I was going to be writing about yesterday’s #FlipMyFunnel conference keynote given by Terminus CEO Sangram Vajre this morning, but I woke up to news that Dun & Bradstreet is being taken private. So, I’ll recap Vajre’s discussion of humanizing B2B and the need for authenticity in a later post.
Dun & Bradstreet announced that it will be taken private by CC Capital, Cannae Holdings, and funds affiliated with Thomas H. Lee Partners LP, for $5.38 billion in cash. Shareholders will receive $145 per share, an 18% premium over its Wednesday close. The acquisition includes $1.5 billion in assumed debt.
The deal is subject to shareholder approval and is expected to close within six months.
Dun & Bradstreet has a venerable history going back 177 years. Employees include several future nineteenth century Presidents. The firm, however, has struggled in recent years to grow revenues, particularly in its Risk Management Solutions group. Sales & Marketing Solutions, which makes up a bit over 40% of the company, has posted slow but steady growth.
Dun & Bradstreet has some market leading assets:
The D-U-N-S number is the de facto global numbering system for companies. It is often required for loans and is necessary for bidding on US government contracts.
The WorldBase company file contains global linkages, Tradestyles, and credit scores for 300 million active, dormant, and defunct companies making it valuable for credit risk, supplier risk, master data management, research, client onboarding, marketing, and sales.
The Global Company Authority (FKA NetProspex) provides global directors, executives, and mid-level managers.
D&B Hoovers (FKA Avention) continues to improve with the addition of the WorldBase file, First Research industry overviews, and Global Company Authority file to the Sales Acceleration platform.
Digital delivery solutions include the D&B Direct API, connectors for CRM and Marketing Automation platforms, B2B programmatic marketing, and visitor ID (the mapping of anonymous website visitors to their firm).
The company has a strong data foundation and has been shifting delivery of its product line to the cloud, but its sales and marketing products have not had significant growth. Instead, Dun & Bradstreet has seen companies such as DiscoverOrg, LinkedIn (Sales Navigator), TechTarget, and Zoominfo enjoy most of the growth in the Sales and Marketing Intelligence space.
Funding will be a combination of debt and equity. The deal includes a 45-day “go-shop” period during which alternative offers will be welcome.
Thomas J. Manning will continue as the CEO through the closing of the transaction while James N. Fernandez, a director of the Company since 2004 and Lead Director since February 2018, will continue as the Chairman.
“Today’s announcement is the culmination of a thoughtful and comprehensive review of the value creation opportunities available to the Company as part of a full portfolio and business assessment and exploration of strategic alternatives with multiple financial sponsors. As a result of this process, the Dun & Bradstreet Board of Directors unanimously determined that this all-cash transaction with the Investor Group is in the best interest of our shareholders and our Company,” said Manning.
William P. Foley II, Chairman of Cannae Holdings, said, “In an increasingly data-driven world, Dun & Bradstreet’s insight-driven business model and interconnectivity across industries has positioned the Company for continued success. We are excited to grow the Company, increase operating efficiencies and improve the Dun & Bradstreet customer experience by providing enhanced business solutions.”
This month, Dun & Bradstreet rolled out a pair of enhancements to their Workbench Data Optimizer product line. The first release, which is already available, adds global contact cleanse and enrich functionality to the Optimizer module. Additional features include URL matching, expanded attributes, and custom match settings. The second release, with a planned release date of June 16th, provides global company targeting and an enhanced interface.
Our customers were asking for us to manage more of their data and for access to more of our data. So, we really went for it with this release. For one, we can now append up to 190 different data attributes. We can also process contact records outside of the US. We included 8x as many web domains to match to. We added data stewardship rules to pass control to the customer. Finally, we modernized the user experience. If you combine all of this with the work we did to enhance our email verification process in March, it adds up to a complete solution for optimizing marketing data.
Director of Product Management John Zilch
Dun & Bradstreet acquired NetProspex and its Contact Optimizer product in January 2015 and has continued to invest in the offering. The original product was already quite useful as it supported contact validation (email, phone, address), technographic enrichment (HG Data product vendor data), a freemium Data Health report, and segmentation analysis. Post-acquisition, Dun & Bradstreet integrated WorldBase firmographics, linkage, and D-U-N-S Numbers into the product and implemented DUNSMatch logic for match and enrich. More recently, they enhanced their Marketo and Eloqua connectors and added a Profiler module which supports advanced segmentation analysis and net-new account and contact prospecting based upon current accounts. The most recent release continues the product evolution.
The Optimizer module first matches using company name, address, and phone. If it is unable to match to specific locations, URL matching is performed as a secondary match process. The firm has 8.3 million mapped domains. Domain matching associates contacts and companies with D-U-N-S Numbers and associated firmographics. However, domain matching is less accurate as it is likely to map to the ultimate parent or a major subsidiary (if the subsidiary has a separate domain). Thus, domain matching is more generalized. It should be noted, however, that several vendors only offer domain matching so using domains as a secondary match algorithm still provides stronger matching and enrichment than these vendors.
Domain matching is also useful when address information and phone information is not provided by leads.
Dun & Bradstreet extended the number of fields available for matching to over 170 from their SDMR “Strategic Layout.” As the firm offers custom layouts, admins can choose which fields to map between Optimizer and their company and contact data sets.
Users can also employ confidence codes for matching (they recommend using match confidence levels of six or higher for the “best quality and output”) or select from turnkey file layouts. Thus, matches based on the name (but not address) or address (but not name) are excluded. Workbench supports native integrations with Eloqua (Oracle Cloud) and Marketo for lead matching. Contact matching adds phone; job title, phone, and level; social handles; and firmographics.
On June 16th, the firm will begin adding net-new accounts to its Target module. Target defaults to US companies but can also be run at the global or country level. Coverage has been expanded to 110 million companies including 9 million UK entities.
When prospecting in Target, users are provided with four counts:
Contact Records Company Type (emails)
Contact Records Campaign Type (emails and phones)
Company Records Firmographics
Cookies and Mobile ID’s for programmatic and mobile targeting
Emails have a 90% confidence rate for deliverability.
Dun & Bradstreet, which has had a series of major product announcements over the past few weeks (the Avention acquisition, rebranding of its OneSource platform as D&B Hoovers, a Beneficial Ownership product), has quietly added powerful new functionality to their Workbench Data Optimizer platform. The new Profile capability features an automated profile builder, Total Addressable Market (TAM) analysis, and look-a-like prospecting based upon the Workbench profiles.
The new functionality helps marketers evaluate the size of targetable sub-markets, identify audiences with a high propensity to purchase, discover overlooked whitespace opportunities, and target new accounts and contacts. According to Alex Schwarm, Sr. Director of Marketing Analytics Products, “Profile enables our Workbench customers to begin to use data-driven, ABM-oriented Profiles based on their successful sales. These automated analytics allow you to quickly and easily identify the best whitespace opportunities and characteristics of your target audiences including those with the highest propensity to buy – no data scientist needed.”
Profile is a black-box analytics engine which clusters customer files without biases. Marketers upload a file of their customers’ data for a specific product or product family. Workbench standardizes, de-duplicates, and verifies the input file; matches and enriches it with Dun & Bradstreet’s WorldBase firmographics; and then provides segmentation and file health analysis. The Profile module identifies between two and eight distinct segments containing similar companies across multiple dimensions. The user can define the number of profiles or the system can automatically identify the optimal number of profiles based on the variation of the customer file. The marketer is not required to define the key segmentation variables. Instead, the system automatically performs affinity clustering (my term) to build the segments. Execution time is typically 5 to 10 minutes.
The results are displayed on a downloadable dashboard that provides a side-by-side firmographic analysis of the clusters. Results include company size, ownership (e.g. parent, branch), primary industries, cluster size, and average deal size (if revenue figures are also shared with Dun & Bradstreet). Thus, the system may identify segments with a lower average deal size but a larger number of prospects alongside clusters containing top customers with high average deal size but a small number of targetable opportunities.
While Dun & Bradstreet does not use the term “Ideal Customer Profile” (ICP) the system is basically identifying the attributes of a customer’s ICP, determining the average deal size, and sizing the overall market opportunity.
Dun & Bradstreet has two major assets in performing TAM analysis: The WorldBase file of global companies and trust built up over 170 years of credit research. WorldBase provides them with a consistent, global file of 260 million active and inactive companies for credit and supplier risk research, sales intelligence, and B2B marketing. The file includes broad global company linkages, corporate and location sizing, industry coding, Tradestyles, and D-U-N-S Numbers (the de facto global company numbering system). This intelligence provides the core reference file against which market sizing can be performed. But TAM analysis requires customer level revenue information against which company counts can be converted to market sizes. And here is where a strong credit analysis brand helps build confidence amongst marketers to share company revenue data. While they will be reluctant to share revenue details with most vendors, firms have been sharing private financial details with Dun & Bradstreet over the better part of two centuries.
Marketers can then take any of the profiles and immediately identify net-new similar companies as well as net-new contacts. The system also sizes potential target market audiences that can be reached programmatically through their Audience Solutions group.
While prospect scoring based upon these definitions is not yet supported, that is a likely future offering for the platform. Profile, along with a set of predictive scores and paired with D&B Hoovers’ business signals, represents a toe in the water of the predictive analytics space.
A 52.5 GB NetProspex file of nearly 34 million US business contacts was recently stolen. Dun & Bradstreet did not indicate how the MongoDB database was purloined, but indicated it suffered no data breaches and the file was likely stolen from a customer. “We’ve carefully evaluated the information that was shared with us and it is of a type and in a format that we deliver to customers every day. Based on our analysis, it was not accessed or exposed through a Dun & Bradstreet system,” the firm said in a statement to ZD Net.
The file was believed to be six months old. While it was built and sold for legitimate sales and marketing purposes and complies with US law, it could be used for spamming and spear phishing. “It’s an absolute goldmine for phishing because here you have a huge amount of useful information from which to craft attacks,” said Internet security advocate Troy Hunt who publicized the breach. “From this data, you can piece together organizational structures and tailor messaging to create an air of authenticity and that’s something that’s attractive to crooks and nation-state actors alike.”
Content includes business contact information; job titles, functions, and levels; current employer; and employer firmographics including size, industry, location, and D-U-N-S Number. Their file does not contain personal emails, phones, biographics, or any kind of consumer credit data as Dun & Bradstreet strictly collects B2B company and contact intelligence. However, the file does contain extensive business and government employee data such as 100,000 Department of Defense and a combined 75,000 Army, Air Force, and VA contacts.
Dun & Bradstreet should evaluate whether retaining titles for military and security agencies is in their best interest (and the country’s). For example, being able to identify 715 military Intelligence Analysts makes it easy for nefarious parties to spearphish them. This may be a case where losing the actual job title and simply mapping the title to a job function (e.g. procurement, security, medical, R&D) would make sense. Another option might be to track only government officials whose name appear in official sites and publications. As the government publishes bid data through FedBizOpps, procurement contacts would still be available for commercial purposes.
“Whilst you could piece together parts of the data from information already in the public domain, having it aggregated and so easily searchable in this fashion is enormously valuable,” said Hunt. “It also serves as a reminder that we’ve lost control of our privacy; the vast majority of people in the data set would have no idea their information is being sold in this fashion and they certainly don’t have any control over it.”
If you would like to check on whether your personal or business email information have been stolen, Hunt has setup a free site which tracks over 200 stolen databases. Registration takes about 3 minutes (you need to validate that you are researching your own contact information). The site will also advise you if your email appears in future breaches.
Avention was acquired for $150 million net of cash assumed. Avention generated $60 million in 2016 revenue.
“We are excited to combine our world-class company and contact data with Avention’s best-in-class technology that is fully integrated with the leading software platforms utilized by B2B sales professionals and marketers,” said Dun & Bradstreet COO Josh Peirez. “Avention is a natural fit that will allow us to deliver tremendous value to customers, and the synergies we can capture put the value of this deal well above the purchase price of the acquisition.”
Dun & Bradstreet combined with Avention functionality offers the potential for a powerful sales intelligence service with strong marketing capabilities. Both Dun & Bradstreet and Avention have been expanding their marketing capabilities and ABM messaging.
Dun and Bradstreet content assets include
265 million active and inactive global companies
NetProspex executive file with emails and direct dials
Hoover’s editorially-written profiles
First Research industry overviews
Dun & Bradstreet emphasized the following Avention capabilities:
An intuitive, dynamic user interface to deliver intelligence that can be customized to meet each user’s needs.
Powerful alerts, triggers, and profiling capabilities that leverage both structured data (e.g. industry codes, address, and employee information) and unstructured data (e.g. social content, news feeds, and analyst reports).
Simple integration with the mission-critical systems that your teams use every day, including SFDC, Dynamics, Marketo, and Eloqua, as well as homegrown systems used by many companies.
Combined, Hoover’s, NetProspex, Avention, and D&B alliance products generated over $200 million in revenue. The acquisition provides Dun & Bradstreet with a leading sales intelligence platform as well as several legacy products:
Avention OneSource: Sales Intelligence with advanced company research tools and a light predictive analytics capability. Distinguishing features include Conceptual Search, Business Signals, Ideal Profile Scores, Sales Triggers, and Smart Lists. The OneSource platform supports CRM connectors for Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, and Oracle Cloud for Sales as well as marketing automation connectors for Marketo and Eloqua (Oracle Marketing Cloud).
Avention DataVision: DataVision, launched in 2016, supports data enrichment, segmentation, look-a-like prospecting, and TAM analysis.
iSell: A legacy sales product
Global Business Browser: A legacy company research product
OneSource Open Connector: API
Dun & Bradstreet offers an overlapping set of products that will need to be rationalized following the acquisition. Hoover’s is a direct competitor of OneSource and iSell. While it has a lower price point than these offerings, it has been struggling for several years with declining revenue and limited investment. As such, Hoover’s is unlikely to see significant investment in the near-term as Dun & Bradstreet moves to integrate the D&B WorldBase company and contact file, NetProspex contacts, and First Research industry overviews into Avention. Hoover’s also maintains 42,000 editorially written company profiles which would also add value to the Avention Global Content Live Platform.
NetProspex’ Workbench service offers many features similar to DataVision. Workbench has an advantage in data matching logic and data verification tools (e.g. phone, email, and address verification), but it is likely that the Avention company universe will be quickly D-U-N-S Numbered and that DUNSMatch logic will be incorporated into Avention services. As such, it is unclear whether Workbench or DataVision would be the long-term hygiene front-end for Dun & Bradstreet.
“Dun & Bradstreet is uniquely positioned to serve this growing market with its foundational company and contact data, which will soon be delivered through Avention’s best-in-class software offerings,” stated Dun & Bradstreet in a press release. “The combination provides a tremendous opportunity to evolve Dun & Bradstreet’s Traditional Prospecting offerings into a category that serves critical B2B sales and marketing needs.
“The Sales Acceleration space offers a big opportunity for Dun & Bradstreet. We believe as the global leader in commercial information we are well positioned to take market share and accelerate our growth strategy,” said Dun & Bradstreet CEO Bob Carrigan. “Bolstered by the success of our recent M&A activity, which has exceeded its acquisition economics, we will continue to explore smart, tuck-in acquisitions that, combined with disciplined execution, will help us to further expand our leadership in this category as well as other areas of our business.”
One potential area of conflict may be around Data.com. Dun & Bradstreet provides their WorldBase file to Data.com Prospector and does not offer a D&B360 Salesforce.com connector. However, Avention has a robust AppExchange connector which competes against both Data.com Prospector and Data.com Clean.
Oftentimes when a small company is acquired, it is treated as a cash cow (if it is producing cash) or plugged into a larger business to address a capabilities gap or generate cross-selling opportunities. Less frequently is the new asset treated as a vital, strategic asset to help enter new markets.
In the case of Dun & Bradstreet’s acquisition of NetProspex, the acquired division has been a keystone for Dun & Bradstreet’s entry into Audience Solutions (Visitor ID, Audience Targeting). Dun & Bradstreet is beginning to gain traction in the programmatic advertising space. On their most recent earnings call, CEO Bob Carrigan noted that their customers have long relied on Dun & Bradstreet for company data, but that this data was difficult to map to online activities because people surf the net, not companies. When the firm acquired NetProspex early last year, they immediately set out to combine the NetProspex contact data with Dun & Bradstreet firmographics and D-U-N-S Numbers.
“Our contact data, coupled with our company data, on boarded for the digital world and matched to online cookies, helps our customers get their advertising in front of the right target, and the right decision maker at that target, at the right time,” said Carrigan. “And, by organizing around the D-U-N-S Number, our customers can finally connect their offline customer management data with their online advertising campaigns, creating that vital bridge between ad tech and marketing tech.”
Dun & Bradstreet data is then mapped to three hundred online segments. These segments utilize anonymous data including size variables, industry, job function, propensity to purchase specific products, and likelihood of qualifying for loans or company credit cards. Segments are then delivered to partners including Oracle, Adobe, Google, Xaxis and Nielsen. Furthermore, the firm’s global direct sales team offers bespoke segments for custom targeting.
“[The] whole programmatic wave, it’s all moving to B2B right now. And we’re starting to see some really nice uptake because we’re available for all the major buying platforms,” said Carrigan. “We’re also selling direct licenses to marketers as well and obviously we’ve got a portfolio already of sales and marketing solutions. This is a really nice complement to that and we’re trying to catch this wave and really deliver scale in a market that’s highly fragmented. So we’re pretty excited about this. It’s a great example of leveraging our core data in a new use case and it’s a great place for us to be.”
Adding Value to Hoover’s
Dun & Bradstreet also moved to quickly integrate NetProspex contacts into its Hoover’s sales intelligence service and used the NetProspex CleneStep contact verification process to validate Hoover’s contacts. The result was a deeper set of accurate contacts within Hoover’s and other Dun & Bradstreet contact-based offerings. The swap also saved Dun & Bradstreet several million dollars in contact acquisition costs.
NetProspex is also one of Hoover’s new Concierge Services for SMBs. Concierge services are turnkey marketing services for SMBs that have limited marketing resources.
Investing in NetProspex
A further sign of the strategic importance of NetProspex is the continuing investment in the NetProspex Workbench service. Workbench is a cloud-based data hygiene hub which verifies contacts (phone, email, and address), enriches the records with firmographics and technographics, provides segment and data hygiene analytics, and delivers net-new contacts. Their data health report is a slick PDF analysis of contact file health and segmentation. It is given away free as it also promotes Workbench enrichment (pre and post enrichment rates) and prospecting services.
The first thing that D&B did after acquiring NetProspex was swap out the weak firmographics attached to NetProspex contacts and replace them with D&B firmographics from their WorldBase file. This provides NetProspex with both more accurate firmographics and a much deeper set of company linkages.
Why linkage is important: Each new lead should be scored to determine whether to nurture the lead or send it immediately to a sales rep. Linkage data ensures that contacts associated with subsidiaries or branches of current customers and prospects are immediately forwarded to the appropriate sales rep. Furthermore, qualification is based upon the parent company, not simply the size information of the subsidiary or branch. Finally, channel conflict is reduced if leads are properly routed to the appropriate sales rep. Reliable firmographic and linkage enrichment provides a neutral third-party source for lead routing.
In January, NetProspex released a new dashboard set to its Workbench cloud-based data hygiene products. According to Dun & Bradstreet, “The dashboards keep track of consumption levels and alert you when you are in need of Targeted Data or a Data HealthScan. Now you can also gain insight into your Eloqua connectors in terms of performance and data enrichment.”
Data Management subscribers now see a Data HealthScore meter which indicates the overall quality of their most recent data HealthScan. They are also shown data management scores over time.
Target Data subscribers can view the total number of contacts acquired over time and a Current Consumption meter which shows “the exact percentage of contact data you have consumed.” NetProspex also added calendars to the service indicating the last time data was managed by the platform and the recommended next action date.
Finally, NetProspex increased the number of US contacts to 42 million. Each of these contacts includes an email and a significant percentage contain direct dial numbers.
While the Workbench service has long offered analytics, NetProspex recently added two analytical models to their Targeted Data subscriptions fulfilled by its Workbench platform. The two scores assist with segmentation, lead scoring, and messaging. Spend Capacity is based upon “non-traditional predictive segments such as UCC filings, inquiries and SIC revenue %.” The predictive score ranks the spend capacity of a firm between one and one hundred.
The second modeled score is Growth Trajectory which “anticipates the future growth or decay of a business based on a mix of criteria including revenue, borrow levels, credit inquiries, order frequency and spend levels.”
Targeted Subscriptions help marketers scrub their marketing database of poor or outdated leads. Records are standardized, verified (phone, email, and address), and enriched with Dun & Bradstreet company and contact data (42 million US B2B contacts with emails and direct dials). The subscription then maintains the marketing dataset and replaces bad records with good ones. The service includes Workbench Analytics concerning segmentation, technographics, and data quality.
“Data analytics (based on facts not probabilities) have not been readily available to the average marketer. That’s no longer the case. D&B is leveraging our deep expertise in understanding and analyzing company data and providing analytical insights as a value-added dimension to our Targeted Data Subscribers — no data scientist or fancy software needed,” says the firm.
According to Carrigan, Dun & Bradstreet generated more than ten million dollars in cross-sales revenue in its first year. This would include both cross-selling contact hygiene and enrichment services from NetProspex into the Dun and Bradstreet customer base and selling Dun & Bradstreet services to NetProspex clients. A key cross-sale is NetProspex contact enrichment and D&B Optimizer company enrichment sales. Optimizer lacked contact enrichments so NetProspex closes that gap.
What’s more, Dun & Bradstreet recognizes that the Optimizer platform needs to be modernized and announced plans to build company Optimizer services on the Workbench platform. Once completed, Workbench will provide a broader utility to marketers that need both lead (contact based) and account (company based) enrichment of their marketing automation platforms and CRMs.
The 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 technographics. Avention 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 Navigator. Artesian 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.
Unfortunately, data quality is a boring topic. No new CMO has ever joined a company and said, “First, let’s perform a merge/purge on our account and contact records, standardize the fields, and enrich the records.” (OK, I’m being hyperbolic, there may have been a few). No, they want a shiny new marketing automation platform, new branding, and an advertising campaign that gets the company noticed.
Sadly, there is little glory in improving your marketing database — unless, of course, you want to improve your lead nurturing, scoring, segmentation, routing, and sales ready lead quality.
Quality is generally seen as a cost center but it can just as easily be viewed as a cost saver. Bad quality erodes your marketing effectiveness, hurts your brand, kicks the knees out from under your nascent big data experiments, and demoralizes sales reps. A bad company or contact record is like a virus propagated from system to system raising the cost over time.
Furthermore, how can you think about predictive analytics when your databases are rife with bad, incomplete, and out of date records?
Bad data isn’t simply a mistyped address. It’s also:
Missing lead firmographics making it difficult to nurture, score, route, and qualify leads.
Invalid emails that hurt your deliverability scores and decrease the likelihood your messages will be delivered to inboxes instead of spam folders.
Junk fields on web forms because the individual didn’t want to fill out a dozen fields to read your whitepaper.
Large gaps in your segmentation analysis labeled UNKNOWN.
Hosting costs for storing out of date and duplicate data.
Leads with missing linkage that were held for nurture because the marketing automation system didn’t know the location was a subsidiary of a Fortune 500 company.
Poor marketing messaging and targeting that tell the recipient that you know nothing about their business, job function, industry, or company size.
Finally, bad lead quality incentivizes sales reps to ignore leads because marketing never seems to send the “Glengarry” leads. Instead, they become demoralized as they call invalid phone numbers or find that the contact “doesn’t work here anymore”.
Henry Schuck, CEO of DiscoverOrg, describes the situation well:
Sifting through crappy leads as a sales person is incredibly demoralizing. Their commission – which often translates into their ability to save for their family’s future, have disposable income or cover their mortgage and car payments – depends on them being able to close business. Their ability to close business, in turn, depends solely on their ability to find, set appointments with, and CLOSE new opportunities. If the leads provided by your company will not help them do that – how does that feel? They just moved companies to come work for you and their future is uncertain, at best.
So look at data quality holistically. Address it at the front end in your call centers and web forms and then enrich and maintain your database over time. As contact records decay at a 25% rate per annum you need to view data quality as an ongoing process, not simply an annual refresh (which is more than many companies even do).
So by flipping your perspective, it is easy to find myriad tangible benefits which justify the cost of data quality programs. It may not lead to glory, but by recognizing the distributed costs of bad data and then remediating them, you can generate significant ROI.
Photo Credit: Data Hygiene report from Dun & Bradstreet NetProspex Workbench
Hoover’s began rolling out a set of concierge services for small businesses after being merged into the Emerging Business unit last summer. Dun & Bradstreet CEO Bob Carrigan has positioned the new services as important to turning around the Hoover’s product line which has been struggling of late. In December, Carrigan noted that the new services have had “good success.”
The Concierge services target SMBs with revenue up to $250 million. Concierge services target the standard Hoover’s B2B verticals including technology companies, business services, financial services, and manufacturing.
Dun & Bradstreet Product Leader (S&MS Solutions) Michael Umbach noted that the company has long received requests for assistance with customer marketing. Dun & Bradstreet is meeting this need by combining their expertise with their data and solutions to help customers implement targeted list building, marketing file enrichment, and marketing campaigns. Furthermore, Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp, which was acquired last May, has had success offering concierge services to SMBs for credit products.
The services enable customers to perform targeted marketing without requiring them to add marketing headcount. According to their website, “Our experts can serve as an extension of your marketing team, helping you find—and reach—your best customers.” The underlying services utilize the Hoover’s, Optimizer, and NetProspex WorkBench (aka Optimizer for Contacts) platforms for fulfilling customer needs. Dun & Bradstreet has also partnered with an undisclosed email platform to support email services.
Hoover’s is providing three related services for SMBs:
Targeted List Building – Identifies prospects similar to a client’s best customers.
Effective Email Marketing – Delivers email services including messaging, design, email coding, blasting, and testing. Dun & Bradstreet also supports email verification, analytics, and unsubscribe / bounce management. Landing site hosting is provided via an undisclosed partner.
Optimized Customer Data – Supports data cleansing, standardization, and data enrichment for customer company and contact files.
As a promotional tool, Hoover’s is offering a free data quality check which assesses email deliverability, phone connectivity, and duplicate records. This service would be provided by their NetProspex Workbench platform.
Many of the Concierge clients are signing up for a full year of service allowing them to run multiple campaigns, target different audiences, and maintain and enrich their marketing data files.
The acquisition of NetProspex has also directly benefited Hoover’s users. Following the acquisition, the NetProspex contact file was merged into the Hoover’s contact set. Furthermore, the professional contacts file was processed through NetProspex CleneProspex validation process. Umbach noted that the improved contact data quality has raised customer satisfaction around contacts.
InsideView CEO Umberto Milletti offered three marketing themes for 2016. The first two, Sales and Marketing Alignment and Data Driven Messaging and Targeting, have been well discussed over the past few years. It has long been clear that sales and marketing need to work together and that data should be driving the marketing function. The new idea for 2016 is the elevation of the data scientist into a strategic position in the company. According to Milletti:
If 2015 was the year of the data scientist, then 2016 will be the year of the data strategist.
We’re in an explosion of sales and marketing technology, and every system relies on data. The more data you have, the more important your ability to update and sync that data becomes. Companies are consolidating systems and that is driving the need to implement a strategy for customer data that resides in multiple places. Otherwise, you get silos of customer information.
Good data strategy considers the flow of information, the accuracy of the data, and the consistency of the data. To do that well requires someone focused full-time on a company’s strategy for their data.
This is why the title “Chief Data Officer” seems to be more popular with search frequency trebling over the past three years on Google Trends:
Data quality, an element of broader data strategy, is becoming increasingly important. While the statement “garbage in garbage out” goes back decades, marketers long allowed their databases to go stale. Many marketing databases are rife with out of date contacts, incomplete or inaccurate firmographics, and undeliverable addresses. With predictive analytics and big data, the ability of these systems to provide insights is dependent upon the underlying data quality. Data quality is also required for tying together historical data silos which have employed different standardization rules and identifiers. Pulling together all these elements requires an enterprise owner of data strategy.
If your company isn’t ready for a broad data strategy, you should at least consider implementing data quality practices in your CRM and Marketing Automation platforms. Several vendors including ReachForce and NetProspex are developing ongoing data quality solutions that synchronize data across multiple platforms. These systems verify and standardize global address, validate emails and phones, manage duplicates, and enrich platforms with company firmographics.
Another important feature is web form verification which matches prospect records against their database and performs real-time validation of entered fields. Not only is data validated at time of entry, but the number of required input fields can be reduced, resulting in a lower web form abandonment rate and higher ROI for your digital marketing investments.
NetProspex Workbench also offers Dun & Bradstreet linkage, D-U-N-S Numbers, emails, direct dials, and tech platform variables (products and vendors).
Although InsideView doesn’t offer lead verification tools (e.g. phone, address, email), it supports match and enrichment for a broader set of CRM and marketing automation platforms.
Keep in mind that data quality not only benefits your marketing though better targeting, segmentation, and lead scoring, but it also provides value to your sales function. By infusing leads with broad firmographics and linkage, you are more likely to be passing actionable leads to your sales team and routing them to the correct sales reps. Furthermore, when leads are mapped to sales intelligence platforms, reps can quickly qualify them and begin planning account messaging.
InsideView, NetProspex, and ReachForce are all cloud based solutions with low barriers to adoption. They also include data health analyses, segmentation reports, and integrated prospecting as part of their feature set. So even if you cannot implement a global data strategy across your enterprise, sales and marketing can begin by focusing on a solution which improves the quality of their leads, contacts, and accounts.