Dun & Bradstreet Being Taken Private

DNB Logo
Dun & Bradstreet logos

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 Optimizer for Marketing delivers cloud-based data hygiene and enrichment for companies and contacts.
  • 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.”

D&B Optimizer for Marketing

DNB Optimizer for Marketing -- Key Features
DNB Optimizer for Marketing — Key Features

Dun & Bradstreet rebranded D&B Workbench Data Optimizer as D&B Optimizer for Marketing and announced a set of enhancements to the platform.  The Workbench name, now dropped, went back to the product’s origins as NetProspex Workbench, one of the first DaaS Hygiene / Enrichment / Prospecting platforms.  The rebranded product includes a series of new features including an Analyze module, Salesforce Contact Optimization, custom email deliverability targets, and NAICS industry code support.

“This new name reflects Dun & Bradstreet’s commitment to deliver the very best in data optimization services,” the firm wrote its clients.  The new name is also consistent with its other Optimizer solutions: D&B Optimizer for Salesforce and D&B Optimizer for Microsoft.

The new Analyze module delivers profiling and market opportunity analysis “utilizing D&B Master Data and proprietary machine-made analytics.”  Features include dynamic dashboards which help marketers visualize their primary profile by revenue, employee size, and industry.  The service also provides look-a-like opportunities to assist with ABM expansion and pipeline growth.

The new Salesforce Integration for Contact optimization supports contact cleansing and enrichment at a frequency determined by the customer.  Dun & Bradstreet claims that the Salesforce integration may be setup in fewer than twenty minutes.

Custom Email Deliverability Levels allow marketers to dip deeper into Dun & Bradstreet’s pool of emails and select contacts with lower reliability scores.  The default level is 90% deliverability, but highly targeted selects may require using contacts that are below the 90% deliverability threshold.  Dun & Bradstreet called the 90% threshold “our recommended level for most email campaigns.”

Finally, D&B Optimizer for Marketing added NAICS industry code selects.  The product already supports the older US SIC industry taxonomy.

Other D&B Optimizer for Marketing features include data validation and standardization (email, phone, address), duplicate flagging, data hygiene reports, lead prospecting, segmentation analysis, and data enrichment (firmographics, D-U-N-S Numbers, corporate linkages, technographics, biographics).

D&B WorldBase Reaches 300M Companies

 

Promotional image posted on LinkedIn.
Promotional image posted on LinkedIn.

It was only a few years ago that Dun & Bradstreet’s WorldBase file reached 200 million records, but this week the file hit 300 million active and inactive company profiles.  The dataset is used for sales, marketing, research, master data management, credit risk, and supplier risk products.  It is also licensed to many other vendors (the majority of which are not allowed to publish the provenance of their data). While sales reps do not use inactive companies, they are important for risk products, master data management, compliance, and database cleansing.

Two key features of the WorldBase data set are the D-U-N-S Number, their de facto global numbering system, and global linkages which tie together global company family trees.

The WorldBase file is a key asset for Dun & Bradstreet products such as DNBi, D&B Hoovers, D&B DataVision, and D&B Optimizer.

Congratulations on reaching this milestone, Dun & Bradstreet.

Holistic Data Quality

A contact database that is 90% accurate is subject to a 25% decay rate.; thus, after 9 quarters it is less than 50% accurate.
Contact databases are subject to a 25% decay rate; thus, a contacts database that is 90% accurate today will be 70% accurate a year from now and less than 50% accurate after nine quarters.

Poor data quality is a disease which slowly destroys the value of your marketing database.  Quality is damaged through incomplete information, poor data entry, and data decay.  A traditional response is to purchase new records, but this only provides a temporary (and expensive) respite from your data quality issues.

The data I’ve seen indicates that contacts decay at a 25 to 30 percent annual rate.  This means that a prospect list that is 90 percent accurate today will be little more than 50% accurate two years later.  Thus, a prospect list purchase strategy is like steroids, it makes your marketing database look healthier on the day the list is purchased, but it simply masks the growing disease within your database.  Treating one or two symptoms does not address the underlying problem — a lack of a broad, continuous data strategy.

However, if you take a holistic view around data quality which includes continuous DaaS validation, ABM look-a-likes, web form enrichment, lead-to-account mapping, duplicate management, data standardization, and reference database appends, you will have a healthy database that ensures your MAP and CRM platforms contain the richest, most accurate data.

Vendors that support holistic data quality include ReachForce, D&B Optimizer (FKA Workbench), Zoominfo, InsideView, Oceanos, and Openprise.  So if you are concerned about your ability to target, segment, pass quality leads to sales, score leads, or build predictive models, then begin with a holistic data strategy.  Symptoms of poor data quality include high email bounce rates, declining email sender scores, returned direct mail, duplicate records, incomplete records, accelerating unsubscribe rates, and sales reps that ignore your marketing qualified leads.

Any firm that is adopting ABM, advanced lead scoring, a single view of the customer, or predictive analytics, should begin with a holistic data quality strategy.  Otherwise, these advanced marketing strategies are bound to fail.

Dun & Bradstreet CEO Robert Carrigan Steps Down; Q4 Earnings

DNB Hoov Company Profile of DNB
Dun & Bradstreet’s company profile displayed within their D&B Hoover’s product.

Last week, Dun & Bradstreet CEO Robert Carrigan resigned as CEO, board member, and Chairman.  In his absence, Thomas Manning has been appointed Chairman and interim CEO.  Manning has been a board member since 2013 and Lead Director since 2016.  He previously served as the CEO of Cerberus Asia Operations & Advisory Limited, CEO of Capgemini Asia, and CEO of Ernst & Young Consulting Asia. He was also a senior partner with corporate strategy firm Bain & Company where he led the global IT practice in Silicon Valley and Asia.

No reason was given for Carrigan’s departure beyond that it was a mutual decision.

“Over the last four years we have made progress transforming this company. We’ve improved our data and analytics, developed solutions and capabilities to serve new customer use cases, and modernized our products and platforms.  The Board is confident in the strategic direction of the Company, and fully believes that this business can deliver sustainable mid-single digit revenue growth and expanding margins.  Our number one priority is accelerating value creation for shareholders.”

  • Dun & Bradstreet Chairman and interim CEO Thomas Manning

However, the company is not growing revenue and profits quickly enough.  To address the slow growth, the firm engaged McKinsey & Company two months ago in a strategic and operational review “to help us find ways to speed up the time to realize value,” said Manning.  “The first phase of their work validated our strategy and identified barriers to growth and cost opportunities. The next phase of their work will include a full portfolio and business assessment and we are open to considering all options for value creation that may be identified.”

McKinsey validated the basic DaaS strategy around premium company, contact, and risk data.  McKinsey’s primary concern was the “breadth of our offerings and distribution channels” which increased the level of operational complexity.  The updated strategy will look to “simplify and streamline the business.”

Dun & Bradstreet is also looking to “apply more specialization to our selling activities as we go deeper into the sales and marketing space,” said Manning.  “As we expand our sales and marketing value proposition from being primarily a static data supplier to becoming a dynamic player in the digital sales, marketing and advertising space, we are working to make sure that our organization, go-to-market strategy and processes are aligned with that goal.”

The firm hired David Godfrey, who previously ran Global Sales at Gartner, to oversee go-to-market strategy and execution.  He will be reporting into Manning.

James Fernandez, new Lead Director of the Board, said, “As Dun & Bradstreet continues its work to drive sustainable growth, the Board believes now is the right time to transition the Company’s leadership. We are pleased to have a leader of Tom’s caliber and experience to step in as interim CEO. The Board will continue to support the Company, and lend our expertise to the organization and Tom during this transition period as we conduct our search for a permanent successor.”

Q4 Earnings

Q4 earnings increased 3%, but only 1% organically, to $527 million.  Total revenue hit $1.75 billion in 2017 with 83% in the Americas.  The firm maintained expense discipline resulting in a ten-basis point improvement in margins while investing $40 million on initiatives which “transform our technology platforms in order to meet our customers’ modern-day needs,” said CFO Richard Veldran.  “Modernizing delivery of our solutions is a critical component of our strategy.”

Data-as-a-service delivery continues to increase.  Nearly 30% of Americas revenue came via as-a-service solutions “which makes our data stickier and more useful for our customers and drives higher-value revenue.”

Amongst the 2017 initiatives were upgrades to D&B Credit and new D&B Optimizer solutions for Salesforce and Microsoft.

Deferred revenue was up 3% year over year before M&A activity and currency adjustments.  Growth was attributed to D&B Credit, D&B Hoovers Q4, and the D&B Direct API.  President and COO Josh Peirez noted that the D&B Credit Suite revenues were no longer declining and that the company is well-positioned in D&B Credit, D&B Hoovers, and D&B Direct.

“We think we’re well-positioned to address the competitive challenges.  We’re also pleased that McKinsey has validated that opportunity and that strategy and helping us to make sure that we are packaging and bundling these things properly.”

  • Dun & Bradstreet President & COO Josh Peirez

Taxes, which were 31.4% in 2017, are expected to drop to the mid-20s due to the US corporate tax reforms.  The reforms will also allow the firm to repatriate $265 million to reduce debt levels.

No guidance was provided as the firm is beginning their operational review.  Veldran promised more details on the Q1 call.

Dun & Bradstreet raised its quarterly dividend by two cents to $0.5225 per share.

The market reacted very positively to the announcements, driving Dun & Bradstreet’s stock price up nearly 8% after the earnings call.

Segment Growth

Sales & Marketing Solutions (S&MS) rose 4% in the Americas to $240.1 million in Q4.  Growth was led by Sales Acceleration products which rose 9% to $84.3 million.  For the full year, Sales Acceleration grew 10% to $288.4 million in the Americas with the Avention acquisition contributing twelve points of growth.  Legacy Hoover’s drove down organic Sales Acceleration revenue with traditional Hoovers revenue declining by mid-single digits.

Revenue for the new D&B Hoovers service (Dun & Bradstreet content delivered through the Avention platform) increased in 2017.  However, the decline in revenue from the Data.com partnership will result in a decline in 2018 Sales Acceleration revenue.  Data.com generated around $50 million in revenue in 2017 with the firm continuing to sell through August 2017, resulting in a flat year.  Veldran projects a $15 million decline in Data.com revenue.  Dun & Bradstreet is looking to recapture some of that decline as new D&B Hoovers and D&B Optimizer for Salesforce contracts.

Peirez is quite pleased with the trajectory of the D&B Hoovers business.  “We think our products are far better than anything else in market. We continue to see the overwhelming majority of customers that are buying our D&B Hoovers product buying the higher level of the product with the integrations to CRM, so that’s extremely encouraging for us.”

The firm is also moving to migrate its Hoover’s customer base over to D&B Hoovers.  In Q4, more than ten percent of the legacy base moved to the new platform as Dun & Bradstreet “started to move very aggressively in getting the customers upgraded,” said Peirez.  While the D&B Hoovers Suite grew low-single digits in its first year, Peirez expects growth to accelerate in year two.  The company has told users that the legacy platform will be phased out at the end of the year.

Advanced Marketing Solutions grew 2% in Q4 to $155.8 million in the Americas.  For the full year, growth was 2% to $383.9 million.  While revenue was up mid-single digits in H2, the product line was weighed down by H1 weakness.

Outside the Americas, S&MS grew 17% to $16.9 million in Q4.  For the year, S&MS non-Americas revenue rose 18% to $60.4 million.  Growth was driven by Sales Acceleration products, including the acquired Avention product line.  Sales Acceleration products jumped up 24% to $7.5 million in the quarter and 39% to $27.7 million for the year.

The D&B Hoovers Suite rose 26% to $42.6 million in the Americas in Q4 and 22% to $166.5 million.  Outside of the Americas, D&B Hoovers Suite rose from $0.6 million to $5.3 million in Q4 and $3.1 million to $16 million.  While the classic Hoover’s product line had little overseas sales, the new D&B Hoovers product line, built on the Avention platform, benefited from a longstanding presence in the UK, Singapore, Australia, and India.

Data Quality in 2018

NetProspex WorkBench Value Proposition
D&B Optimizer (FKA Workbench) Value Proposition

 

As we are one month away from the new year, it is a good time to think about budgeting for data quality in 2018.

I know it isn’t glamorous, but that doesn’t mean it is unnecessary.

Data Quality software is markedly improved over the past few years.  No longer is it necessary to download and forward a file to a vendor and wait for them to process your marketing file.  Sales and Marketing Operations can now setup automated cloud cleansing that works within Marketo, Eloqua, Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, and other enterprise applications.  B2B vendors to consider include Dun & Bradstreet, InsideView, Zoominfo, and ReachForce.

These platforms perform both initial batch match & append and ongoing enrichment, ensuring that your sales and marketing files have both accurate and complete data.  These services also support company and contact prospecting, data health reports, suppression lists, and segmentation reporting.  A few even offer free data quality reports, deduplication, technographic enrichment, nixie files (defunct companies and departed exec files), web form support, sales intelligence services, and contact verification and standardization (e.g. address, phone, and email) for non-matched records.

As these services reside in the cloud and offer cloud connectors for the major MAPs and CRMs, the operational overhead is minimal allowing operations to focus on ABM look-a-likes, segmentation, and improved targeting instead of file management.

What’s more, data quality improvements benefit sales, marketing, and downstream systems.  A record cleansed and verified as it is created costs much less than a bad record passed down to other enterprise platforms.  Beyond direct cost reduction (storing bad data, marketing to departed execs, sales calls to abandoned voicemails, reduced time keying and updating records manually), there are improvements to segmentation, targeting, lead scoring, lead routing, and messaging.

So budget for data quality in 2018.  It isn’t glamorous, but it is effective.

The ReachForce Contact Enrichment Summary Report.
The ReachForce Contact Enrichment Summary Report.

Dun & Bradstreet Announces Deal with SFDC for Data.com Transition

 

Optimizer for Salesforce supports Account Segmentation by Revenue, Employees, Industry, and Location.
Optimizer for Salesforce supports Account Segmentation by Revenue, Employees, Industry, and Location.

For the past nine months, there has been great ambiguity around the future of Data.com, a pair of AppExchange services which combine the old Jigsaw contact file with Dun & Bradstreet account and industry intelligence.  Salesforce has remained mum throughout with Dun & Bradstreet providing details on their earnings calls.

Dun & Bradstreet CEO Bob Carrigan announced that Dun & Bradstreet and Salesforce will be offering a path forward for Data.com clients. In August, Salesforce Data.com stopped offering D&B content for new clients, but legacy clients continued to receive D&B WorldBase, Hoovers, and First Research insights. However, the long-term direction of Data.com remained ambiguous as service revenues declined due to “natural attrition.” Carrigan announced that the two firms have agreed on a transition plan to migrate Data.com customers to D&B Hoovers and the new D&B Optimizer for Salesforce.

D&B Hoovers represents a significant upgrade for Data.com Prospector customers as they will receive deeper global company and contact coverage than before. Users will have access to a deeper set of global contacts, a broader set of screening variables, and company intelligence including financials, filings, SWOTs, news, sales triggers, and alerts.

Optimizer for Salesforce will launch next week at Dreamforce where Dun & Bradstreet will have a larger presence than in previous years. Product specifics were not provided on the call, but some details were posted on the AppExchange Lightning Data site. D&B Optimizer offers a data management dashboard, account record matching using DUNSMatch logic across eighty variables, segmentation analysis (revenue, employees, industry and location), family tree linkage opportunities, duplicate record management, and out of business flagging.  Updates are made every fifteen days.

D&B Optimizer creates “virtual corporate family trees”
D&B Optimizer creates “virtual corporate family trees”

Optimizer for Salesforce is listed at $22 per user per month, $3 less than Data.com Clean.  It is currently available in the US and UK.

“For organizations to grow, they need actionable and complete data across the entire business to ensure that timely and informed decisions are being made.  D&B Optimizer for Salesforce provides Salesforce customers the ability to get the data they want, when and where they need it, directly within their Salesforce instance. This leads to increased productivity and, ultimately, growth for their businesses.”

  • Derek Slayton, General Manager of Sales and Marketing LOB, Dun & Bradstreet

Not only will Salesforce assist with transitioning clients, but they will also be referring prospects to Dun & Bradstreet. Dun & Bradstreet will recognize the full revenue from these products and own the customer relationships going forward, providing them with greater control over the product, increased revenue, and an end to their disintermediated status on the AppExchange.

According to Dun & Bradstreet CFO Richard Veldran, Salesforce revenue is “in the neighborhood of $50 million, because they’re not selling new on their side.” In the short term, that revenue will decline due to “natural attrition.” However, as customers are converted to D&B solutions, the firm will no longer be on a revenue share basis with Salesforce, resulting in in a revenue upswing.  It should be noted, though, that subscription revenue is ratable over the term of the contract so there will be a delay in this revenue recognition.