Congratulations to conversational marketing vendor Drift and sales intelligence vendor Cognism for making LinkedIn’s Top Startups: Hottest Companies to Work for Now lists.
Boston-based Drift was ranked 46 in the US. The firm has grown from 65 employees to 280 over the past year and plans to “double down” on its product and sales teams.
Yesterday, at their Hypergrowth conference, Drift announced the acquisition of Giant Otter, an AI and machine learning company, and the launch of Drift Automation.
Drift Automation understands the specific context of what someone is asking and can engage in conversations that go in a variety of directions. For the first time, this puts the customer is in control of the conversation — not the chatbot.
Lacey Berrien, Drift Senior Manager, Public Relations
Drift co-founder Elias Torres was impressed by Giant Otter which is based on research led by Dr. Jeff Orkin at the MIT Media Lab.
“When I met Jeff Orkin and he showed me what Giant Otter could do, I knew that I had seen the future of marketing automation,” said Torres. “We’ve been working on Drift Automation behind the scenes with early customers who have been seeing incredible results — including improvements in inbound sales velocity, pipeline and revenue growth, time back for the marketing team, and the ability to put the customer in control of the buying experience.”
London-based Cognism was ranked 21 on the UK list with plans to open offices in the US and Singapore and triple its headcount to around 200 over the next year. Cognism products include
Cognism Prospector for lead list building, prospect research, and prospect/account current awareness.
Cognism Refresh for CRM data maintenance and enrichment.
Cognism Wealth list building and TAM analysis for financial services firms and wealth managers.
Cognism closed on its Series B back in July. According to CEO James Isilay, the firm has already “won significant business remotely” in both regions. Isilay noted that Asia is a particularly compelling market due to SaaS being relatively immature in the region.
Cognism is hosting its first RevenueAI user conference at the Science Museum London on 19 September. I will be speaking on Trends in Sales and Marketing Intelligence at the conference.
Drift, which has quickly established itself as a leader in the chatbot space, is upping the ante by integrating video and chat. Users will be able to share and record videos via a Chrome extension or mobile app. Recorded videos can then be dropped into emails and sent to customers or prospects.
are “private and secure” with single sign-on functionality from Okta, OneLogin,
and Microsoft Azure. Users can restrict viewing to a specific email or
email list and “everyone else will have to request permission, just like you
would with a Google Doc.”
suggests three sales use cases for video: as a conversation starter, as a
second chance to refine a message after a call, and as a group selling tool
Video provides real-time desktop and mobile notifications when viewed. Users
can immediately start a conversation while somebody is viewing their video “so
you can reach out and say hello or follow-up at the perfect time.”
is the immediate notification element which Drift claims to be its product
“There are a few good software products out there that make it easy to capture and share videos. But we took a look around the market and noticed one big thing missing: none of those products create a better buying experience because they don’t actually help you start conversations with potential customers. You still have to make a video, send an email, and hope to get a response. But with Drift Video, you can get a notification in real-time while someone is watching your video and then hop right in and say hello.”
starting Drift, we’ve said there are two mega-trends that would shape the
future of B2B sales and marketing: messaging and video,” said CEO David Cancel.
“Over the last few years we’ve built an industry-leading messaging
platform used by over 150,000 businesses, and now we’re expanding our
Conversational Marketing platform by adding video.”
is driving global IP demand. According to Cisco, one million minutes of
video will be crossing the Internet every second by 2020 and 82% of all
Internet traffic will be video by 2021.
video is available today as part of the Drift offering. There is no
surcharge for video functionality for up to ten videos per month with a chat
option embedded into the video. For $12 per seat per month or $120 per
annum, reps are provided with a Pro license which includes unlimited HD quality
video sharing and storage. Only the Pro version restricts video sharing.
features include Team Analytics, Book Meetings from Video, and integrations
with Salesforce, Pardot, and Marketo.
spent the last year working on Drift Video and it was one of the main reasons
for raising our Series C in April 2018,” stated Cancel. “In looking at
the market over that time, we saw that while there are many products that make
it easy to create and share videos, none of them were built to help to start
conversations and create a better buying experience. After a private beta
with some great early customers, that’s what we’re bringing to market today
with Drift Video.”
has integrated video in its own sales process with 50% of Drift revenue
“influenced by video in the selling process.”
is the greatest conversation starter in B2B buying,” said Alexa Nguyen in a
Drift video. “In a world of faceless phone calls and emails, video has
helped us build trust, and video has helped us close more deals.”
Video is another way for salespeople to engage with their prospects outside of the norm. Prospects are constantly bombarded with emails and phone calls asking for their attention. But it’s hard to cut through that noise because they don’t trust easily. In order to build that trust, you need to build a personal connection. And all personal connections start with a conversation. Video allows people to be personal, show that they’re human, and help build that connection that might be lost through text in an email.
Lacey Berrien, Drift’s PR Senior Manager
to research from Forrester and Boston Consulting Group, 75% of B2B transactions
have little or no sales interaction. Thus, video offers a valuable
channel through which sales reps can avoid being disintermediated. However,
sales reps could push this functionality too far. While chat
functionality sounds like the next step for video, reps should be careful not
to step over the line from personable to creepy.
prospects view an email, most understand that the act of opening an email
triggers a notification to the sender, but they don’t expect that the viewing
of a video will be treated as a real-time permission for a call or chat. Immediately
reaching out to customers and prospects may be viewed as a non-permissioned
extension of an asynchronous communication into synchronous. Drift does
not discuss GDPR in the announcement, but this seems to cross the boundary into
non-permissioned communications and the release of personally identifiable
is viewing your video. Call immediately”). The video privacy
permissions are focused on the seller (ensuring they aren’t shared with
others), but there does not seem to be any functionality to limit the “call me
back” immediacy of the service. If anything, the immediate messaging will
drive down the open rate of all embedded video and kill its efficacy.
I raised this concern to Drift, they offered a best practice to address this
issue. Lacey Berrien, Drift’s PR Senior Manager, suggested that sales
reps could either wait for the contact to initiate the chat or use a message
such as “Thanks for watching my video! I’m here if you have any
questions.” This approach makes sense. By utilizing a generic
message that sounds automated, it feels less invasive. This may be a
situation where a generic message may be welcome as it serves as an invitation
to chat while a personalized message may be off-putting.
The user can take one of two roads — proactively engage with the video viewer while they’re watching via the chat functionality OR not engage at all and allow the video viewer to chat with them at their own discretion…Other customers have gone the route of not messaging and just offering the viewer another channel to engage with them outside of email or a phone call. Buyers have all of the power. And the ultimate goal is to meet them where they are…and to always be available to help.
Lacey Berrien, Drift’s PR Senior Manager
appears to be a Gresham’s
Law of MarTech (“Bad money drives out good”); an effective channel or
marketing tool quickly becomes overused or misused, resulting in lowered
efficacy. Embedded video could quickly convert a golden channel into
chaff through overuse and perceived creepiness. What makes embedded video
so compelling today is its ability to personalize and deliver a relevant
message on a 1:1 basis. If embedded video overwhelms prospects or is seen
as inviting immediate, unwanted contact, it will kill the golden goose. A
softer touch is likely the best practice. If viewers maintain the control
and opt into contact, then it will enhance the value of a video by providing a
Call to Action that the prospect controls.
Conversational Marketing vendor Drift is moving away from volume-based pricing and offering unlimited contacts for its chat platform. Volume pricing places pressure on marketing departments to trim the number of contacts in their databases to stay below volume thresholds. By moving to unlimited leads, marketers can better forecast their budgets and avoid panic as they approach volume limits.
companies punish you for growing?” blogged Senior Director of Demand Generation
Kate Adams. “After all, that’s the promise most software products these
days make. Use our service and you’ll grow your business faster. Install
our product and your conversion rates will skyrocket.”
“Because you’ve spent YEARS building up your database. And now you need to decide if contacts that are 1 year old or 6 months old or 3 months old make the cut. You’re literally washing money down the drain. What if the leads you’re throwing in the trash to keep your marketing budget below your benchmark are actually just higher up in your funnel? And require more nurturing and education about how you can help them solve their problems?”
Drift Senior Director of Demand Generation Kate Adams
announced a Drift Meetings feature which allows prospects to schedule meetings
directly from the company website via a “book a meeting” call to action. Meetings
can also be booked by chatbots, and sales development reps can qualify a lead
during a live chat and book meetings on behalf of account executives.
Meetings, you can target your best visitors and ABM accounts, welcome them with
a personalized message from the right rep, and let them instantly schedule a
meeting right from your website,” says the firm.
As part of their Q1 2019 release, LinkedIn rolled out a set of new SNAP (Sales Navigator Application Platform) partners including Altify, Drift, G2 Crowd, and Mixmax.
The Drift partnership allows sales reps to “continue website conversations” after a prospect drops off of a Drift chat: “sometimes people leave your conversation abruptly – it happens. But as an SDR, that’s a potential meeting walking out the door. So what do you do? Well now you can send a connection request or follow up message with InMail right from within Drift.”
integration also displays contact and company intelligence including shared
connections while a sales rep is chatting with a prospect visiting her website
(see image on right).
the days of toggling back and forth between LinkedIn and your ongoing sales
conversation,” said Drift Product Marketer Daniel Murphy. “Say goodbye to
awkward lags in conversations. Prospects will never again have to wait for a
response while SDRs search LinkedIn Sales Navigator or Salesforce to determine
if they’re a good fit. Now they can research a prospect’s company, see
mutual connections, and grab other insights and conversation starters – all in
gathers intent data from 24 million technology searchers. Intent data is
collected from G2 profile and category views along with competitor comparisons.
Sales reps are notified when followed accounts are researching on G2
based on contact connections, sales preferences, search histories, and profile
“People don’t buy today as a result of cold calls and emails. The power is in the hands of the buyers doing more research than ever before. As sales teams, we need to focus on accepting the modern buyer journey and connecting to the right buyers at the right time. We’ve always been aligned with LinkedIn on this vision, and this integration helps us make it a reality.”
G2 Chief Revenue Officer Matt Gorniak
SNAP integration supports InMail and Connection requests and profile views from
org-chart software now displays insights and helps users identify key buyers
across an organization.
also noted that it will be available within the Salesforce Winter 2019 release.
Salesforce admins can install the application from the Lightning Setup
Console instead of the AppExchange.
One problem that
has long dogged sales intelligence vendors is ongoing training and product
exploration. To encourage exploration, Sales Navigator added a coaching
feature to extend product knowledge. Sales Navigator Coach is a new
dashboard that “suggests actions for customers to take and links to short
learning videos.” Actions are associated with core workflows. The
videos run thirty to forty seconds.
Finally, GDPR opt-outs are being added to PointDrive presentations. PointDrive recipients will be able to revoke viewer tracking permission, effectively anonymizing their viewing data from sales reps.
At their HYPERGROWTH user conference this week, Drift announced the acquisition of email reply management firm Siftrock which tracks email replies, routes them to sales reps, and syncs data with marketing automation platforms. Siftrock will be integrated into Drift’s Assistant for Marketing.
“Last year, we started talking about reinventing email and focusing on conversations and replies instead of opens and clicks,” said CEO David Cancel. “Siftrock has built a best-in-class product that manages email replies at scale, and this acquisition will help us deliver on that vision even faster. But most importantly, this is a move that adds real value to both of our customer bases immediately.”
Drift Assistant for Marketing includes email auto-reply detection for updating MAPs and Salesforce when execs change jobs or their emails bounce. The service also drives email calls to action to conversational landing pages instead of a traditional landing page.
A new Conversational Advertising capability which builds conversations around advertising views was also unveiled. Instead of sending prospects from ads to webforms, users are brought into conversations.
“With traditional advertising it’s always been about later,” said Cancel. “You drive people to a landing page, get them to fill out a form, and then someone at the company contacts you later. But with Conversational Advertising, it’s all about right now. We can close the gap and help buyers connect with a business instantly by taking them right from an ad to a conversation to get the answers they need instantly.”
At HYPERGROWTH, Drift rolled out partnerships with Outreach, Marketo, and Demandbase. Last month, they announced Drift Intel, a lead enrichment service powered by Clearbit.
“The key to high-performing ABM strategies is connecting marketing programs directly to sales activity,” said Demandbase CEO Chris Golec. “We are incredibly excited to be the exclusive launch partner for Drift’s new Conversational Advertising product because now B2B marketers can target specific companies with our account-based advertising, and move to a conversation with sales in a single click. The time from engagement to conversation to pipeline has never been faster.”
“Great conversations are the most powerful way to drive conversion,” said Outreach CEO Manny Medina. “To accomplish this, you must have a consistent customer journey, from calls and emails to your buyer’s experience on your website. Now sales and marketing teams can share context from every touchpoint in the customer journey to drive stronger results wherever they communicate with their buyers.”
A Drift Assistant for Sales email feature helps reps prepare for meetings with briefings on the firm’s tech stack, a summary of previous conversations, and an analysis of recent website activity. Other features include no show and cancellation rescheduling and next step recommendations (e.g. meeting follow up notes),
“B2B businesses have gone digital, but we haven’t been able to move on from all of the paperwork,” commented Cancel. “Only a third of a sales reps time is actually spent selling, with over 60 percent of their time wasted on administrative tasks and meetings.
Conversational marketing vendor Drift released Drift Intel, a real-time enrichment service which maps anonymous leads to accounts using IP addresses. The firm calls their Clearbit-powered account intelligence “x-ray vision for qualified leads.” Clearbit firmographics drive the messaging flow, sales conversations, and lead routing; thus, prospect interactions are personalized to the account and directed to the proper sales rep or team.
Account matching is global, with a 40% to 60% IP-to-account match rate. If the bot acquires an email address, then contact intelligence is also provided from Clearbit.
“In the old days, forms were the only way to get the info you need to qualify visitors,” states the firm. “With Drift Intel, you’ll get a full company profile in Drift the moment they land on your site. That means you’ll know the visitor on your pricing page isn’t just a random person—it’s someone at a software company in NYC with 500 employees and $25-50m in annual revenue.”
Furthermore, because the intelligence is provided in real-time, leads can be properly routed to sales reps by account, region, size, etc. If the account owner is not available, the AI chatbot automatically sets up an appointment for the rep. The chatbot also personalizes the message based upon the account intelligence.
“The last decade in B2B sales and marketing was all about the business following up later. But today, B2B sales and marketing have to be about now. The internet has changed everything and put customers in control of the buying process, not the business. As a result, people won’t put up with waiting days and weeks to get a response — they want answers now.”
Drift CEO David Cancel
Drift Customer Marketing Team Lead Chris Handy blogged about the cost and foolishness of investing in inbound marketing and then making prospects wait for marketing tools or sales reps. “We asked them for information before we’d let them send us a simple question about our product. We lost what might have been our best accounts—sometimes by making them wait days or weeks for someone to follow up—even when they were ready to buy right then. This wasn’t the way we liked to buy. We had to change the way we sold to match the way we bought.”
Drift’s goal is to “remove friction,” shorten the sales cycle, and connect businesses with their customers at peak interest.
In a quick test of the bot on the Drift website, it accurately identified my company name and location, but lacked industry and sizing data. As I am a one-person company, the lack of richer firmographics is common. I was quickly chatting with a sales rep and she offered three days for a product demo within the chatbot (see image on top).
Drift Intel is available as part of their Company ($1,500 / month) and Enterprise (starting at $5,000 / month) plans. Unlimited company matches are supported.
Congratulations to Outreach (#15) and Drift (#22) for making the LinkedIn Top 25 U.S. Startups list. To be eligible for Top Startups, companies must be 7 years old or younger, have at least 50 employees, be privately held, and headquartered in the U.S. Selection is based upon employment growth, engagement, job interest, and attraction of top talent between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018
Coincidentally, I just began covering Drift in my subscription newsletter. They will be covered here in two weeks following my standard embargo. I’ve been covering Outreach for several years.
Outreach is a sales engagement platform that helps sales reps manage their multi-channel communications with customers and prospects. Along with templates and cadence tools, Outreach offers call recording and coaching, analytics, a partner ecosystem, and meeting management. The firm has 285 employees and is looking to double its headcount over the next year following a $65 million funding round. LinkedIn noted that they have 2,400 customers.
Conversational marketing firm Drift landed a $60 million Series C round earlier this year. The funds will be used to quadruple its office space with an expanded presence in Boston and new space in San Francisco. As one-third of their clients are outside of the United States, they plan to open international offices later this year.
The Drift platform removes webforms and offers chatbots for conversational discovery and qualification. “A sale doesn’t get made until a conversation happens. So, with Conversational Marketing, we created a new way of doing marketing and sales that removed the roadblocks and hurdles that can get in the way of someone talking to your business. This creates a better customer experience, makes it easier for people to buy, and ultimately creates a faster path to revenue,” said CEO David Cancel.
Drift supports email sequencing, revenue reporting, visitor id, chatbots, playbooks (templates), reporting, email reply management, and meeting scheduling. A new Conversational Advertising capability provides conversational landing pages instead of webforms.
Drift’s goal is to be the Amazon for Business. “Amazon revolutionized how people buy with the one-click buying experience, and that’s what we all expect online today,” said Cancel. “But when it comes to B2B, the buying process is painful. Companies force buyers to fill out forms and jump through so many hoops just to talk to them, despite the fact that most buying decisions have already been made by the time someone comes to your website. We’re on a mission to build the most customer-centric company in the world and make B2B buying as easy as buying from Amazon.”