Unique Company Identifiers

Amazon Family Tree (Source: D&B Hoovers)
Amazon Family Tree (Source: D&B Hoovers)

Associating company records with a common identifier is critical for Account Based Marketing as well as other sales and marketing methodologies.  Lacking a common identifier makes it difficult to

  • De-duplicate company records
  • Associate subsidiaries and branches with headquarters
  • Perform both real-time and batch data enrichment of firmographic, technographic, and social links.
  • Associate company news and sales triggers to key accounts.
  • Tie together company records across multiple platforms.
  • Assess the risk (e.g. credit, supplier, reputational) associated with a business.

The importance of a “unique identifier” was discussed by Owler CEO Jim Fowler in the Harvard Business Review:

The best way to keep data clean is to use a globally known, unique identifier, or a “data backbone.” My company prefers to use URLs as identifiers. They’re free, globally recognizable, high-quality data points that enable you to efficiently gather information on a business’s industry, online activities, and functionality. For example, Cisco is a company that also goes by Cisco Systems, Inc. and Cisco Precision Tools. If sales containers required users to type in one unique URL, http://www.cisco.com/ for all those different branches, it’d be much more difficult to create duplicate accounts, which helps keep data clean. Perhaps more important, URLs facilitate communication between people, systems, and even departments. Whether it’s the customer relationship management platforms used by sales teams, enterprise resource planning software used by purchasing teams, or the account-based marketing technology employed by marketing teams, the business intelligence platform can recognize a unique URL and attach it to clean, usable data. Unique identifiers let you know you’re pulling from the sources and contacts you’ve intended to track.

I agree with 90% of what Fowler states, but disagree with his recommendation that URLs are the best unique identifier for his “data backbone”.  There are a number of reasons that URLs fall short:

  • URLs are not persistent.  If a company is acquired or renames itself, the old identifier (URL) is not retained.  This creates a potential disconnect between the old and new name.
  • URLs have a many-to-one mapping which treats most subsidiary and branch locations the same as the headquarters.  For some companies, mashing together all locations into a single record may be sufficient, but it is a highly flawed approach as it loses much of the nuance concerning companies that operate across multiple sectors and countries (e.g. General Electric).  It also makes it very difficult for sales reps to sell deeper into an organization which lacks linkage data.
  • Conversely, companies with multiple URLs are not tied together.  This could happen due to differing country identifiers (e.g. .UK, .FR), division names, brand names, and subsidiaries.  Each of these scenarios treats companies as a separate business.  Amazon has many distinct businesses including Amazon Web Services (aws.amazon.com), Zappos (www.zappos.com), Alexa Internet (www.alexa.com) Audible (www.audible.com), Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com), and soon Whole Foods (www.wholefoods.com).  URLs do not provide a consistent data backbone when subsidiaries, acquisitions, and branches have different domains.
  • When a division or facility is divested, there is no way to determine which locations have been spun off.
  • Franchises are treated as part of the parent company when they are separate legal entities.
  • Not all companies have websites.
  • URLs can be sold.  They can also be reused if a company goes out of business or abandons a URL.

Finally, business decisions related to logistics, credit, supplier risk, and financing need to understand the underlying structure of companies.  It is not just marketing and sales that are impacted by standardizing on a non-persistent, quasi-unique identifier.

I would therefore recommend looking at credit data companies as a better source of unique identifiers.  Companies such as Dun & Bradstreet, Experian, Equifax, and Infogroup all offer location level detail and linkage associated with unique identifiers that have been developed over multiple decades.  They offer sophisticated entity matching and enrichment tools such as Dun & Bradstreet’s Optimizer service. Furthermore, these firms support multiple functions across the organization helping assist with cross-platform entity linking and on-demand decisioning.

D&B Optimizer: Global Contact Cleanse; Global Company Targeting

Custom Optimizer settings include match confidence, bad and dangerous email flagging, and technology enrichment.
Dun & BradstreetCustom Optimizer settings include match confidence, bad and dangerous email flagging, and technology enrichment.

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.

Data Insights Analysis (New UX)
Data Insights Analysis (New UX)

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.

Custom Optimizer settings include match confidence, bad and dangerous email flagging, and technology enrichment.
Custom Optimizer settings include match confidence, bad and dangerous email flagging, and technology enrichment.

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:

  1. Contact Records Company Type (emails)
  2. Contact Records Campaign Type (emails and phones)
  3. Company Records Firmographics
  4. Cookies and Mobile ID’s for programmatic and mobile targeting

Emails have a 90% confidence rate for deliverability.

ReachForce Unveils 3×360 Lead Hygiene

Data Quality Automation vendor ReachForce unveiled a new technology update it calls “3×360.”  The new release provides improved visibility & control, full-spectrum intelligence, and implementation & integration flexibility.  The MarTech hygiene platform provides real-time data enrichment, cleansing, and updating for Marketo, Eloqua (Oracle), Silverpop (IBM), Hubspot, and Salesforce.  The improved technology enhances both their SmartForms web form enrichment and Continuous Data Management services.

“Marketing technology stack options continue to evolve and change, however, a single fundamental factor remains unchanged in determining the success of any marketing operation – the quality and depth of the marketing lead data that flows through it,” said ReachForce CEO Bob Riazzi. “With our 3X360 update we’ve worked hard to consider multiple aspects of the marketing technologist’s needs and are proud to introduce a full spectrum of new product capabilities that will support them and the way they leverage data through their tech stacks. And why 3X360?…well, we’re a bunch of geeks from Austin.”

A new 360° Console provides a central dashboard for tracking lead enrichment and data quality.  Analytics include

  • The health of web forms that use SmartForms and the enriched leads submitted.
  • Rich drill-down reporting for Submits by form, Abandons by form, Match Rate by Geo and Marketable Submits.
  • [A] “Service Snapshot” provides summaries of enriched leads, match rate & usage enabling timely tracking and management of service contract.
ReachForce Service Snapshot for SmartForms
ReachForce Service Snapshot for SmartForms

Future Console enhancements include “client-driven configuration management and on-demand file uploads for immediate data quality improvements and enrichment.”

While ReachForce has long provided firmographic enrichment combined with contact validation and verification, they are now supporting contact-level data enrichment.  The new matching capability enriches leads with business card details, job role and function, and a social profile.

SmartForms before and after Contact Enrichment.
SmartForms before and after Contact Enrichment.

ReachForce simplified their SmartForms integration via a “simple, one-line implementation” for one or multiple forms.  The new functionality helps marketers rollout SmartForms “via multiple unique configurations without additional implementation steps.”  Their JavaScript API also “allows developers to integrate SmartForms into dynamic lead form workflows and enables decision-making based on individual SmartForms interactions.”

Social123 Rebrands as Synthio

Synthio Logo

Social123 has rebranded as Synthio to emphasize the “synthesis and maintenance of data sources.”  The rename denotes a shift from data provision to “empowering users with a Data as a Service platform that automates synthesizing non-standard and free-form data into clean, standardized, and impactful solutions.”

The firm also discussed its SynthCenter platform which supports  the following legacy functionality:

  • SynthSearch: Company and contact searching
  • SynthEnrich: Database enrichment spanning 45 fields

And new capabilities:

  •  SynthClean: Merge datasets; remove duplicates; normalize titles, company names, and phone numbers; and validate email addresses and URLs.
  • SynchConnect: Connect freemail email addresses to B2B email addresses and personas
  • SynchTech: Enriches company records with installed technology including back-end platforms.
  • SynthForce: A Salesforce connector for I-frame display of contact information and news.
  • SynthCard: A digital business card following SynthSearch
  • SynthBridge: Integrations with Oracle Marketing Cloud (Eloqua), Marketo, and HubSpot.  The Eloqua and Marketo connectors support SynthSearch and SynthAppend.  The HubSpot connector enriches leads with contact and firmographic intelligence.

The firm did not discuss whether they license their technology data or gather it directly.

“Our goal is to put the new SynthCenter platform squarely in the middle of a modern marketer’s stack,” said Synthio CEO Aaron Biddar. “As marketing and technology management converge, marketers find themselves with the new responsibility of managing increasingly large and complex datasets. Unfortunately, they are still using tools designed for a simpler, email centric, world. The new SynthCenter platform is designed to address and ease many of these pain points, and comprehensively make contact data more accurate, more standardized, and more ingestible directly into major Marketing Automation Platforms and CRM systems. With SynthCenter, users now have actionable intelligence, not just spreadsheets of contact data.”

Synthio’s database spans 320 million contacts gathered from social and other sources.  Emails are validated in real-time.  The firm claims a 40% append rate, but that is dependent upon the quality of the customer’s match file.

Services are available on both a subscription and pay as you go model.

Synthio has been growing rapidly.  Last year, Social123 ranked #377 on the “Inc. 5000” list with a 123% three-year Compound Average Growth Rate (CAGR) on $2.8 million in 2015 revenue.

Synthio (FKA Social123) Use Cases
Synthio (FKA Social123) Use Cases

Zoominfo: Expanded Enrichment Attributes

New Zoominfo attributes include employment counts by function, marketing and e-commerce product flags, ranking variables, country presence flags, etc.
New Zoominfo attributes include employment counts by function, marketing and e-commerce product flags, ranking variables, country presence flags, etc.

Sales and Marketing Intelligence vendor Zoominfo expanded their prospecting selects with the launch of a new attributes feature spanning two hundred filter variables including sales and marketing technologies used, department sizes and structures, locations, founding date, Alexa website ranking, presence of a warehouse, international locations, and existence of a mobile application.

With Company Attributes, customers have a simpler, more efficient way to determine which accounts will offer the greatest ROI and to pinpoint key decision-makers and influencers.  Using this new feature on top of our existing Growth Acceleration Platform gives marketing and sales professionals one unified source for actionable marketing insight.  Our customers have been able to find information on decision-makers and influencers at key accounts through our powerful prospecting functionalities.  Now, with the launch of Company Attributes, they can go deeper into each of their target accounts using additional insights, allowing them to predict and repeat business success.”

  • Hila Nir, Vice President of Marketing and Product at ZoomInfo.

The two hundred variable count is overstated by 40% due to splitting many variables into ranges.  Thus, 75 variables consists of five employee counts across fifteen job functions.  Nevertheless, the growth in high-value selects (e.g. Uses Marketo, Has Locations in Brazil) is impressive.

75 of the 200 new attributes consist of five employee count ranges across fifteen categories or other multi-ranged variable sets.
75 of the 200 new attributes consist of five employee count ranges across fifteen categories or other multi-ranged variable sets.

Similar bands are also applied for location counts, years since founding, Alexa rank, bank branch counts, bank assets, and credit union branches.

Amongst the other variables are 29 technology selects with a focus on marketing automation and e-commerce and 27 location flags spanning countries and regions.  The full set of new attributes is available in their knowledgebase.

Zoominfo’s Growth Acceleration Platform has expanded to 175 million executives (active and inactive) and 13 million companies.

Digital Transformation and Sales Intelligence

Data Source: “The 2016 Guide To Digital Predators, Transformers, and Dinosaurs," Forrester Research, May 2016.
Data Source: “The 2016 Guide To Digital Predators, Transformers, and Dinosaurs,” Forrester Research, May 2016.

Forrester released a study titled “The 2016 Guide To Digital Predators, Transformers, and Dinosaurs” which argued that companies need to quickly transform themselves into digital businesses.  The study broke businesses into three digital categories: Predator, Transformer, and Dinosaur and evaluated the percent of business that are either digital services or sold online.

Predators are already generating over 80% of their business digitally and will grow their business to 90% by 2020.  For them, digital is a foundational element of their operations.

Likewise, transformers are quickly evolving into digital businesses while dinosaurs are plodding along.  In 2014, only one in six dollars was generated digitally at transformers, but by 2020, two of every three dollars will be digitally mediated at transformed businesses.

At the dinosaurs, only one in three dollars will be digitally generated in 2020.

Forrester found that transformers are customer-centric in their business strategy and processes.  Customer obsession is part of their corporate DNA:

While all companies profess to put customers first, it’s clear from the data that executives at digital Predators care more passionately about the customer across multiple dimensions: In every customer metric we measured, these executives rated the importance of the customer higher than peers in transformers and dinosaurs – in short, they are not just customer obsessed, they are really, really customer obsessed.

  • Nigel Fenwick, Forrester VP and Principal Analyst

Overall, Forrester found that 29% of current total sales are influenced by digital, but that 47% would be digitally influenced by 2020.  Thus, any business that wishes to remain competitive must have a digital strategy which encompasses sales, marketing, credit decisioning, contracting, and all of the elements across your sales funnel.

My blog focuses on sales intelligence (with some discussion of marketing intelligence and DaaS), so I’m covering a subset of this transformation.  But sales intelligence is a key element of the digital transformation of sales and marketing.  Its goal is to make sales reps more efficient and effective at generating revenue through

  • Improved understanding of customers and prospects.  Whether the company is employing ABM, ABSD, social selling, trigger selling, or other techniques, customer-centricity begins with an understanding of the customer at the contact, company, and industry level.  Sales intelligence vendors go beyond firmographics and contact data to deliver business descriptions, SWOTs, biographies, social posts, industry research, financials, analyst reports, technology platforms, etc.
  • Current Awareness. Improved awareness of changes at customers and prospects helps to improve account planning, messaging, and forecasting.  Where once this intelligence was delivered as generic company news, the sales intelligence vendors have refined their tagging and now provide high precision sales triggers which are accurate at both the company and business topic level.  Some have even begun to integrate sales triggers into their prospecting engines.
  • Reduced busywork + improved data quality.  Sales intelligence vendors cut the time wasted on busywork through the implementation of DaaS enrichment of accounts, contacts, and leads.  Enrichment provides more accurate firmographics, corporate linkage, and contact information which is then propagated to downstream systems.  It also reduces the keying done by prospects on web forms and sales reps in CRMs.  Furthermore, targeting, segmentation, and messaging are much more accurate when the ongoing maintenance of account intelligence is managed by a third party.

Over the past decade, sales intelligence firms have grown from standalone web information portals to integrated workflow services that deliver a broad set of account intelligence to CRMs, marketing automation platforms, sales acceleration (ABSD) services, Google Chrome, web forms, and mobile devices.  Thus, sales intelligence is now becoming available to sales, marketing, and service departments across a broad set of platforms and devices.

If you would like to read more on my thoughts concerning the digital transformation of sales and marketing, I have also discussed the topic on Sparklane and Avention’s blogs.

With AI, It is Garbage In, Garbage Out

scrapyard-70908_960_720

A few weeks ago, Salesforce announced its new Artificial Intelligence (AI) functionality called Einstein.  The new features promise to provide improved decision making based upon predictive scores and recommendations to sales, marketing, service, and other functions.  Likewise, Microsoft announced yesterday that they have formed a dedicated AI group working on infusing Microsoft products with intelligent capabilities.

However, as AI and Predictive Analytics become key technologies for companies, it is important to remember the old GIGO maxim:

Garbage In, Garbage Out

These tools simply won’t work well if your information is inaccurate, out of date, or incomplete.  Best case, bad data results in weak predictions that aren’t trusted.  Worst case, they provide a false confidence that wastes resources and misdirects corporate activities.

John Bruno, an analyst at Forrester, described this problem well in a recent blog:

The future analytics-driven sales processes is bright, but the path ahead is not without its challenges. Current and potential Salesforce customers should be mindful that intelligent recommendations require a large volume of quality data. If poor data goes in, poor recommendations will come out. Cleansing data and iterating the fine-tuning of recommendations will be vital to long-term success.  Another major hurdle is adoption. Many sellers still lack trust in “intelligent” recommendations. You will need to handhold these sellers until they form trust. This means starting with small recommendations and scaling from there.

The good news is that many of the sales intelligence companies are now offering data hygiene services for lead, contact, and account records.  The processing can be performed via CRM or MAP connectors or by uploading files to their cloud services.  The vendors match sales and marketing files against their reference datasets and then augment the files with firmographics, biographics, technographics, etc.  Matching can be done both in real-time to support both list uploads and web forms and via batch processing to support on going maintenance of corporate data.

While no company and contact database is 100% accurate, they are far more accurate than most marketing automation platforms and CRMs.  Furthermore, they have better field fill rates, standardized values (important for segmentation and analytics), and more rapid update cycles.

The predictive analytics companies are also beginning to provide enrichment services.