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.
The following is a Quora post answering the question, “Does LinkedIn Sell Your Info?”
This is likely to fall into a semantics question. If data is employed in the aggregate and your personally identifiable information is not disclosed, then I would argue that your information is not sold. Likewise, if you are presented an ad because your LinkedIn profile conforms with a target audience definition, your data is also not being sold.
I can’t answer for LinkedIn Recruiter, but can answer in the Sales and Marketing context.
LinkedIn offers a sales product called Sales Navigator. Users can view company and contact information on Navigator just as they can on the free service. It even supports viewing this data within third-party SNAP products. However, Navigator and SNAP are view only. Sales reps cannot download your profile or sync it with any of their partner platforms. They also restrict display of your email and phone information to your direct connects as well as other content you flag as restricted.
LinkedIn Marketing sells advertising on LinkedIn and Bing based upon your profile attributes. Advertisers define their target audience across a broad set of firmographic, career, and location variables, but these segments are not provided directly to the marketer. Instead, they are used for advertising display. Thus, your data isn’t sold, just your eyeballs.
LinkedIn treats its member’s data with respect. Microsoft, its parent company, has called for a US version of GDPR, the European data privacy standard. CEO Satya Nadella stated that “privacy is a fundamental human right” on an April 2018 earnings call and said that the firm has implemented an “end-to-end privacy architecture” which is GDPR compliant.
NeverBounce claims a 99.9% email delivery rate and a 97% SLA. Emails are classified into five categories: Valid, Invalid, Accept All, Unknown and Disposable. The service confirms that domains are live, flags duplicates, and repairs syntax prior to processing.
“A big part of our value proposition to customers is we provide the highest quality data in the marketplace. A big part of that is ensuring the email addresses are deliverable and high accuracy.”
DiscoverOrg CEO Henry Schuck
Integration will be a significant operational issue for DiscoverOrg. While they previously acquired iProfile and RainKing, those were similar companies, so the integration was focused on quickly reprocessing their datasets through DiscoverOrg editorial validation and migrating customers to the DiscoverOrg platform. The recent acquisitions – NeverBounce, Zoominfo, and Datanyze, which was acquired by Zoominfo in September – are complementary assets so merging applications present a greater level of technical risk than their previous acquisitions. However, email validation is already part of ongoing data quality processes at Zoominfo and DiscoverOrg, so the execution risk associated with NeverBounce is lower than Zoominfo and Datanyze.
is a logical acquisition following Zoominfo as it allows them to build email
hygiene services into Zoominfo and DiscoverOrg while reducing the cost of email
validation across Zoominfo and DiscoverOrg’s set of contact profiles with
emails. Over the past few years, the sales intelligence vendors have been
building out B2B marketing services including email verification, data
enrichment, and ICP / TAM analysis. As DiscoverOrg has long positioned
itself as the highest quality source of executive contacts, NeverBounce helps
burnish that positioning as they expand their contact coverage twenty-fold.
“While finding net new buyers is always going to be vital to sales and marketing efforts, it has become equally as important to manage, update and cleanse existing data that is going stale sitting in CRM and marketing automation systems. Our partnership with NeverBounce makes solving both of these challenges easier for our customers.”
DiscoverOrg President Katie Bullard
we announced the combination of DiscoverOrg and ZoomInfo, we promised to
deliver on the B2B data trifecta: the best, bar-none, quality, quantity, and
depth, and this announcement only reinforces our quality differentiator in the
market,” said DiscoverOrg CEO Henry Schuck. “We are now embedding
NeverBounce’s email verification tools directly into our data and research
team’s processes to lower the email bounce rates in both platforms AND over the
next few months, we will integrate it into several of our customer-facing tools,
including our data enrichment platform, Enrich.”
will continue as a standalone data hygiene offering. DiscoverOrg and
Zoominfo may purchase NeverBounce services at a discounted rate. NeverBounce
list pricing begins at 0.8 cents on 10,000 processed emails and drops to 0.3
cents on one million records. Marketers can pay for each list or purchase
credits in bulk. There is no charge for de-duplication services. There
is also no charge for manual list reviews kicked out by the platform to their
10,000-record file is processed in two to ten minutes with 100,000 records
processed in 45. NeverBounce claims bank-level security and European
privacy support (GDPR and the EU-U.S. and Swiss-U.S Privacy Shield Frameworks).
thrilled to partner with DiscoverOrg to extend our mission to improve the
success of go-to-market efforts,” says Brad Owen, NeverBounce CEO. “Every
bad email address can cost an organization up to $11 per record, which equates
to millions of wasted dollars for many companies. Together, DiscoverOrg
and NeverBounce are committed to ending the curse of bad sales and marketing
NeverBounce has 100,000 clients and was established in 2014. The acquisition price was not disclosed. NeverBounce has fifteen employees and will retain its office in Cleveland with Salt Lake City employees being relocated.
Update (3/5/19 5:30 PM EST) Amended the last sentence about employees.
InsideView rolled out a pair of enhancements to its CRM Refresh product. Along with Accounts, Refresh now cleanses and enriches Contact records, matching both record types against its reference database of 13 million companies and 33 million contacts.
Refresh also supports email validation, an important function for maintaining data quality. Both matched and unmatched records are processed on a semi-annual basis. Email validation is performed by StrikeIron, an Informatica company.
The Refresh dashboard (on right) provides match and field-level fill rates for both account and contact records.
“Valid email addresses lower bounce rates and increase deliverability of marketing campaigns, resulting in greater response rates and higher ABM program success,” wrote the Customer Success Team to its customers. “Successful sales outreach also depends on accurate contact information, including whether anexisting contact has moved on to another job.”
“Employees just don’t stay in one job at one company any more, and keeping up with all that job shifting is a nightmare of CRM management. Today we’re giving sales and marketing ops one more weapon in the battle against stale CRM data. Other cleansing solutions only clean the contacts that exist in their systems, but email validation allows InsideView Refresh to add value to any contact with an email address.”
Adam Perry, InsideView director of product management
Pricing is available both on an à la carte volume basis and a seat-basedmodel similar to Data.com. The idea is to provide an “easy switch” fromData.com Clean and Prospector to InsideView. “We match allcapabilities and price to make it very easy for customers to switch,” said VPof Product and Solution Marketing Joe Andrews. “We’ve seen a significant growth in demand for this since it’s become more generally known that Data.comis being sunset.”
Few firms have integrated email validation into their cloud or CRM hygiene offerings, leaving firms with bad contact records which cannot be matched against reference datasets. Products such as D&B Optimizer, InsideView Refresh, and ReachForce SmartSuite are the exception, helping improve delivery rates and email sender scores by verifying emails, even for unmatched records.
Refresh is available for both Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics.
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.”
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.”
I sat down with Craig Harris and Elizabeth Cholawsky of HG Data last month. Elizabeth had joined HG Data as their new CEO eight days earlier with Craig shifting from CEO to R&D Leader and Chairman. We discussed the transition, partner management, product planning, and the entry into other information verticals. The interview has been edited for length and will be published over the next few days. [Part 1; Part II]
Michael: As you continue to build out the IT vertical, do you see yourself beginning to compete against your partners, and how do you anticipate that playing out in the coming years?
Craig: I don’t see that being an issue. If you actually map out our partner ecosystem, what you’re going to find is there are about 12 to 15 different applications of data that these partners deliver. There are some companies that try to be a Swiss Army knife – shallow amongst lots of different applications. Most of our partners are really domain experts in a focus area.
Look at where we are anchored currently, HG Data for Salesforce. Many of our partners are also inside the Salesforce ecosystem. We don’t compete with our partners that have managed applications, even our partners that have Lightning Data apps. We are still solving different types of problems with our Salesforce applications.
Our focus right now is really on the systems of record. There are a few other CRM systems that we have our eyes on as well as marketing automation. We are looking for a way where we can be embedded in the systems of record and be synergistic with partners as opposed to competing with them.
Michael: When you look at some of your key partners like DiscoverOrg or TechTarget, they built out other content functionality that you don’t have. It seems like you will not be looking to build those in the next two to five years. When you have those shallower applications, they are just licensing technographics and putting it in with your basic prospecting. I could see those less inventive platforms becoming more competitive with you as you build out some of your functionality there.
Elizabeth: There is a complementary strategy consisting of a really strong partnership and channel strategy, combined with still going the route of allowing our data to be productized through leading systems that people use. There will be conflict with some. That’s just the competitive situation that’s been endemic to the technology industry broadly, forever.
The issues are solvable when you have a good strategy laid down. You go into the partner relationships explaining that strategy and where you want to play and why you want to do that. To me, that comes back to the customers, their use case and how they want to consume the data that we’ve got.
It’s a big expanding market out there. I think there is a lot of room for really high growth, with both vital channel partners, as well as doing what we’ve embarked on with the systems of record.
Michael: What size and growth metrics are you comfortable disclosing?
Craig: Not much. We’re 57 employees. As I alluded to earlier, we have an eight-figure run rate, so that leads to a pretty big range. We’re not disclosing [revenue] publicly. I will say, anecdotally, we had a great year of revenue growth.
Michael: What is your split today between content licensing and direct sales? Do you see that shifting much going forward?
Craig: Probably close to the 50-50 mark.
Michael: Probably wasn’t 50-50 two years ago. That’s a significant gain on the direct sales side then?
Craig: Yes. HG Data for Salesforce has been a very nice contribution to that as has our display advertising and HG Data Audience product line. The end user, they don’t necessarily want to go log in to ten more systems when they’re trying to solve a very specific problem. Who are my best prospects? Who should I talk to? What types of conversations should I have and what types of key strategic insights can I use and when? For us, this is all about having our data at the right place at the right time for the right person – to help them solve the thing that they care about which is: Who’s my next customer?
We are not going to do this alone. We are going to need partners for that journey.
On Monday, Radius Intelligence and Leadspace announced their merger and plans to become the “leader in B2B data intelligence.” The firm, which will continue under the Radius brand, is no longer emphasizing predictive analytics.
The predictive analytics market has failed to develop as a standalone segment. According to Radius Chairman Darian Shirazi, the total investment in the space was over $600 million. However, Gartner sized the market at $100 million to $150 million in 2016 revenue, suggesting that the promise of predictive analytics was developing slowly.
In his just released 2018 MarTech Landscape, Scott Brinker removed Predictive Analytics as a segment as machine learning is being integrated broadly across marketing products.
For B2B predictive tools to work, they require high quality reference data sets for initial and ongoing enrichment, but the predictive analytics companies black-boxed their data sourcing. Radius was one of the few exception to this opacity as they were transparent about their data acquisition model (web crawling combined with a customer contributed data model), but most of the other firms have been vague about their data models.
The predictive analytics companies were also slow to offer ABM tools and similar company and contact recommendations. These features are now commonly offered by both predictive analytics companies and sales and marketing intelligence firms such as D&B Hoovers, InsideView, DiscoverOrg, and Zoominfo. What’s more, the sales and marketing intelligence firms have all developed light predictive scoring or ranking tools. While none of these firms approaches Radius or Leadspace in predictive capabilities, they all provide company and contact insights for sales reps, ABM tools for sales and marketing, and integrated data enrichment processes.
The predictive analytics firms also initially black boxed their models, preferring to hide complexity. They have since become more transparent and begun displaying the top reasons for recommendations. However, Salesforce Einstein has provided similar functionality with predictive scores and insights.
Todd Berkowitz of Gartner summed up the situation well.
I’ve been covering the market for B2B predictive marketing analytics for almost four years. A few years ago, predictive lead scoring was all the rage. Then it became about fit and intent models for demand generation and prospecting. Then these tools were used for selecting accounts for large-scale ABM programs. But in the end, the standalone market for these applications never fully reached its potential. Many of the original vendors got acquired for their technology (Fliptop, SalesPredict, Infer and others) and predictive scoring became a standard feature of marketing automation and SFA systems.
Just because the standalone market went away, doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of value here. In fact, the solutions have essentially moved into two other markets (and you’ll see this reflected in our upcoming Hype Cycle reports). On one end, you have the Data Intelligence for Sales market where predictive and AI-driven solutions are competing with traditional data vendors for demand gen, prospecting, and segmentation use cases. On the other end, you have the broader ABM solutions market where these applications not only help with account selection and planning, but are moving towards engagement and orchestration.
Berkowitz predicted that one or two of the remaining predictive analytics vendors will be acquired in the next six months.
With over 6,000 MarTech companies, the market is quite fragmented. Although the MarTech sector continues to expand, there is already momentum towards consolidation as clients look for broad, integrated functionality instead of many point solutions. For example, marketing and sales departments adopting ABM need a broad set of functionality which includes
AI scoring and recommendations
Real-time, batch, and continuous company and contact enrichment
Data hygiene (e.g. de-duplication, data standardization, and verification services)
Third-party verticalized data enrichment
Website visitor id
Look-a-like company and contact prospecting
Segmentation, TAM, and pipeline analysis
CRM, MAP, and sales engagement connectors
Account social media monitoring
Company and contact intelligence
At this point, nobody offers a full suite of these ABM capabilities for sales and marketing departments.
Sales Engagement vendor Outreach is teasing a new predictive analytics capability called Amplify which leverages the history of a firm’s sequences and workflows. The firm will not be employing a black-box AI strategy but providing recommendations with explanations.
CEO Manny Medina faults deep learning strategies which lack “the ability to make inferences, such as the ability to figure out why things work” and require users to trust the recommendations without providing a basis for the suggestions.
“We believe we need to tackle this problem following general scientific principles. Hypotheses need to be testable, data should be very carefully examined to verify the quality of the data.”
Yifei Huang, Machine Learning Lead, Outreach
“When we built Amplify, we built it with the core belief in mind that, the human needs to understand why things work so that machine can understand why things work so that the machine can get better at helping the human,” said Medina.
For example, Amplify deploys natural language processing (NLP) around email responses to help identify whether responses are unsubscribes, objections, or positive. Outreach claims that their NLP classification is 92% accurate, only three points behind manual classification.
NLP will also be used to assess objection handling to identify reps who handle objections well and which ones need improvement. This feedback is then available to managers to assist with coaching.
Amplify addresses two key managerial questions: “Is my team adopting the new technology? Is the new technology delivering a measurable lift?”
Amplify will be unveiled at their May Unleash conference.
Sales intelligence service Salesgenie released enhanced UI and platform upgrades which increase “system speeds and overall productivity.” Other enhancements include a streamlined details / profile page for reviewing prospecting lists and a file library for organizing sales and marketing content within Salesgenie and InfoUSA products.
The new File Library provides a centralized content store for sales and marketing professionals which can be quickly accessed within email campaigns. Content is available within both personal and shared team folders. Shareable content includes logos, images, HTML, PDF, Word documents, and Excel spreadsheets. Content is shared as hyperlinks.
“This is great for keeping sales quotes, pricing templates, and marketing efforts organized in Salesgenie,” said VP of Product Neil MacLeod.
The customizable details / profile page, which will be available in early Q2, allows reps to review lists more efficiently. The new view “will give you access to the same in-depth data you have today, but it will allow you to stay on the same page as your results list,” Macleod told Salesgenie users. “That means no more going back and forth between pages while working on your leads. You can easily pop out new tabs for records that you want to return to later or keep open while you move through your list.”
Salesgenie, an Infogroup offering, is designed for both SMBs and enterprise sales teams. The service offers both business and consumer files along with New Businesses, New Homeowners, and New Movers. While the service was designed as a sales prospecting database, the service has broadened its functionality over the past few years:
Marketing Tools: suppression files, lead enrichment, SEO, marketing design services, best prospect identification, direct mail marketing, display advertising
Mobile App: search near me, research and manage leads, map leads
Team Tools: lead assignments, activity tracking
Connectivity: Salesforce and MS Dynamics integrations, API
Separately, Infogroup announced that its business and consumer files now integrate with the Adobe Audience Marketplace. Marketers will be able to access Infogroup data within Adobe and perform data hygiene and enrichment on customer profiles.