is beginning to evolve a set of hybrid engagement vendors that deliver a broad
set of sales and marketing services. The boundary between sales and
marketing is quickly crumbling. Hybrid engagement services manage both
data and workflows. Features include
InsideView announced a set of enhancements to its recently launched Apex Go to Market ABM platform. Apex provides ICP, TAM, and segmentation analysis along with similar company prospecting. New features include Lead Analytics and Enhanced Text Editing.
“Lead Analytics helps executives analyze leads coming into your CRM and Marketing Automation systems that are within your desired market segment(s). Gain insights into how market segments are performing in relation to each other so you know where to focus your energy.”
Lead Analytics provides a dashboard for tracking the performance of published market segments and leads over time or across market segments. “With the Lead Analytics Dashboard, a CMO, VP of Sales or C-Level executives can analyse leads coming into your CRM or MA system based on the market segment and visualize performance against their target segments in real time to optimize for success and focus resources on the targets with highest potential.”
Customers must license both InsideView Enrich and InsideView Apex services to access the Leads Analytics dashboard.
Enhanced Text editing allows sales or marketing managers to publish rich text notes about customer segments which appear in other modules. The notes both identify the account as belonging to a key segment and provide advice on messaging to the account.
InsideView boasted about “great traction in the market” for Apex.
Sales and marketing intelligence vendor InsideView launched their Apex “go-to-market decision engine.” The new product combines InsideView and CRM data to assist with analyzing new market entry, identifying a firm’s Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), and assessing its Total Addressable Market (TAM).
“Smart B2B companies today are asking these questions: ‘Who are my best customers?’, ‘What are the new geographies and industries where I can expand?’, and ‘Are we going after the right customers and the right revenue?’,” said InsideView CEO Umberto Milletti. “We realized we had the technology, expertise, and data to help companies answer these questions quickly and with confidence so they never miss an opportunity. Business strategy shouldn’t be based on gut and guessing. And it shouldn’t require cumbersome data analysis. InsideView Apex uses cutting-edge technology and the best possible data so you can make the right decisions for your business.”
Go to market planning features include an ICP wizard, new/adjacent visualization tools with “what if” targeting analysis, TAM and market penetration analysis, new account and lead identification, and exporting of new ABM prospects to CRMs and MAPs.
“Revenue teams can use InsideView Apex to visualize performance against target segments in real time to optimize for success and focus resources on the targets with highest potential,” said Joe Andrews, VP of Product and Solution Marketing. “Marketing can see performance indicators at each stage of the funnel as leads convert to opportunities and won deals. Sales ops can identify where leads or opportunities may be getting stuck to course correct in real time.”
The Apex account score is based on an AI algorithm which correlates attributes from deep company profiles that are proprietary to the InsideView Platform. The account score is maintained and updated dynamically within Apex as customer ICP lists change. However, the account score is not currently pushed to CRM or InsideView for Sales.
If customers have also licensed InsideView Sales and Enrich products, ABM accounts are tagged.
Other visualization tools include a five-quarter historical view; market segmentation of leads, opportunities, and wins; and account whitespace (market penetration) analytics.
Apex integrates with Salesforce, MS Dynamics, Eloqua (Oracle Marketing), and Marketo.
Apex is licensed as an annual subscription and is priced in tiers based on company size which serves as a proxy for the number of market segments being targeted.
Apex is not the first tool in this category (e.g. D&B DataVision and DiscoverOrg AccountView), but it is emblematic of the expansion of sales intelligence vendors into market intelligence and strategic planning. When I started GZ Consulting six years ago, the sales intelligence firms were wary of entering the marketing realm, but the top sales intelligence firms are now offering ICP/TAM tools, marketing automation connectors, segmentation analysis, look-a-like prospecting, and data enrichment tools. This shift goes hand-in-hand with the blurring of the lines between sales and marketing. For example, sales engagement platforms provide cadence, analytics, and email marketing tools for sales reps alongside dialers and sales coaching. We are also seeing visitor intelligence and intent data being displayed within CRMs.
“Most B2B companies perform go-to-market planning and analysis in product silos and often fail to involve sales and marketing teams early in the process – those who must execute the strategy. Planning is a slow, manual process, based on limited information. Most firms have few ways to measure market performance reliably against strategy, making it nearly impossible to course correct in real time. It’s time to change this.”
Forrester Principal Analyst Laura Ramos
A 2018 InsideView survey of 500 American sales and marketing professionals found that TAM measurement was non-existent (25%) or ad hoc (28%) at surveyed organizations. Only 23% of respondents work at firms that regularly evaluate Target Demand. The remaining 24% of firms perform Target Demand analysis annually.
“All of the efficient and creative demand generation in the world will be wasted if the targeting is off,” wrote the firm in their 2018 Sales and Marketing Alignment report. “The shotgun approach to sales and marketing no longer works. There’s too much noise in the market and in prospects’ inboxes. The only way to stand out is to know who you’re targeting, and why and when they buy, and it can’t be done effectively unless both sales and marketing buy in it. Developing an ideal customer profile (ICP) and using it to determine your total addressable market (TAM) will help sales and marketing know exactly who to target, why they need your products, and when they need them.”
At its annual conference, ABM vendor Demandbase rolled out a new ABM Analytics module for campaign assessment. ABM Analytics supports full pipeline analysis “to understand the progression of their most valuable accounts across the buying cycle” for account lists and audiences. The platform also displays vendor comparisons, performs segmentation analysis, and provides recommendations for “next best actions to drive higher conversion rates through the funnel.”
“The ability to measure and articulate the effectiveness and impact of ABM programs is important to long-term ABM success,” said Alisa Groocock, Research Director, SiriusDecisions. “ABM solutions that bring extended measurement visibility can better support critical decision-making, and as a result, enable ABM programs to grow more quickly.”
Demandbase lists the new capabilities:
Marketers can monitor the health of their ABM strategies by examining the progress of their most valued accounts through the buying cycle; create side-by-side comparisons of audiences with different revenue ranges, employee sizes or verticals to understand how their segments perform at every stage of the funnel; understand the performance of individual marketing tactics such as advertising or direct mail; diagnose problems and opportunities along the customer journey and take targeted actions to improve performance; and build credibility throughout the organization by sharing transparent ABM progress reports.
ABM Analytics also matches and assesses data across advertising platforms, MAPs, content management, web analytics, and CRM to provide a unified view into “which accounts are responding to ads, engaging with content, moving into sales cycles and contributing to revenue.”
“For years, B2B marketers have struggled to connect disparate data sitting at agencies, in their web log files and CRM to measure the true impact of their marketing programs,” said CEO Chris Golec. “Our new analytics functionality leverages the best practices from some of the world’s most sophisticated B2B marketers and brings them to life for every company, no matter where they are on their ABM journey.”
Demandbase also announced a Salesforce Pardot connector which will be available in June. The connector will complement Einstein ABM and deliver “a deeper understanding of every customer” to sales and marketing teams. According to Michael Kostow, SVP and GM of Pardot, “Einstein ABM arms teams with the insights necessary to deliver personalized campaigns and build relationships with their most valuable accounts.”
The Pardot solution evaluates activity at both the contact and company level. The new solution will flag target account visits to corporate websites, relevant keywords and topics for online search, contact page viewing details on the website, and news and blog mentions. These insights will be provided within SFDC, email alerts, and Slack.
“ABM has transformed how marketing teams drive new business and retain customers,” said Golec. “But many B2B companies still struggle to deliver the comprehensive account view that can help sales teams drive pipeline and close business.” The Salesforce partnership “gives marketers the ability to empower sales teams with a complete picture of their target accounts so they can increase their productivity and win rates.”
European company research firm DueDil rolled out a set of enhancements spanning list building, list analytics, compliance validation, and their API. DueDil’s products are used for sales intelligence, company research, and onboarding Know Your Client (KYC) / Anti-Money Laundering (AML) compliance checks.
DueDil added four Ownership search filters to assist with targeting firms with concentrated shareholdings “ripe for takeover.” The new screens include Total Shareholding Count, Individuals Count, Companies Count, and Shareholder Name.
The firm rolled out interactive lists which build upon their list capabilities. “Interactive List Reports offer a unique way of mapping whitespace and identifying new prospects, based on high-performing segments identified in a List Report,” said Product Marketing Manager Sam Hockley. “By accessing a customer list in Report view, common traits and trends are visualised, and the characteristics of quality customers can be easily identified.”
Users can now view any List Report segment in Advanced Search, surfacing the companies and related criteria. Users can drill down on segments to research anomalies or focus on size brackets within the list. The functionality can also be used to display similar companies while suppressing the original list, providing a tool for expanding the pool of ABM candidates.
Both the browser and API now support compliance checks including Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs), sanctions, fraud warnings, and adverse media. These checks are part of standard KYC / AML onboarding steps. The Adverse Media Check includes Gazette Status (receivership, shuttering a business) and County Court Judgments. Politically Exposed Persons lists identify government officials and close family members to flag funds which could be related to bribes, kickbacks, and money laundering. Sanctions lists flag individuals associated with terrorism, trafficking, and money laundering.
“Conducting these checks with DueDil allows businesses to identify any and all linkages of corporate ownership and associated individuals. As a result, when a check is run against a specific entity, that check can be extended to all of these related parties, returning any flags or sanctions across the entire group. Advanced datasets reveal the ultimate beneficial owner of a business and enable checks for PEPs and any sanctions levied against a business,” said Hockley.
DueDil performs KYC/AML checks against both businesses and individuals. People checks are performed in conjunction with Callcredit.
DueDil also recently launched API support for webform auto-population and enrichment.
French predictive analytics firm Sparklane unveiled their version 2.0 Predict platform which employs artificial intelligence (AI) and active learning to score millions of companies and determine which prospects are most likely to become net-new customers. The Predict platform is available for the UK and French markets with localized language and datasets. A German edition is in development.
Sparklane ingests and enriches company data, matching it against firmographics and trigger events to score millions of companies. The system then models the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and Total Addressable Market (TAM). Sparklane also identifies “sparks” (hot prospects) based upon sales triggers and delivers real-time alerts, messaging, and contacts.
Models can be deployed for both new and existing business. New business models can be constructed from historical data (e.g. CRM win / loss flags) or estimated and refined for new market entry. Existing business data can also be deployed for churn models to help identify companies that are more likely to drop as well as upsell and cross-sell models.
CEO Frédéric Pichard said that employing artificial intelligence to identify your next best customers “is probably the most amazing promise B2B marketing and sales tools can fulfill” as it provides “a new way of working to help our customers be more efficient and successful.”
Sparklane users begin by importing datasets from CRMs or CSV files. Logic is employed to determine both positive and negative sample records. For example, a CRM Win / Loss flag could serve as such an indicator. The file is then enriched and an ICP model is constructed. The ICP contains three types of variables: Fit (firmographic), Need (Triggers), and Behavior (Marketing Automation prospect activity). Marketers or Sales Operations are able to view the model and adjust weights. This model is then employed for constructing a TAM with net-new accounts which can be saved as a fixed account list or dynamic model.
Sparklane onboarded file mapping.
An accuracy score helps define how well the model distinguishes between good and bad prospects. Thus, an 80% accuracy score indicates that 8 out of 10 companies in the seed file are properly predicted by the model.
An accelerated learning option is available for new market entry. Thus, if a seed list of good and bad prospects is not available for a new product line or market, an initial set can be manually selected from Sparklane company lists and deployed as a first generation seed list.
An active learning option allows users to perform a qualification pass on a list to help expedite model construction. While engaged in active learning, the user is shown company profiles which include account overviews, triggers, and family trees. The marketer can then give a thumbs up or down to each proposed account.
As output, the platform provides a set of “sparks” which are high probability accounts or contacts. The user sets the number of sparks displayed in a spark list. Qualified prospects can be sent to a CRM as accounts or leads.
The French dataset covers three million firms and two million contacts. The UK universe provides 200,000 companies and 300,000 contacts. The UK dataset focuses on large companies with sales triggers.
The French file includes 600,000 emails while the UK file supports 100,000 emails.
The firm claims that Predict increases the opportunity conversion rate by 70% and shortens the sales cycle by 30%.
Sparklane employs sixty headcount in Paris, London, and Nantes. It invests over 20% of its turnover in R&D and has nearly 200 customers in Europe.
ZoomInfo unveiled the 2.0 version of its Growth Acceleration Platform to customers at its Growth Acceleration Summit in Boston this month. Amongst the new features are a refreshed user interface, email tools, and expanded prospecting variables including Product / Vendor technographic selects. The upgraded platform is currently in beta with general availability in Q4.
According to the firm, “ZoomInfo’s Growth Acceleration platform combines the most comprehensive and actionable B2B market intelligence with tools that help optimize sales and marketing effectiveness, jumpstart growth, and maximize proﬁtability.”
The new user interface is cleaner and supports dynamic display which adjusts by form factor. All of the pages, including company and contact profiles, employ a common look and feel. Prospecting was simplified with complex stacked queries being less prominent. However, they are still available to ZoomInfo’s data services team and power users.
Prospecting added product / vendor selects licensed from HG Data. Multiple products may be entered for screening with the system defaulting to a Boolean OR (AND is supported, but the user needs to enter a multi-product Boolean string with AND logic).
Prospect lists may be maintained as dynamic lists (saved searches) or as fixed saved lists. The system displays updated counts as each variable is selected. Zoominfo also allows users to suppress contacts purchased in lists in the past six months from search results and when building other lists.
Records may be uploaded from Outlook, Office 365, and Salesforce for enhancement and targeting. Enhanced list analytics include pre and post data quality scores along with segmentation analysis. The Enhance Preview provides an analysis of the input data quality file, as well as a detailed report on what information was added, corrected, or confirmed using ZoomInfo’s data. The Data Profile tool shows users a breakdown of information about the user’s list, including top industries, job titles, revenues, and employee count.
Users can also upload an ABM account list for key contact targeting.
Company profiles include an expanded set of social media links (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube), related companies (licensed from Owler), and technology data. Tech data is displayed as summary product counts by category. The rep clicks on the product category to expand it by product. Unfortunately, the service does not support customized filtering of products or categories by key competitors or complementary platforms. As HG Data supports thousands of products, it would be a nice enhancement to support pre-configured product categories and products. Otherwise, valuable account planning insights may be obscured.
Contact profiles now display more information about the company associated with the profile without the need to navigate to a separate profile.
The ReachOut Chrome connector, which provides on-demand company and executive intelligence from websites and LinkedIn, exports to Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Outreach, and SalesLoft. Users can also send emails from within LinkedIn.
A new Outlook connector provides contact profiles from within Outlook along with one-click add to Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Outreach, and SalesLoft. Salesforce duplicate checking is employed if it is turned on. Users can upload records from Zoominfo’s ReachOut Chrome connector or Outlook as either Leads or Contacts / Accounts (previously this was only available from the Growth Acceleration Platform). ZoomInfo will create Account records for Contacts if one does not exist in SFDC.
This feature helps with researching buying committee members and influencers.
While ZoomInfo partners with Account Based Sales Development (ABSD) vendors Outreach and SalesLoft, ZoomInfo has added light ABSD email features such as email templates and live email tracking. Templates include dynamic tags for information such as contact name and company name which fill in automatically with ZoomInfo data. Emails are sent from the user’s default email program.
The ZoomInfo global database has grown to 220 million professional profiles (both active and inactive) and 13 million companies. The dataset is updated continuously based upon web crawlers and a 300,000 user community that shares email signature data. Zoominfo offers one of the deepest sets of contacts with emails and direct dial numbers.
InsideView announced the launch of a professional services group to offer Expert Services to its customers. The new Data Concierge service “helps customers navigate the data complexities involved in strategic go-to-market initiatives.”
The Expert Services group is staffed by a team of consultants and engagement managers. “B2B sales and marketing leaders have asked for our help with operationalizing ABM and other targeted go-to-market initiatives. To meet this need, our services team has evolved from delivering data projects (like clean, email validation, contact append) to more consultative services like Target Market Analytics. In the future, we anticipate growth in this part of the business to fulfill market demand,” said VP of Product & Solutions Marketing, Joe Andrews.
The first formal service assists ABM customers with analytics around their target market and helps customers define their Total Addressable Market (TAM). The concierge service includes a data visualization console which “enables customers to more effectively select the right accounts for their account-based marketing (ABM) initiatives.”
“A picture drives a business conversation in real-time as executives can run “what-if” scenarios and make decisions in real-time,” said Andrews.
The visualization tool provides both existing and whitespace segmentation by state, country, industry, and sizing variables. Data is displayed as both raw counts and TAM penetration percentages. The product even loads in current account customer data to detail the distribution of current accounts within and outside of the ideal customer profile (ICP). Users can also drill down on segments providing a more granular view by state, size, industry, etc.
The dashboard may be downloaded as a PDF for sharing with team members or executives. Users may also download records from the Dashboard.
“We’ve always strived to be a strategic partner for our customers, and many companies underestimate the data complexities involved in go-to-market planning and execution. Now we have an expert services team dedicated to help guide customers step-by-step through the process of defining their ideal customer profile, identifying their TAM, and making sure the right targets are in their database. Our goal is for InsideView Expert Services to be a trusted partner for customers looking for help with any big, thorny data-driven initiative for marketing or sales.”
InsideView CRO John Kelly
InsideView noted that many of their customers had captured less than ten percent of their TAM in their database.
“When it’s time to pick accounts, marketing and sales can have different ideas about which should make the list,” wrote Forrester Principal Analyst Laura Ramos. “Successful marketers always lead with data to identify the characteristics that distinguish “good” opportunities from those selected through feel, anecdote, or intuition.”
While InsideView continues to offer and enhance its sales intelligence products, its emphasis over the past several years has been in launching marketing products such as InsideView Refresh (automated CRM cleansing), InsideView Enrich (real-time lead enrichment), InsideView Target (Marketing Prospecting), and a broad set of MAP and CRM connectors.
InsideView is not the first sales intelligence vendor to provide such services. Avention has long provided data and professional services and launched the DataVision platform last year for TAM analysis and white space company and contact identification. Likewise, Zoominfo shifted its emphasis from sales to marketing and launched their Growth Acceleration Platform to assist with ICP identification and net-new prospecting. While not the first entry in the space, the Expert Services represents a maturing of vendor capabilities in support of marketing departments and ABM projects. Over the past several years, the sales intelligence vendors have retrained their focus from sales insights via browsers to sales and marketing intelligence services which deliver consultative and automated data services via enterprise platforms, mobile devices, and broad connectors. This support goes beyond simply offering sales product Build a List functionality to marketing departments. It includes a set of tools and services for identifying the ideal customer profile, sizing the total addressable market, identifying white space target accounts and contacts (i.e. net-new leads), supporting web forms, automating batch and ongoing enrichment of MAPs and CRMs, prioritizing leads, and assisting with lead-to-account mapping, segmentation analysis, and campaign targeting. Other ABM features which sales intelligence vendors have begun rolling out include visitor site identification, programmatic marketing, social enrichment, Chrome connectors, ABSD (account based sales development) vendor integrations, and light predictive analytics.
We’ve helped several customers along their ABM journey, and we’ve realized their needs extend beyond company and contact data,” blogged InsideView Product Marketing Manager Jyothsna Durgadoss. “In order to be successful, they also require data visualization, technical talent, and expert guidance — all of which are critical for effectively identifying ideal targets, uncovering total addressable market, and selecting the right accounts for ABM.”
InsideView noted that many sales and marketing departments retain an ad-hoc approach to defining their ABM targets and TAM. According to InsideView, “At a recent Sirius Decisions Summit, a poll of the keynote audience revealed that more than 50 percent had an ad hoc or nonexistent approach to measuring total addressable market.” (See bar chart on left)
Dun & Bradstreet, which has had a series of major product announcements over the past few weeks (the Avention acquisition, rebranding of its OneSource platform as D&B Hoovers, a Beneficial Ownership product), has quietly added powerful new functionality to their Workbench Data Optimizer platform. The new Profile capability features an automated profile builder, Total Addressable Market (TAM) analysis, and look-a-like prospecting based upon the Workbench profiles.
The new functionality helps marketers evaluate the size of targetable sub-markets, identify audiences with a high propensity to purchase, discover overlooked whitespace opportunities, and target new accounts and contacts. According to Alex Schwarm, Sr. Director of Marketing Analytics Products, “Profile enables our Workbench customers to begin to use data-driven, ABM-oriented Profiles based on their successful sales. These automated analytics allow you to quickly and easily identify the best whitespace opportunities and characteristics of your target audiences including those with the highest propensity to buy – no data scientist needed.”
Profile is a black-box analytics engine which clusters customer files without biases. Marketers upload a file of their customers’ data for a specific product or product family. Workbench standardizes, de-duplicates, and verifies the input file; matches and enriches it with Dun & Bradstreet’s WorldBase firmographics; and then provides segmentation and file health analysis. The Profile module identifies between two and eight distinct segments containing similar companies across multiple dimensions. The user can define the number of profiles or the system can automatically identify the optimal number of profiles based on the variation of the customer file. The marketer is not required to define the key segmentation variables. Instead, the system automatically performs affinity clustering (my term) to build the segments. Execution time is typically 5 to 10 minutes.
The results are displayed on a downloadable dashboard that provides a side-by-side firmographic analysis of the clusters. Results include company size, ownership (e.g. parent, branch), primary industries, cluster size, and average deal size (if revenue figures are also shared with Dun & Bradstreet). Thus, the system may identify segments with a lower average deal size but a larger number of prospects alongside clusters containing top customers with high average deal size but a small number of targetable opportunities.
While Dun & Bradstreet does not use the term “Ideal Customer Profile” (ICP) the system is basically identifying the attributes of a customer’s ICP, determining the average deal size, and sizing the overall market opportunity.
Dun & Bradstreet has two major assets in performing TAM analysis: The WorldBase file of global companies and trust built up over 170 years of credit research. WorldBase provides them with a consistent, global file of 260 million active and inactive companies for credit and supplier risk research, sales intelligence, and B2B marketing. The file includes broad global company linkages, corporate and location sizing, industry coding, Tradestyles, and D-U-N-S Numbers (the de facto global company numbering system). This intelligence provides the core reference file against which market sizing can be performed. But TAM analysis requires customer level revenue information against which company counts can be converted to market sizes. And here is where a strong credit analysis brand helps build confidence amongst marketers to share company revenue data. While they will be reluctant to share revenue details with most vendors, firms have been sharing private financial details with Dun & Bradstreet over the better part of two centuries.
Marketers can then take any of the profiles and immediately identify net-new similar companies as well as net-new contacts. The system also sizes potential target market audiences that can be reached programmatically through their Audience Solutions group.
While prospect scoring based upon these definitions is not yet supported, that is a likely future offering for the platform. Profile, along with a set of predictive scores and paired with D&B Hoovers’ business signals, represents a toe in the water of the predictive analytics space.
Buyer Persona tools are a growing area of focus for sales and marketing teams. Pragmatic Marketing and other B2B product marketing firms have long promoted the value of personas for product planning and marketing messaging. They help identify customer needs and features as well as associated positioning. According to B2B Marketing Strategist Ardath Albee, they help “build relationships based on expertise and authority that helps buyers see your company as a mentor and the best choice to solve their problem or capitalize on an opportunity.”
“Buyer personas are important because they allow us to focus our sales and marketing efforts on people who need our solutions to do their job better, to help their businesses grow, to help their businesses essentially reduce cost, to help the increase efficiencies, to help them realize the goals they are setting out to achieve. In order for us to do that, we need to understand that buyer intimately,” said Ned Leutz of Zoominfo. “By doing our homework fully we can better understand these people and then, of course, increase our success rate when we are reaching out to them.”
The problem with personas is that they have historically been high-level tools that quickly fall into caricature and disuse because they are not rigorously defined and maintained. “Many customer intelligence efforts today are ad hoc, uninformed, and manual projects that are full of assumptions and rarely kept up to date,” says persona vendor Cintell. “Even if you’ve hired a consultant to develop buyer personas, insights are often trapped in static PDF documents abandoned at the back of a desk drawer leaving critical customer intelligence underutilized.”
Unfortunately, there were few tools available for identifying and researching personas. Instead B2B marketers focused on building segments that approximated their personas for marketing campaigns while product managers posted persona profiles in meeting rooms during road mapping and feature definition exercises but failed to use these tools beyond the early product definition stage.
Recently, three vendors have begun to address the B2B persona problem. Zoominfo focuses on amongst a company’s best customers. These personas capture enough information about the attributes of their best customers to help identify similar prospects at other companies. Such a tool operates as a next generation customer cloning tool as it looks at both firmographic and functional information around leads. The tool can also be used to evaluate attendees at conferences or webinars to help tailor discussions.
Leutz recommends that the firm ask questions such as
Who are your top performing customers?
Who are your best leads?
What were your biggest deals?
Which customers close faster?
This information that can be gathered from the CRM, marketing automation platform, webinar attendees, and trade show lists. It can also be gathered from your sales reps, the CFO, and customer conversations.
While Zoominfo can assist with answering Who, they fail to provide insights into What or Why. In short, Zoominfo’s personas are basically the next generation of peer listings; they are a starting point for the persona process, but they do not assist with identifying persona needs; determining whether the cluster contains economic buyers, influencers, or users; or specifying what kind of content would be of interest to them. They also do not assist product management in determining product roadmaps and future capabilities.
There are also several vendors that recently launched tools for defining and maintaining buyer and user personas. Cintell and Akoonu offer marketers tools for defining personas in a centralized platform that collects survey data and research alongside the profiles. Both of these services were launched about a year ago so will be evolving quickly. The two services are cloud based hubs for collecting persona information and sharing it with both platforms (e.g. Marketing Automation and CRM) and employees. They are ongoing intelligence gathering services for continuously refining and updating personas and then disseminating this intelligence to marketing, sales, and product management.
They also promise to immediately map leads to personas, helping inform messaging, campaigns, and targeting within the marketing automation platform and segmentation and analytics in the CRM. When tied to a well-researched persona, sales reps would have a better understanding of the prospect’s role, needs, and informational requirements. Personas provide sales reps with a summary of buying habits, preferences, and motivations along with market research reports, customer interviews and surveys, and persona specific articles. As living documents shared across the organization, they would also assist product management in identifying latent needs and customer pain points and marketing communications in tailoring content for the persona.
“Our new empowered B2B consumer seeks relevancy and empathy,” said Cintell Co-Founder Katie Martell. “And marketers know this: In a recent ITSMA study, technology marketers predicted that understanding buyers will soon become their #1 responsibility. But getting to this insight is not easy. Efforts to research and leverage personas today are highly manual, shallow, very static, and fragmented throughout the business. The opportunity here is to empower B2B organizations with a platform to gather primary research, enhance it with external market and buyer insights, and combine it with data from internal business systems. The new competitive advantage for companies is a richer understanding of buyers through meaningful, ongoing customer intelligence.”
I don’t see these persona definition platforms as long-term standalone offerings as their functionality is a tight fit for marketing automation. They will likely be folded into marketing automation platforms once the technology has matured. It is also possible that predictive analytics companies fold these tools into their products as persona assignments would inform lead scoring and messaging. Furthermore, several of the predictive firms aspire to becoming recommendation engines, a feature that persona platforms could easily support. Conversely, business signals would be valuable in building out a fuller understanding of personas.