ZoomInfo moved deeper into the marketing and advertising space with the launch of Targeted Audiences. The newly unveiled B2B data service “gives digital agencies and marketers the ability to target their ideal customers with unprecedented accuracy.” Targeted Audiences are built from the ZoomInfo Data Cloud, which includes 500 million emails and phone numbers for nearly 100 million professional contacts.
ZoomInfo was in the advertising space in its early years but spun off its Bizo platform in 2008. At the time, CEO Yonatan Stern said, “We realized our business information index allowed marketers to deliver targeted online ads at a level never before seen.”
Since then, ZoomInfo has acquired a deeper set of contacts and richer firmographics, technographics, funding data, benefits plans, and event data, supporting superior targeting precision.
Unfortunately, Bizo was acquired by LinkedIn in 2014 for $175 million but folded 18 months later when LinkedIn balked at the integration cost.
Targeted Audiences should be viewed as a new market entry for the firm, but one that supported a $175 million opportunity back in 2014. The October acquisition of Clickagy fueled this market entry as Clickagy intent data is deployed programmatically via data marketplaces.
“With the team at Clickagy now on the ZoomInfo team, our familiarity with the advertising space accelerated from 0 to 60 mph almost overnight. The combination of our massive Data Cloud with a select few experts in advertising data allowed us to quickly discover the path to making our data actionable,” blogged Derek Smith, SVP of Innovation and Data R&D.
ZoomInfo launched the programmatic service with over fifty pre-packaged audiences “built on advanced demographic and firmographic data.” ZoomInfo offered several examples outside of their core technology and business services customer base:
Educational institutions can target individual contributors and managers employed by firms with tuition reimbursement.
Optometrists can market to employees of companies with vision plans.
Luxury brands can reach out to C-level execs at firms with more than one hundred employees.
Financial advisory firms can target director-level employees of firms that recently went public.
ZoomInfo is passing audience identifiers to the LiveRamp data connectivity platform. LiveRamp maps identifiers to channels, screens, and devices for media activation. Additional partner platforms will be brought online in the coming weeks.
After a weak second quarter, TechTarget’s revenue rebounded in Q3, rising 7% to $36.2 million (it was 1% in Q2). Year-to-date revenue hit $102.5 million, up 4.5%. Long-term revenues, which are primarily subscription contracts to Priority Engine, represented 35% of revenue, the same percentage as Q3 2019. International sales are up 30%, with strength in both lead-gen services and Priority Engine.
Priority Engine revenue grew 4% during the quarter, with growth slowed by weakness at “smaller customers hesitant to commit to yearlong subscriptions to new products and services.”
TechTarget continues to invest in Priority Engine, releasing a significant upgrade in September that supported prospect-level intent and an improved Salesforce.com integration. With the release, they initiated a “double-digit price increase” that has been accepted by the market. “We have not had pushback on the pricing so far,” said CEO Mike Cotoia. “So we see that as a positive sign going into 2021.”
Priority Engine’s “early usage is encouraging,” with page views up 80% since January; furthermore, “portal interactions by users that self-identify as salespeople are up over 40% since we released the new sales-friendly version.”
Cotoia called the release the most significant since Priority Engine’s launch. Unlike previous releases that focused on the marketing function, the latest enhancements were centered around UI enhancements and the sales use case. Combining account-level intent with prospect-level intent is “really enabling and empowering” sales teams, helping them “rank and prioritize within their own territories.” Reps now have access to two views: a territory account report and an active prospects report.
Sales reps can now discover intent data and insights for active accounts and prospects within a Visualforce tab in Salesforce. If a contact isn’t in Salesforce, they can quickly add the contact.
“Building a cohesive and easy-to-use workflow for both marketing and sales has always been in our roadmap,” summed up Cotoia. “The September release has been really, really impactful.”
TechTarget will focus on “leveraging our customer’s first-party data along with our data. We have other key engagement opt-ins that we are going to be integrating into this as well.”
TechTarget also saw weakness in the large legacy IT vendors, though it was above Q2 numbers, and they anticipate growth in their Global 10 in Q4. TechTarget has been diversifying its customer base, with the Global 10 accounting for 20% of its customer base, down from 40% a decade ago.
TechTarget anticipates that the shift from event sponsorships to online lead generation will persist after the pandemic.
“We believe that much of this shift will become permanent as we do not believe the face-to-face business will return to its previous spend levels pre-COVID,” said Cotoia. “This is showing up mostly in our International numbers as those markets had significantly more events as part of their budget mix than in North America. Today, most of those deals are short term, mirroring the event buy. The opportunity that we are focused on here is to migrate those budgets from face-to-face to intent-based lead generation and then graduate those customers to annual Priority Engine subscriptions. We believe this is achievable as the vast majority of our customers have a strategic initiative to use data to make their sales and marketing organizations more intelligent, efficient, and effective.”
Customers are focusing on their digital strategy, and TechTarget offers content syndication, content marketing, lead generation, and Priority Engine. All of these digital offerings help tech firms “get in front of their prospects and their existing customers.”
“Even if it starts with lead-generation and content marketing offerings integrated with some of the brand solutions, at the end of the day, our customers are really focused on leveraging the right intent throughout their marketing and sales cycles when they’re in market,” said Cotoia.
These lead-gen campaigns provide a beachhead for upgrading to subscription services. “Priority Engine plays a really good place in that as we start transitioning folks from events to content syndication from content syndication to integrated online solution from integrated online intent-driven solutions to Priority Engine integrated campaigns,” said Cotoia. “I think this plays well for us in the long-term.”
“Let’s unpack what we are seeing and what we’ve learned from the pandemic. First, IT spending is no longer a discretionary item for most companies. They see digital transformation as a necessary investment to remain competitive. This dynamic has benefitted our customers. Second, the migration of IT spending to a subscription model has built in significant resilience and predictability to most of our customer’s business models, which in turn has kept their spending levels on sales and marketing fairly stable as compared to more volatility in past downturns.”
TechTarget CEO Michael Cotoia
Cotoia credited the shift to subscription revenue as a significant contributor to its success during the pandemic. “We are very pleased at how our business has performed during the pandemic. It reinforces that the changes we made to transition our business to a data subscription business is paying off in terms of building a stronger company with a more sticky and predictable revenue stream.”
TechTarget announced Q4 guidance between $42 and $43 million, almost 20% growth year-over-year. Some of this growth is the transition from events to online, but some is “pent-up budget” from event marketing that has been held in reserve.
“They have end-of-the-year budget, [and] they want to use it,” said Cotoia. “TechTarget is viewed as a trusted resource.”
Cotoia was asked about ZoomInfo’s acquisition of Clickagy but wasn’t overly concerned about the real-time intent solution, saying that Zoominfo simply acquired its supplier. Cotoia called it a “smart move,” but not one that significantly changes its offering. He also applauded Zoominfo’s contact quality, then pivoted to the differences between their services with opted-in reader intent derived from their media sites.
“What we have is what we call real and observed first-party purchase intent. You have to start with investing in content. We are 100% focused on the enterprise IT market. We have the right engagements coming in. What we know [is] which people are looking at which vendor content or which editorial content or peer-to-peer content, or were doing a search on a very specific technology segment within a very specific region. That’s real. It’s very difficult to leverage things like third-party cookies or bidstream data…[with] a lot of questions about that. It’s only at the account-level.”
Cotoia said that TechTarget’s approach is “very transparent” in its practices, focusing on the “right” engagement and intent signals. “We’re the largest place on the web where enterprise IT vendors publish their content through their marketing efforts.” TechTarget generates this content across 146 enterprise IT community websites and can tell its Priority Engine customers which articles were read, which white papers were downloaded, which webcasts were viewed, which terms were searched, which competitors are being evaluated, and by whom. Owned media sites with opted-in readers deliver “real and observed intent and engagement signals that will help power and transition our customers’ sales and marketing efforts” that are data-driven. What’s more, TechTarget’s intent surfaces opportunities at the beginning of the buyer’s journey.
Streaming Intent improves the timing and messaging around sales and marketing workflows such as
Prioritizing sales outreach to companies that are ready to buy
Interacting with prospects earlier in the buyer’s journey to build trust that won’t be present with later stage vendors
Triggering automated campaigns that warm-up prospects for your Sales team to call
Streaming Intent delivers real-time behavioral intent data that is “expansive and customizable.” The Clickagy platform employs an NLP engine that identifies behavioral context in real-time. Intent data is gathered from over 300,000 publisher domains and includes six trillion-plus new keyword-to-device pairings each month. Intent data is sourced from over 91 percent of accessible devices in the United States.
Clickagy supports thousands of B2B topics and sub-topics spanning marketing, natural resources, entertainment, business services, government, healthcare, retail goods, and science and technology.
“Innovation in the B2B intent landscape has lagged behind the business-to-consumer landscape for much of the past decade. Most B2B intent solutions today rely on the same set of underlying data generated by limited media cooperators and third-party cookie tracking. Existing offerings only provide weekly batches of buyer intent on a finite number of topics because of heavy data processing that takes days to complete, negating opportunities to reach buyers at the opportune moment. Other solutions offer late-stage intent, where vendors have already been identified, and it is too late for the addition of competing solutions.”
“ZoomInfo: Acquires Clickagy to Deliver Streaming Intent Data,” ZoomInfo Press Release, October 15, 2020.
Clickagy was founded in 2013 and based in Atlanta. Clickagy CEO Harry Maugans has been named a VP of Product Management.
“Robust business data has always been the biggest hurdle keeping us from offering a transformative B2B product,” said Maugans. “But now with ZoomInfo, we’re giving sellers and marketers the ability to further propel their go-to-market motions more effectively and efficiently.”
Actionability and usability have been significant issues that slowed the adoption and hampered the ROI of intent data. Shuck laid out his vision of how Clickagy intent, tied to ZoomInfo company and contact data, will create significant customer value:
“The B2B world has been largely behind the B2C world with respect to using intent to activate go-to-market motions. The primary reason for this lag is that B2B Intent offerings were never connected to the companies and the professionals at those companies in a way that would allow seamless activation. By combining Clickagy’s powerful Intent with ZoomInfo’s robust database of companies and professionals, we unlock the power of intent for every B2B Go-to-Market organization…
Soon, go-to-market organizations will be able to build workflows that tell them instantly when Fintech companies in California, who have Snowflake in their tech stack, at least 100 employees, and $50M in funding, begin spiking on research for “cloud data platforms”. That signal can simultaneously kick-off a workflow that captures the Vice Presidents, Directors, Managers, and other key stakeholders at those Fintech companies, check for open opportunities in CRM, and begin marketing automation, sales automation, and CRM campaigns against those decision makers…
Said another way, our customers will be able to create behavioral filters and overlay them across live web traffic, capture highly-refined intent signals in real time, and make them actionable within seconds. This lets them engage prospects while they’re still in the research mode with a buying mentality—not weeks later when they’ve moved on to something else, or worse, after they’ve already made their decision.
ZoomInfo CEO Henry Shuck, “Why ZoomInfo is Acquiring Clickagy”
Intent data becomes more valuable when it can cast a wide net, gather and interpret signals with a high level of precision, and promptly deliver these signals. It is in these dimensions that ZoomInfo has confidence in the breadth and heuristics of its acquisition.
Clickagy opens up the “black box” of intent data rules, offering a “robust and configurable technology that unlocks those algorithms and enables administrators to adjust the logical rules, keywords, inclusions, exclusions, and thresholds used to determine when a company is indeed exhibiting intent for a particular keyword or topic in order to reduce false positives.” Transparency and configurability provide “unprecedented control” over the quality of intent signals.
ZoomInfo Intent complies with privacy rules. Clickagy does not collect any personally identifiable information. Information is collected in the aggregate at the account level. Instead of revealing who is conducting the research, Zoominfo identifies “functional decision-makers” at the account who are likely involved in purchasing decisions related to the intent signal.
Clickagy also offers audience targeting and activation across 300 DMPs and DSPs. ZoomInfo already supports website visitor intelligence.
Deal terms were not disclosed. ZoomInfo said the deal would have a non-material impact on their fourth-quarter financial results.
No company size data was provided, but LinkedIn lists 26 employees at Clickagy.
There are six major categories of B2B intelligence, and ZoomInfo is a significant player in four of them: Contacts, Technographics, Sales Triggers, and Intent Data. They also provide firmographics, but this remains an area for future growth and development. The category where they do not offer datasets is financial services intelligence, including company financials, filings (e.g. SEC EDGAR, UCC, UK Companies House), and risk reports (credit and supplier).
“In the last year alone, we’ve had literally hundreds of thousands of conversations with customers and prospects and one thing is clear—they want intent data to live at the core of how they go to market,” blogged CEO Henry Schuck about the rationale for acquiring Clickagy. “And over the course of those calls it’s easy to see intent data taking a seat right alongside the two most important pieces of business information—account and contact data. The three together, driving account identification, targeting, and segmentation will soon be table stakes for how sellers and marketers identify their next best customers.”
Schuck emphasized that product design at ZoomInfo is iterative with plans for improving a product in place before each release goes to production. Shuck called their previous intent offerings good, but not good enough. This drive to improve their intent services led them to investigate best-of-breed intent data solutions to enhance their offering. Their research led them to Clickagy.
“Clickagy had built a robust data processing engine that looks at billions of key data points across millions of websites and then uses robust natural language processing and artificial intelligence to categorize and make sense of those data points. Their technology, approach to data collection, privacy-first perspective, and focus on intent data made it clear that we not only wanted Clickagy to be a part of our intent product, but we needed Clickagy to be a part of ZoomInfo.”
ZoomInfo CEO Henry Schuck
ZoomInfo Intent will continue to provide “good keywords, quality-focused data science, [and] industry-leading account data,” but now “casts a wider net” and delivers actionable intent throughout the day. Combining the companies will “dramatically shorten the path from data, to decision, to action,” blogged Shuck.
“B2B intent data is becoming core to the way modern go-to-market organizations prioritize their outreach to prospects and customers,” wrote Schuck. “Our acquisition of Clickagy enables us to scale intent to provide what will soon be the market’s most predictive and complete B2B intent data set for sellers and marketers. We believe this acquisition both exemplifies our mission to continuously innovate and cements our position as the pacesetter for data-driven sales and marketing outreach.”
Tomorrow I will wrap up my discussion of the acquisition with an overview of Streaming Intent and Clickagy’s approach to data privacy.