The system now also tracks unmatched records.
    3. Expanded notification functionality which allows reps to manage new company and sales trigger alerts from a centralized location. This Watchlist supports filtering by read/unread notices, priority flag, trigger type, and list. A new flag allows users to mark notifications as important.
  5. Data.com: Salesforce began offering a two-part account record data assessment report. The new Lightning report analyzes both data quality and segmentation. The data quality section begins with a Data Health overview score which assesses account data quality across three factors: Matchability vs. Dun & Bradstreet WorldBase data in Data.com, Accuracy vs. WorldBase, and Uniqueness (lack of duplicates).  In Data.com Clean, Lead records are now enriched with the Dun & Bradstreet WorldBase file.  Finally, Data.com announced a new Data Exchange with three partners: HG Data, Bombora, and MCH.  Bombora released their integrated intent file service just before the end of the year.
  6. DiscoverOrg: In September, DiscoverOrg launched Deal Predict which ranks prospects on a one to five-star scale based upon a set of firmographic, technographic, and biographic variables defined by marketing or sales operations. Deal Predict scores are displayed in both DiscoverOrg and CRMs.
  7. Dun & Bradstreet: Hoover’s doubled the Build a List download size to 10,000 records.  Meanwhile, the NetProspex Workbench data hygiene platform added company record enrichment. The service also added profile discovery and TAM analysis to its set of marketing capabilities.
  8. Infofree:  Infofree added support for text-only email templates to its CRM101 platform. Users may send up to 25 emails in a single blast and up to 250 emails per day from Infofree’s SMTP server.  Infofree also now lets users integrate their Outlook or Google calendar accounts with CRM101.
  9. Zoominfo: Zoominfo released a set of enhancements to its service in March 2016 including a country select field in its List Builder. Other new features include contact Send to Salesforce and email an electronic business card to the user’s inbox.
  10. Owler: Owler implemented a set of advanced heuristics that help personalize the service. Stories are displayed according to interest in a topic and frequency of stories for tracked companies (i.e. rarely covered companies are given higher priority).
  11. Salesgenie: Salesgenie launched a Custom Fields service which provides scoring and custom analytics models. Infogroup builds custom models for cross-sell, upsell, acquisition, and at risk accounts. Scores are based on deciles and available for screening within Build a List.

So it was a busy year on the functionality front.  As I have broken out integration connectors and the user interface as separate topics, you should view this as a sub-list of product enhancements.  Thus, even though Bureau van Dijk did not make this list, they introduced a new user interface for Orbis (Global) and Fame (UK) this spring.  Likewise, InsideView rolled out additional connectors and refreshed their CRM connector user interfaces.

2016 in Review: Sales Intelligence Content

InsideView Coverage as of April 2016.
InsideView Coverage as of April 2016.

One of the most straightforward ways to increase the value-add of a Sales Intelligence Service is to expand the content it delivers to its users.  Generally, a vendor can license additional content within the same general category (e.g. more contacts) or expand coverage into new content categories not previously supported by the product.  The first approach is usually faster and less expensive as there is limited development involved in adding additional coverage within a currently supported category (assuming the vendor is not hitting up against platform limits), but there are still costs involved with licensing, de-duping, and merging content sets.  As such, it is much more common for firms to increase the scope of current data sets than to add entirely new content categories to their services.

So which of the fourteen sales intelligence vendors discussed in my new Sales Intelligence book invested in increasing their depth of coverage?  Basically, all of them.  Of course, the scope of content investment varied greatly:

  1. Avention roughly doubled their global company, contact, and email coverage.  Their product now spans sixty million companies, eighty million contacts, and twenty million emails (US and UK).  I previously discussed their AsiaPac expansion, but the coverage expansion was global with most of the new content outside of the US, UK, and Canada where they already had significant depth.
  2. DiscoverOrg also greatly increased its coverage as it grew to 60,000 editorially researched company profiles and one million researched contacts.  Over the past twelve months, DiscoverOrg had a 91% increase in company coverage, 134% increase in contact coverage, and a 371% increase in non-IT contact coverage (numbers supplied by DiscoverOrg). The non-IT increase was due to an expansion of their job functions datasets to include Product Management (TEDD), Sales, CxO, and HR.  The firm also continued to invest in their marketing dataset.  CMO Katie Bullard noted that “the Marketing budget has begun to meet or exceed the IT department budget in many companies and vendors” while “service providers selling into marketing continue to proliferate.”
  3. RainKing continues to build out its company and contact coverage and expects to hit one million executives by the end of 2016. The firm roughly doubled the number of decision makers in its database while extending its international coverage. They also have increased the number of marketing, finance, and HR decision makers.
  4. InsideView’s executive coverage grew to 17 million US contacts and 8 million European contacts. Total global contacts more than doubled to 31 million and global emails grew by 10 million to 17 million.
  5. Bureau van Dijk added RepRisk environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risk reports to their service while continuing to build out their company database.  At the end of the year, Bureau van Dijk provided close to 210 million active and inactive company profiles
  6. DueDil rolled out enhanced financials for UK and Irish registered companies. Along with performance and growth metrics such as EBITDA and multiple CAGRs (compounded annual growth rates), DueDil is providing historical graphs for key metrics. In total, six new metrics and 12 key performance indicators (KPIs) have been added.
  7. Data.com expanded the Dun & Bradstreet content displayed in a new Prospect Insights view.  Extended company intelligence includes D&B WorldBase firmographics and linkage, Hoover’s top company descriptions and competitors, and First Research industry overviews with call prep questions and industry summaries.
  8. Infofree grew its executive email file to 26 million.
  9. Salesgenie raised its business email count to 58 million US contacts.
  10. Owler’s primary focus in 2016 was to expand their Competitive Graph and gather additional company intelligence. The Competitive Graph improved as the user base has grown and the firm has implemented a set of data cards (simple user queries such as is company X a competitor of company Y) which help refine sizing data, competitors, and a few other firmographic topics.  Revenue and employee figures have grown to 2.7 million companies.
  11. Zoominfo expanded its set of company enrichment variables with the addition of 200 new Company Attributes in October 2016.
  12. LinkedIn continues to add two members per second.  At the end of the year, they delivered 467 million global profiles across ten million companies.
  13. Dun & Bradstreet grew its WorldBase file of global companies to 265 million active and inactive firms.  Over the past few years, they have also focused on improving the depth and accuracy of their international file.

So who did I omit?  Technically Artesian Solutions did not make the content list, but that is simply because their new US edition will be discussed in the new product category.  Likewise, InsideView’s Tech Profiler Premium is also being discussed as a new product.

Avention: Expanded Asian Presence and Coverage

Avention's Global Business Browser is now available in Chinese and Japanese editions.
Avention’s OneSource Global Business Browser is now available in Chinese and Japanese editions.

Sales Intelligence vendor Avention, which has long had a sales presence in Asia, continues to expand its presence in the region via direct sales teams and channel partners.  They also have significantly expanded their AsiaPac company and contact information sets.

Over the past year, Avention extended its coverage in India, China, Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong and added additional staff in their Singapore office.  Avention has AsiaPac offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, Delhi, Sydney, and Melbourne along with affiliates in China, Japan, and Korea.

Along with Asian companies and contacts, Avention provides global family trees, industry market research, company news and sales triggers, and public company coverage of listed firms in AsiaPac and the rest of the world.

Japan

Avention designated Nikkei Media Marketing as their sole channel distributor in the Japanese market acting as the “exclusive and general agent” for all Avention products in Japan.  Avention recently launched a Japanese language version of their OneSource Global Business Browser service.  Over the past year, Avention has trebled their Japanese company coverage and quadrupled their Japanese contact coverage.

“This agreement is a terrific step for Avention OneSource Solutions as we focus our growth plans in Asia-Pacific,” said SVP of International Paul Charmatz.  “Combined with the launch of our Japanese product, Nikkei’s Media Marketing’s unrivalled network and reach will take our Japanese presence to the next level. OneSource now covers well over 50 million companies globally, giving our customers in Japan access to unrivalled business insights. As a result of this agreement, our customers will be able to make smarter, more informed, data-driven decisions.”

India

In India, Avention has taken a direct sales approach.  Avention first opened a Gurgaon, Delhi sales office in 2006.  It has since quadrupled its sales presence in India with offices in Mumbai, Bangalore, and Chennai.  Avention has added five staff to its India operations including Nittin Maheshwari, who joined as Director of India & MEA in April.

“India is a big focus for us at Avention OneSource Solutions, as the country is pegged to become the driver of growth across global markets for decades to come,” said Paul Charmatz, SVP of International.  “We are fully committed to helping our customers here achieve their business goals as the country’s importance as an economic hub grows. Our Indian business continues to go from strength to strength as increasing numbers of companies reap the benefits of our increased data coverage and cutting edge product offering.”

Avention’s Indian coverage now spans the full universe of Indian registered companies.

China

Avention has chosen to fully enter the Chinese market with a Chinese language version of their sales intelligence and business research product.  They also increased coverage of China and the Asia-Pacific region.  Expanded Chinese and global coverage presented through a Chinese UI has resulted in the firm signing “a significant number of new customers each month.”

Coverage of Chinese companies, which was slightly above 300,000 firms for nearly a decade, has been increased nearly ten-fold to 2.7 million domestic companies with plans to grow coverage to over 3 ½ million profiles by the end of the year.  This coverage growth is part of an expansion of the Avention global company database from 25 million to 70 million companies this year.

Chinese customers can now “access the platform in their local language, making it far easier for them to identify international prospects and be armed with the insight to build relationships,” said Regional Director Lon Shing.  “Offering our platform in Chinese is just one sign of our commitment to the region and the businesses there – as well as testament to the massive growth opportunities we see, both for our customers and for Avention”

Note: I was the Product Manager for OneSource Global Business Browser: Asia in 2001-2002 when the service was first launched.

Avention: Oracle Marketing Cloud Connector

Sales and Marketing Intelligence vendor Avention announced availability of an Oracle Marketing Cloud (Eloqua) connector which infuses Eloqua with Avention account insights and predictive analytics.  The new connector supports three marketing use cases: web form enrichment, uploaded list matching via the OneSource platform, and prospect list building within OneSource.  Lists built and enriched within OneSource are then fed to Eloqua.

The service supports customized field mapping against 58 fields including revenue, assets, liabilities, and pre-tax profit across four currencies (USD, GBP, EUR, and As Reported); industry codes (US SIC, NAICS, UK SIC); corporate linkages; full address; and firmographics.

Avention continues to grow its Global Content Live Database with support for fifty million global companies and eighty million contacts.  Marketers can build lists from this database using a broad set of selection criteria including business signals, technographics, firmographics, corporate linkage, advanced financials, and contact variables.

Avention OneSource provides broad prospecting with direct export to Eloqua.
Avention OneSource provides broad prospecting with direct export to Eloqua.

“Our customers are finding that marketing and sales teams need to align their data more than ever to achieve account-based marketing success,” remarked Avention CEO Steve Pogorzelski. “The Oracle Marketing Cloud connector will offer our mutual customers the strength of the combined applications to help grow their businesses and achieve ROI from their ABM campaigns.”

Web form enrichment is a new capability from Avention.  Marketers can set up matches based upon company name and country, although additional fields are recommended to improve match accuracy.  Limiting the number of required fields and enriching the remaining fields from a standardized database is a best practice.  Short forms minimize the form abandonment rate, reduce the instance of bogus data entry, ensure that standardized fields are employed, and enrich records with fields not easily garnered from web forms (e.g. company linkage, revenue figures).

Avention is a Gold Level member of the Oracle PartnerNetwork and also offers a OneSource for Oracle Sales Cloud connector.

Note: I am a former OneSource employee and current blogger for Avention.

The Universe Has a Sense of Humor

The Inc. 5000 list search for Business Products & Services placed Razor Consulting Solutions next to Occam's Paradigm.
The Inc. 5000 list search for Business Products & Services placed Razor Consulting Solutions next to Occam’s Paradigm.

Since studying French in high school, I’ve always had a sense for the absurdity of life.  How could you not when you are reading Sartre, Camus, and Ionesco (n’est-ce pas)?  Every now and then the universe reminds you of this absurdity when you aren’t expecting it.

While researching the just released 2016 Inc. 5000 list, I sorted the 2016 list by Business Products and Services and Occam’s Paradigm was next to Razor Consulting Services.  Occam’s Paradigm named its company after a philosophical statement made by William of Occam commonly called Occam’s Razor.

Here is an explanation of Occam’s Razor from the Occam’s Paradigm Facebook page:

His widely quoted principle known as Occam’s razor recommends the selection, among competing hypotheses, of the one that makes the fewest assumptions and by extension offers the simplest explanation of the effect. Occam’s razor recommends that one should always opt for an explanation in terms of the fewest possible number of causes, factors, or variables. Occam’s Razor is frequently expressed in the statement, ‘Entia non sunt mul- tiplicanda sine necessitate’ that is ‘Beings are not to be multiplied beyond necessity’. Put simply – ‘Other things being equal, a simpler explanation is better than a more complex one’. He used simplicity as a criterion of concept formation and theory construction.

So what is the simplest explanation that one can posit concerning the humorous juxtaposition of these two companies on a list?  Was the universe showing a sense of humor or simply being random?

To get a feel for the likelihood of this event, I went into Avention’s Global Business Browser and found there were 11.3 million US private independent and parent companies (I omitted subs and branches as the Inc. list is based upon overall company performance).  Of these, 688 had the word razor in their name.  Thus, the odds of Occam’s Paradigm being next to a “razor” company is

688 * 2 / 11,300,000 = .012%

or roughly 1 in 8,000.  This is basically the odds of rolling a Yahtzee of all Sixes (five dice) on the first roll (1 / 6^5)

So 1 in 8,000 seems high, but our brains are designed to spot anomalies such as

Occam NEAR Razor

Once you adjust for the fact that I was scanning through multiple filtered lists, I probably scanned thousands of potential pairs for coincidences.  Applying Occam’s Razor, the universe wasn’t winking at me, it was simply exhibiting randomness.

 

It is Time to Revisit Buyer Personas

Buyer Persona tools are a growing area of focus for sales and marketing teams.  Pragmatic Marketing and other B2B product marketing firms have long promoted the value of personas for product planning and marketing messaging.  They help identify customer needs and features as well as associated positioning.  According to B2B Marketing Strategist Ardath Albee, they help “build relationships based on expertise and authority that helps buyers see your company as a mentor and the best choice to solve their problem or capitalize on an opportunity.”

“Buyer personas are important because they allow us to focus our sales and marketing efforts on people who need our solutions to do their job better, to help their businesses grow, to help their businesses essentially reduce cost, to help the increase efficiencies, to help them realize the goals they are setting out to achieve.  In order for us to do that, we need to understand that buyer intimately,” said Ned Leutz of Zoominfo.  “By doing our homework fully we can better understand these people and then, of course, increase our success rate when we are reaching out to them.”

The problem with personas is that they have historically been high-level tools that quickly fall into caricature and disuse because they are not rigorously defined and maintained.  “Many customer intelligence efforts today are ad hoc, uninformed, and manual projects that are full of assumptions and rarely kept up to date,” says persona vendor Cintell.  “Even if you’ve hired a consultant to develop buyer personas, insights are often trapped in static PDF documents abandoned at the back of a desk drawer leaving critical customer intelligence underutilized.”

Unfortunately, there were few tools available for identifying and researching personas.  Instead B2B marketers focused on building segments that approximated their personas for marketing campaigns while product managers posted persona profiles in meeting rooms during road mapping and feature definition exercises but failed to use these tools beyond the early product definition stage.

Recently, three vendors have begun to address the B2B persona problem.  Zoominfo focuses on  amongst a company’s best customers.  These personas capture enough information about the attributes of their best customers to help identify similar prospects at other companies.  Such a tool operates as a next generation customer cloning tool as it looks at both firmographic and functional information around leads.  The tool can also be used to evaluate attendees at conferences or webinars to help tailor discussions.

ZoomInfo Personas provide a multi-dimensional cluster analysis for identifying persona categories and prospecting against them.
ZoomInfo Personas provide a multi-dimensional cluster analysis for identifying persona categories and prospecting against them.

Avention also recently rolled out its OneSource DataVision platform for enrichment, segmentation analysis, and Look-alike prospecting.

Leutz recommends that the firm ask questions such as

  • Who are your top performing customers?
  • Who are your best leads?
  • What were your biggest deals?
  • Which customers close faster?

This information that can be gathered from the CRM, marketing automation platform, webinar attendees, and trade show lists.  It can also be gathered from your sales reps, the CFO, and customer conversations.

While Zoominfo can assist with answering Who, they fail to provide insights into What or Why.  In short, Zoominfo’s personas are basically the next generation of peer listings;  they are a starting point for the persona process, but they do not assist with identifying persona needs; determining whether the cluster contains economic buyers, influencers, or users; or specifying what kind of content would be of interest to them.  They also do not assist product management in determining product roadmaps and future capabilities.

There are also several vendors that recently launched tools for defining and maintaining buyer and user personas.  Cintell and Akoonu offer marketers tools for defining personas in a centralized platform that collects survey data and research alongside the profiles.  Both of these services were launched about a year ago so will be evolving quickly.  The two services are cloud based hubs for collecting persona information and sharing it with both platforms (e.g. Marketing Automation and CRM) and employees.  They are ongoing intelligence gathering services for continuously refining and updating personas and then disseminating this intelligence to marketing, sales, and product management.

Cintell Personas cover professional insights, social insights, content trends (intent data), and personality data.
Cintell personas cover professional insights, social insights, content trends (intent data), and personality data.

They also promise to immediately map leads to personas, helping inform messaging, campaigns, and targeting within the marketing automation platform and segmentation and analytics in the CRM.  When tied to a well-researched persona, sales reps would have a better understanding of the prospect’s role, needs, and informational requirements.  Personas provide sales reps with a summary of buying habits, preferences, and motivations along with market research reports, customer interviews and surveys, and persona specific articles.  As living documents shared across the organization, they would also assist product management in identifying latent needs and customer pain points and marketing communications in tailoring content for the persona.

“Our new empowered B2B consumer seeks relevancy and empathy,” said Cintell Co-Founder Katie Martell.  “And marketers know this: In a recent ITSMA study, technology marketers  predicted that understanding buyers will soon become their #1 responsibility.  But getting to this insight is not easy. Efforts to research and leverage personas today are highly manual, shallow, very static, and fragmented throughout the business. The opportunity here is to empower B2B organizations with a platform to gather primary research, enhance it with external market and buyer insights, and combine it with data from internal business systems. The new competitive advantage for companies is a richer understanding of buyers through meaningful, ongoing customer intelligence.”

I don’t see these persona definition platforms as long-term standalone offerings as their functionality is a tight fit for marketing automation.  They will likely be folded into marketing automation platforms once the technology has matured.  It is also possible that predictive analytics companies fold these tools into their products as persona assignments would inform lead scoring and messaging.  Furthermore, several of the predictive firms aspire to becoming recommendation engines, a feature that persona platforms could easily support.  Conversely, business signals would be valuable in building out a fuller understanding of personas.

Account Based Marketing Blog Series

 

Lead Quality Stratification Chart from "I Don’t Want More Leads (and Neither Do You)"
Lead quality stratification chart from “I Don’t Want More Leads (and Neither Do You)”

I was recently commissioned to write a blog series on the subject of Account Based Marketing (ABM) for sales intelligence vendor Avention.  ABM is one of the hottest trends in sales and marketing as firms have realized that blanketing the market with non-personalized messaging is both inefficient and becoming less effective.  ABM provides a structured approach to sales and marketing whereby firms define their best customers and prospects and then focus their energy on these best candidates.  Due to improvements in datasets and technology, firms can now target and personalize their messaging much more effectively.

Here are my recent articles and opening paragraphs:

  • Data Quality Remains Boring, but Ever More Important: Three years ago, I wrote a blog titled, “Data Quality is Boring”.  To be honest, it still is.  Few marketing executives will walk into the job and set data hygiene as their first priority.  But is it more critical than ever due to the increased scope of SalesTech and Martech and the advancement of Account Based Marketing (ABM) and predictive analytics.  None of these tools will achieve their promise without a rigorous process for embedding high quality data into your leads, contacts, and accounts.  Marketers need to build data quality into the front-end of their data acquisition process and then maintain data quality over time.  Likewise, data quality needs to be maintained within CRMs due to the rapid rate of contact decay.
  • Demand Gen is to Fishing With Nets as ABM is to _____: Account Based Marketing (ABM) is quickly moving up the hype cycle and becoming a best practice at many B2B organizations.  While ABM has been around for decades, it is only in the past two years that the wisdom of B2B targeting combined with focused sales and marketing activities around ideal customers has been revisited.
  • Digital Transformation of Sales & Marketing: In my last blog, I discussed Forrester’s model of Digital Predators, Digital Transformers, and Digital Dinosaurs.  Forrester argues that businesses must quickly become digital with products and services which are either sold or delivered digitally.  According to Forrester, about five percent of business revenue is being converted from traditional to digital each year with nearly half of all revenue being digitally mediated by 2020.  At that point, ninety percent of digital predator revenue will be digitally mediated, and nearly seventy percent of digital transformer revenue will be digital, but only one-third of digital dinosaur revenue will be digital.  Thus, over the next four years, the transformers will quadruple their digital revenue mix while the dinosaurs will merely double it
  • Account Based Marketing & Cloning Best Customers: As sales and marketing teams embrace Account Based Marketing (ABM), they have come to realize that ABM requires that the two departments agree on what constitutes a best customer as well as how to identify them.  Account Based Marketing is a balancing act between extending your target market and retaining strategic focus.  Firms need to direct their energy and investments into a universe of best prospects and customers.  Once this ABM target list is defined, sales and marketing must maintain a laser-like focus on these candidates.
  • Account Based Marketing & Expanding Your Footprint: When assessing vendors for Account Based Marketing (ABM), the initial focus may be on building the ABM target list, but equally important is the ability to sell more broadly across an organization.  Thus, deep contacts and linkage are critical for upselling, cross-selling, and accessing new pockets of potential buyers within firms.  After all, it is easier to sell deeper into your best fit accounts than it is to establish that initial beachhead.  Furthermore, a broader footprint generates both greater income and greater account security.
  • Account Based Marketing & Company Research: Account Based Marketing (ABM) has been re-embraced as a strategy by sales and marketing teams as they have realized that traditional outreach methods (e.g. banner advertising, phone, and email) need to be better targeted towards a set of Ideal Customers.  Simply taking a “spray and pray” approach to marketing is becoming less effective as prospects become less willing to answer calls or read poorly targeted emails.  If the voicemail is generic or the email appears to be generated from a marketing automation platform, it is unlikely that the prospect will do anything beyond hit the delete button.
  • Meet ABM’s Kid Brother: ABSD: In my last few blogs, I’ve discussed Account Based Marketing (ABM) as a targeted approach to strategic B2B marketing, but have yet to broach the subject of how ABM affects sales reps.  Since ABM began at the very top of the funnel as programmatic marketing to anonymous targets at named accounts, it had little process impact further down the funnel; but now that ABM has become a broader marketing strategy for named accounts, the question is much more relevant.
  • MQL and SQL — Why Can’t We Just Agree on Lead Qualification: For too long, sales and marketing have been at loggerheads over what constitutes a qualified lead.  This disagreement on what is an actionable opportunity has been one of the sources of ongoing conflict between sales and marketing.  How many times has marketing crowed about all the leads they generate for the sales team only to be dismissed by sales reps and their managers?
  • I Don’t Want More Leads (and Neither Do You): The headline to my email read, “I don’t need more leads.  Said no marketer ever.”  I guess I’ll be the first to disagree with that statement – as would the marketer who wrote the headline.  You only need to read her subsequent copy which states “When fully integrated into your demand generation efforts, predictive marketing enables B2B marketers to drive deeper buyer engagement and increase revenue opportunities from target accounts.”

Note: I am a former Avention employee (2001 – 20010)

Avention: DataVision and Global Content Live

DV2

I recently had the opportunity to interview Avention’s SVP of Product Lauren Bakewell concerning their new OneSource DataVision service.  The full interview can be found in trade publication Jinfo (FKA FreePint).  The new service provides a centralized data enrichment hub with visualization and segmentation tools to assist with business planning, territory planning, and account based marketing  (ABM).  DataVision also assists with TAM analysis and offers similar companies and contacts.

Like many other sales intelligence and Martech vendors, Avention is messaging around ABM programs which identify best customers and prospects for focused sales and marketing attention.  DataVision “helps companies understand their current customer base in detail and identify the most relevant target companies and segments for growth,” said Bakewell.  “OneSource DataVision benefits the marketing department by enabling customer segmentation and target identification, which in turn helps create targeted lists for campaigns, upsells and nurturing. Any marketer knows that a more targeted approach generates better leads for sales, meaning higher campaign ROI.”

According to Bakewell, Avention supports ABM and Account Based Sales Development (ABSD) processes in three ways:

  1. Identifying target accounts
  2. Delivering insights concerning accounts and contacts
  3. Building lists of contacts at target accounts

Avention continues to build out its Global Content Live reference file built from over 100 data providers.  Vendor content is fused to create a “golden record” which selects the most reliable vendor at the field level.  International coverage has recently been tripled with a goal of covering 80% of GDP in their served markets by the end of 2016.

DataVision will soon be announcing connectors with the major marketing automation platforms.  They are also “looking towards a more guided approach to help you get to the most meaningful segmentation, as well as areas to explore for growth. We want to move forward by providing more market analytics as part of the offering, helping you understand your data in an even more actionable way,” said Bakewell.

The full interview is available to Jinfo subscribers.

 

ABM: The Art of the Start (Avention)

This morning, sales and marketing intelligence vendor Avention unveiled a survey and set of recommendations on implementing Account Based Marketing strategies.  ABM is quickly moving from a buzzword to an actionable strategy for strategically targeting your best customers and prospects.  If you are considering an ABM strategy or researching how to move forward with ABM, Avention’s “Account-Based Marketing: The Art of the Start – Leveraging a Strong Data Foundation to Fuel ABM Success” guide is now available.

The Avention Survey of over 100 top level B2B executives (e.g. CEO, CMO, VP of Sales) found that ABM strategies require “careful data-driven planning, execution and monitoring.”  Furthermore, the lack of data access and quality are “fundamental impediments” that need to be resolved for ABM strategies to succeed.

ABM is based upon strategic targeting of your best accounts and similar companies.  If your underlying data is poor you will have problems with best customer cloning, account messaging, and drilling deeper into organizations for cross-sell and upsell.  Furthermore, “once a program is started, it is essential that account and market news and events be monitored to ensure programs remain relevant.”

Todd Berkowitz, research vice president for Gartner1 wrote in a January report, “By getting a better view of customer data, creating predictive models, employing account-based marketing, and creating internal and external-facing content specifically for existing customers, even marketing leaders from smaller providers can increase the likelihood of success.”

90% of the surveyed B2B execs believe that ABM is relevant to their organization and 86% are confident that ABM will drive growth; however, 75% are having trouble finding the appropriate contacts for selling deeper into target organizations, and more than fifty percent of B2B marketers lack an ability to monitor and adjust programs directed towards ABM accounts due to a lack of real-time intelligence.

AV ABM Survey
ABM Survey of B2B Executives republished with permission from Avention.

Avention noted that ABM is a long-term strategy that requires continuously updated account and contact intelligence if campaigns are to remain relevant.  For example, messages and offers may need to be adjusted due to key events such as executive changes.

Avention CEO Steve Pogorzelski summarized the ABM implementation problems found in the survey:

Almost two-thirds of the marketers responding to our survey report not having access to a single source of truth for customer data.  This obviously impedes starting an ABM program and running it to successful conclusion, as such programs demand access to accurate and continually updated market and account data.  ABM offers enterprises the opportunity to quickly fuel their customer acquisition, growth and retention strategies.

Pogorzelski noted that Avention provides three capabilities which support sales, marketing, and sales operations ABM responsibilities:

  • Marketing: “Consolidation and visualization of in-house customer data for sophisticated segmentation.” (For more on these capabilities, see my February blog on the launch of their DataVision platform).
  • Sales: Strategic intelligence concerning companies and contacts along with predictive indicators.
  • Sales Operations: CRM and Marketing Automation ecosystem connectivity.

Finally, I would note that traditional approaches to marketing data quality which involve annual data cleanses are insufficient to meet ABM and predictive marketing needs.  Marketing data, particularly contacts, ages quickly.  The lack of a continuous data quality strategy will result in a drop-off in sales and marketing productivity as contact and company data decays.

1 Gartner, Tech-Go-to-Market: Four Ways Marketers can Generate Demand with Existing Accounts, January 29, 2016


Full Disclosure: I broadly advise companies across the sales intelligence space including Avention.  While I periodically write commissioned blogs for Avention, none of my commentary on my own blog or social media accounts is commissioned.

Evolution of Sales Intelligence

Darwin's_finchesThe Sales Intelligence (SI) space has been undergoing some rapid change over the past year.  This evolution in functional scope and content sets has resulted in an expansion in the number of companies I cover as well as the categories (ABSD services, PE/VC funding databases).  There is also a movement of sales intelligence vendors into marketing intelligence as the traditional SIs look for additional revenue opportunities and a broader value proposition.

A year ago, Account Based Marketing (ABM) was discussed mostly by DemandBase, a top of the funnel programmatic marketing vendor, but the predictive analytics vendors and Zoominfo began discussing the methodology.  Thus, a year ago, ABM meant anti-ballistic missile or activity based management to all but the most well-versed marketers.  Now the term is commonly found in corporate blogs and collateral and has spawned ABSD (Account Based Software Development) which follows ABM down to the middle of the funnel in the sales development function.  There are now several ABSD vendors which I have begun to include in my newsletter including SalesLoft and QuotaFactory.  ABSD shifts the sales development focus away from “smile and dial” calling towards targeted messaging into a set of top prospects.  Since the prospecting activities are targeting higher value opportunities, there is a benefit to personalizing calls and emails.  SalesLoft refers to this activity as “sincerity at scale.”

What is even more impressive about SalesLoft and QuotaFactory is that they are both less than two years old and yet they have already grown in commercial stature to the point where they are building out partner ecosystems with traditional SIs and other vendors.  SalesLoft rolled out their Sales Development Cloud at their customer conference last month with nine partners including DiscoverOrg, InsideView, Datanyze, and Owler.  At the same time, QuotaFactory announced partnerships with Bedrock Data, Ambition, HG Data, and InsideView.

A second area of rapid growth is the technology sales intelligence vendors.  DiscoverOrg and RainKing have grown revenue and capabilities, transforming what was historically a sleepy niche into a significant sub-category.  Both vendors have posted high multi-year growth rates, internationalized their datasets, expanded their technology trigger events, and developed CRM and marketing automation connectors.  While they continue to gather rich profiles of IT execs, they are broadening their functional coverage to include non-IT functions that are significantly investing in IT cloud solutions such as marketing and finance.  DiscoverOrg is continuing this functional expansion with product management (the recently released TEDD dataset), HR, and Sales.  Furthermore, their databases, which once focused on the Fortune 1000, now cover nearly 50,000 top global companies and 700,000 executives.  Both firms announced significant funding events in the past six months.

Aberdeen Group, which was spun off of Harte-Hanks last year, has begun to invest in the AccessCI database.  Once the leading source of technology profiles and leads, the AccessCI (aka CiTDB and CITDS) dataset had received little investment from Harte-Hanks over the prior decade.  Under new ownership, the product is once again receiving management attention.

The SIs have also increased their coverage of technographicsAvention acquired SalesQuest two years ago and integrated their Crush profiles into their products while other vendors have licensed vendor/product data from HG Data or mined technographic intelligence.  HG Data has become so adept at collecting vendor/product data that DiscoverOrg and Aberdeen Group have begun licensing content from them.

Several firms that began as fundings databases found that Business Development was a logical extension of their value proposition and have since repositioned themselves as sales intelligence solutions.  Firms such as DataFox and Mattermark are focusing more on sales intelligence functionality while CB Insights has launched a sales intelligence solution (with technographics) while retaining its focus on the PE/VC space.

For the most part, the SIs have avoided the predictive analytics space.  The exceptions are Avention, which supports business signals and ideal profiles, and Radius which morphed  from an SMB SI into a predictive analytics company.  Meanwhile, the predictive analytics companies are beginning to offer a subset of SI features such as net-new leads.

Instead, the SIs have focused more on marketing analytics, data enrichment, and data hygiene which allows them to leverage their databases without investing in data scientists.  Dun & Bradstreet acquired NetProspex last year for its contact database and the Workbench cloud data hygiene platform.  They have also begun to offer Hoover’s concierge services including enrichment, segmentation reporting, and email delivery.  Avention launched its DataVision customer data platform earlier this year while Zoominfo, Data.com, and InsideView have placed equal weight upon marketing services and sales intelligence services.

Social Selling continues to be a core element of positioning for InsideView and LinkedIn Sales NavigatorArtesian Solutions, a UK vendor that is launching a US product later this year, also focuses on social selling.  A significant product gap across the SIs is the lack of social tools built into their offering.  I can understand why SIs have shied away from Who Knows Who tools (the exceptions are InsideView and DueDil), but it is perplexing why most SI vendors have only limited sets of social media links and little social media content displayed in their services.  Only InsideView, Artesian, and Owler have put much emphasis upon social media content.

Europe is also becoming a home of new services.  DueDil has evolved into a UK challenger to Avention and BvD Mint while IKO System and Sparklane (formerly Zebaz) have an established presence in France.

When I started my newsletter four years ago, many of the companies and products either had not been launched or weren’t on my radar.  I mostly focused on Avention, Hoover’s, InsideView, DiscoverOrg, BvD, Sales Genie, Data.com, and RainKing.  While these companies continue to innovate, much of the energy is coming from new entrants.  The rapid growth and diversity of sales intelligence functionality has been exciting to observe.

Credit: Darwin’s Finches are in the public domain.  Charles Darwin, 1845.