VanillaSoft Acquires Autoklose (Part II)

Yesterday, I covered VanillaSoft’s acquisition of Autoklose and plans to integrate its email marketing capabilities into the VanillaSoft Sales Engagement Platform. Autoklose will also continue as a standalone offering for SMBs.

The acquisition included the DataUnlimited US B2B contact dataset. VanillaSoft users will be able to subscribe to or purchase leads from both the Autoklose and VanillaSoft platforms.  DataUnlimited spans 40 million US B2B contacts that are revalidated in real-time.  Contact records include name, company, email, phone, address, SIC, URL, and LinkedIn URL.  DataUnlimited is supported by a ten-person data team that verifies data and performs custom research.

Autoklose competitors include Mixmax, Reply.io, Apollo.io, and Cognism.

Following the acquisition, VanillaSoft described itself as a “Tier-2 data provider” that offers B2B contacts.  They target the SMB market and “real-world industries,” such as professional and financial services, manufacturing, and educational fundraising.  Their clients are not bleeding-edge tech firms or large enterprises but smaller firms with full lifecycle sales reps.  Typical customers are price sensitive and resource-constrained with high turnover.  As such, they are late adopters of technology that highly value a solution’s ease-of-use.  VanillaSoft noted that 40% of their customers have yet to deploy a CRM.

“SMBs are looking for ROI, not AI,” stated the firm.

According to VanillaSoft CRO Darryl Praill, “Sales Engagement will become the primary platform used by Sales teams, just as Marketing Automation has become the primary platform used by Marketers.”  Furthermore, the vision of SEPs will expand as they add ABM workflows, marketing automation, contacts, opportunity management, forecasting, chat, and video.

“VanillaSoft will offer a broad, pragmatic sales engagement platform that meets the diverse requirements and price-points of SMB sales teams or individuals in traditional industries,” said Praill.  This will include industry-specific versions of the platform to meet the unique requirements of their core industries.

“One of my favorite things to say when a customer or prospect praises our product is to point out that if they like what VanillaSoft is today, they are going to love what it is tomorrow. We’re making this promise a reality by continuing to grow internal development and incorporating great teams and technology to deliver the best sales engagement tools available.”

VanillaSoft CEO David Hood

VanillaSoft’s acquisition of Autoklose is a smart, strategic move that enhances both its email capabilities and its B2B prospect intelligence.  Sales Engagement vendors have been slow to integrate verified leads into their platforms.  Even the market leaders have developed little more than third-party ‘Send to SEP’ functionality.  

Integrated prospecting will be particularly valuable to VanillaSoft’s customer base of SMBs serving insurance, finance, and manufacturing.  This intelligence gap has led some Sales Intelligence vendors to incorporate a subset of SEP features into their offerings, thus becoming Hybrid Engagement Platforms.  HEP features include cadences (Zoominfo, Cognism, Data Axle Genie), dialers (Zoominfo, Data Axle Genie), email (Zoominfo, Cognism, Data Axle Genie), email signature management (Cognism/Mailtastic), messaging (LinkedIn Sales Navigator), and event-triggered workflows (Zoominfo).

Privately-held VanillaSoft is based in Plano, TX and Gatineau, Quebec.  The firm is profitable with 6oo customers and 4,000 users (pre-acquisition).  With Autoklose, they now have 88 employees, up 34% this year.  New executives include Shawn Finder (Sales GM); Marko Dinic (Fractional CTO); Vladan Djokic (Senior Dev Lead); and Vedran Rasic (Director, Marketing).

Autoklose was on track for a record year at the time of the acquisition, despite a revenue dip at the beginning of the pandemic.

VanillaSoft Acquires Autoklose

Sales Engagement Platform vendor VanillaSoft acquired outbound email automation platform Autoklose for an undisclosed sum.  The acquisition augments VanillaSoft’s email capabilities and adds Autoklose’s DataUnlimited contact database to its feature set.  

Autoklose offers an all-in-one outbound email automation platform featuring automated lead generation, drip campaigns, calendar scheduling, reporting, and CRM integration.  

“The Autoklose technology and team will make a significant contribution to our vision of establishing VanillaSoft as the number one sales engagement platform for SMB customers in real-world industries such as insurance and fundraising.  After evaluating a number of different technologies and companies in the market, we saw that the capabilities and technology in the Autoklose platform would be a perfect fit for what our customers are looking for to enhance their sales outreach and engagement capabilities.  Further, the founders have a great vision, a passion for the industry, and built up an extremely talented group of people.  We are incredibly excited to bring Autoklose into the VanillaSoft team.”

VanillaSoft CEO David Hood

VanillaSoft is a multi-channel sales engagement platform that supports email, phone, and SMS.  Autoklose provides them with enhanced email cadence capabilities, personalized email automation, and personal sales nurturing.  Autoklose email features include email tracking, email templates, scheduled send, bounce detection, A/B testing, unsubscribe support, multi-media and attachments, and integrated Vidyard and Calendly functionality.  Real-time analytics track emails sent, delivered, opened, CTR, replies, and bounces.

Autoklose email tracking supports Gmail, GSuite, Outlook Office365 inbox, or any other email account via IMAP.

“An integrated, easy-to-use solution is something that SMB organizations with limited resources have been waiting for.  With this acquisition, VanillaSoft stands alone in the marketplace – offering SMB sales teams and individuals in real-world industries an all-in-one solution to meet their unique sales intelligence, email automation, sales nurturing, and sales engagement requirements.”

Mark Hunter, Author & Public Speaker, The Sales Hunter

VanillaSoft will continue selling Autoklose as a standalone sales automation platform with lead data as an add-on and has begun integrating the Autoklose email platform as the back-end for most email sends.  Autoklose will support future inbound email functionality.  Eventually, Autoklose will support a “light” marketing automation service.

“The stand-alone Autoklose platform will remain available to customers and we will be working hard on future development to make it even better,” blogged VanillaSoft CEO David Hood.  “It’s a great option for prospects who aren’t quite ready for – or do not require – a complete sales engagement platform like VanillaSoft.”


Continue to Part II which covers the DataUnlimited contact data set.

BuzzBoard Graph of 100M Global SMBs

Sales and Marketing Intelligence vendor BuzzBoard has built a graph of global SMB organizations spanning 100 million companies, 20 million in the US.  The seven-year-old firm supports advanced segmentation and prospecting based upon a deep set of technographic and digital marketing variables.  During the pandemic, they added COVID prospecting and recommendation tools to help customers target segments and personas that are doing well during the recession.

It is their focus on SMBs and their digital signals that they describe as their competitive advantage. “Anyone who sells to SMBs should have deep knowledge of the prospect’s digital footprint, their needs, attitudes, triggers, and ability to pay.  These are reflected in the SMB’s operations stack and in their external presence.”

BuzzBoard assigns a Buzz Score to each of the companies in its database.  The Buzz Score is a digital marketing score that grades a company’s digital presence based on a 0 to 100 scale.  Users may drill into the score to see the underlying components.  Thus, a web design company can determine whether a prospect has multi-screen compatibility.  Initially, an estimated score is provided, which is +/- 10 points of the probable score.  When adding a profile, BuzzBoard automatically regenerates the Buzz Score and digital profile, though the process takes 60 to 90 seconds.

Prospecting variables include firmographics, technographics, website, SEO, advertising, social, estimated spend, etc.  A new set of COVID-19 risk filters let users select companies based on location, industry, operational status, ongoing Google Ad spend, and recent technology investments.  For example, restaurants may be filtered operationally by Temporarily Closed, Dine-in, Delivery, and Take-out.

On the user home page, they added two recommendation cards.  The “COVID-19 – Categories to work on now!” card highlights verticals that are growing and “need marketing support during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The “COVID-19 – Recommendations” card contains personas and segments defined by BuzzBoard’s data scientists “based on target locations that need marketing support during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The homepage consists of a customizable set of cards for training videos, COVID recommendations, Knowledge Base, Favorite Signals, etc.

The fixed search bar at the top of each screen lets users search by location combined with business name, URL, category, or keywords.  A left-handed filter bar lets users revise the prospecting list.  For example, a user can quickly search for roofers within 40 miles of Los Angeles with websites and Google ad spend, but a poor mobile experience (e.g. slow loading, not responsive).  Lists are displayed via a card-view or plotted map.  List parameters may be saved for future re-use.

Prospects may be added as profiles.  When added, BuzzBoard goes out and re-evaluates the Buzz Score based upon its current digital footprint.  Profiles contain a summary view along with tabs for Detailed view, Competition, Category Insights, and Recommendations.

Beyond prospecting lists, users may also quickly research a company from a BuzzBoard Connect Chrome extension or via a file upload.  When visiting a web page in Chrome, users click on the BuzzBoard icon in the right corner of the Chrome bar, and BuzzBoard opens a window with company details including firmographics, Buzz Score, Website and SEO details, technographics, social media, competition, communications, and recommendations.

Up to 300 records may be uploaded at a time.  The file must contain either name and URL or name and address for matching.


Part II continues tomorrow with a discussion of their Competition, Category, and Recommendation tabs.

InfoUSA Results Launched

Infogroup launched InfoUSA Results, an SMB solution for website building.  The package includes a custom website and landing page tied to online campaigns and a dedicated toll-free or local phone number.  InfoUSA Results also supports site analytics, SEO optimization, Google Ads, local listings, and display ad remarketing.  Customers can manage the site once it is built or let InfoUSA manage it.

“We designed InfoUSA Results so businesses can easily reach more customers online. We developed this product with the time-strapped business owner in mind.  Imagine, as a business owner, you have a team working on your behalf, and new customer leads come right to you.  In fact, it can be as simple as InfoUSA Results sending a text to a business owner alerting them that they have a new customer prospect who is interested in doing business with them.  That is pretty slick.”

Mark Cullinane, President of Local Marketing Solutions at Infogroup.

InfoUSA Results designs websites that are mobile-ready and search engine optimized with metadata and structured markup.  They are optimized for fast load times.  Sitemaps are submitted to Google for speedier indexation via the Google Search Console.  InfoUSA also distributes company data to hundreds of online directory listing platforms.

The service includes multi-channel lead tracking for calls, web forms, texts, and emails with analytics delivered via a dashboard.  Voice, SMS text, and email responses are reported and logged.  Calls are displayed on a geo map with length and quality.

Call management features include call recording, call whispering, and voicemail.

InfoUSA did not publish pricing but is offering a 30% discount for the next three months.

InfoUSA Results provides website design, SEO, display ad remarketing, and site analytics.

Priority Engine Enhancements

Priority Engine improved its Buying Team contacts and added contact card display.

TechTarget announced a set of enhancements to its Priority Engine sales intelligence service.  New features include improved Salesforce sync, refined Buying Team display, contact hygiene, and LinkedIn profile hyperlinks.  Improved Salesforce synchronization gives “sales reps easier access and dynamic visibility into active accounts in their territory, with even more accurate and actionable data on the buying teams within them,” said the firm.

Priority Engine now supports sales territories based on Salesforce account assignments, uploaded account lists, or firmographic rules (e.g. Industry, Geography, Size).  As accounts are added or reassigned within Salesforce, territories are automatically maintained, allowing Priority Engine to dynamically showcase activities within the territory.

Managers and directors can view individual rep account lists or multiple territories at once.

Priority Engine territories may be defined by SFDC, list uploads, or firmographic variables.

TechTarget acquired contact hygiene vendor Oceanos in 2018 and has begun to leverage it in Priority Engine for contact data enrichment and update to its 20 million opted-in contacts.

“Priority Engine helps sales and aligned marketing teams reach and engage more of the right prospects at in-market accounts to improve response and conversation rates,” stated TechTarget

TechTarget also adjusted its contact selection algorithm to improve its buying committee display, “vastly improving the fit of 3rd-party supplemental contacts in Priority Engine.”  A new contact card provides a detailed contact profile within the Buying Team list view.  Previous and Next buttons allow the sales rep to quickly view individual profiles.

Priority Engine also deployed improved persona logic to determine which DiscoverOrg contacts to display for accounts.

Within account views, Buying Teams now list emails, direct dials, and LinkedIn hyperlinks.

“Priority Engine has long provided essential intelligence to help sales teams fuel pipeline and close more deals.  These new enhancements are the first in a series of releases specifically designed to make it even easier for sales pros to access better data and powerful insights to maximize opportunities with active accounts in their territory.”

TechTarget VP of Products Andrew Briney

TechTarget collects second-party intent and opted-in contacts from readers of its 140 technology research sites.  TechTarget sites are available in English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Italian, and Japanese.  Priority Engine supports English, French, and German UIs.

Of the 20 million contacts, 18 million are technology decision-makers or influencers and 2 million work in other functions but are researching technology.  9 million of the contacts are North American, 5 million are located in EMEA, 5 million in APAC, and 600,000 in Latin America.

Priority Engine pricing is customized based on market access and customer feature/function requirements.  Typical individual subscriptions begin around $100K. Designed specifically for the needs of small companies, the Priority Engine Express (PEX) offering – currently in beta release – starts at $36K.

There are over 600 customers for TechTarget intent data products, with 51 added last quarter.  Priority Engine Express will be generally available in 2020.

TechTarget Priority Engine Express

TechTarget Confirmed Projects

TechTarget is taking a soft launch approach to their new Priority Engine Express service for small software vendors and VARs with an early 2020 launch date.  CEO Michael Cotoia said the firm is building a platform which is “simple, streamlined, and scalable.”  Cotoia noted how smaller firms differ in sales and marketing requirements and capabilities from TechTarget’s enterprise clients:

Our smaller customers lack a lot of resources.  They don’t have a marketing automation [platform] many times.  They don’t have an integrated nurture campaign.  They need to understand and have a very friendly user interface, and they’re also very focused on identifying and using this solution as a sales use case with their inside sales reps and even their outside sales reps.  So what we’re really focused on is doing a very simple user interface, focus very much on a sales use case, and understand that we can help them build different types of lists and customized lists; for example, an ideal customer profile list, which is really going to focus on exactly their sweet spot so we can get them the right updates at the right time. They don’t have the resources; they don’t have the complexity.  If they need it simple, they want it towards sales use cases, and we’re learning a lot from that.

TechTarget CEO Michael Cotoia

Cotoia said that TechTarget is taking a market feedback approach to Express development.  As they engage with small customers, they are pausing during the sale to gather feedback to better understand what smaller firms are looking to do.  As they bring on early Express users, they are “tweaking, modifying, adjusting and getting ready to go into 2020.”  Cotoia called the initial feedback in this new market “very positive.”

TechTarget began building an SDR team two years ago to provide a team of appointment setters for their outside sales reps.  “We built that with a vision that we’re going to be looking at additional products that we are going to roll out,” said Cotoia.  “We want to make sure we have the resources on the bench” who are trained in the TechTarget methodology and ready to support new opportunities such as Express “so they are ready to make and take action when we see fit.”

TechTarget has raised the price for Priority Engine since it was launched a few years ago.  “We believe we have pricing power,” said Cotoia.  “We’ve had a couple of pricing increases year-over-year, and we believe we are in the best position to deliver real and observed purchase intent, make it very clear who’s in-market, by which technology segment, by which region and help our customers rank, prioritize and mobilize their sales and marketing efforts again, and we hope that creates some pricing leverage.”


Yesterday, I discussed TechTarget’s strong Q2. The above discussion was held in their Q2 2019 earnings announcement.

DiscoverOrg Startup & SMB Dataset

"Building a Winning Dataset" from DiscoverOrg Collateral.
“Building a Winning Dataset” from DiscoverOrg Collateral.

Sales and Marketing intelligence vendor DiscoverOrg announced their latest database earlier today.  The new Startup and SMB dataset covers more than 60,000 small and mid-size businesses and 400,000 executives.  The initial North American coverage profiles companies with between 50 and 1,000 employees.

All of the contacts are editorially verified and will be maintained via the same sixty-day review cycles as their other contacts.  Executives cover “all key departments, including IT, Engineering, Marketing, Sales, Finance, HR, and Operations.”

“DiscoverOrg’s data difference is its team of 250+ researchers who constantly augment and verify the data in our platform,” notes Henry Schuck, DiscoverOrg CEO. “Unlike other vendors that provide SMB lists with thousands of irrelevant contacts, companies, and incomplete and duplicate records, the DiscoverOrg Startup & SMB dataset is as rich and accurate as our enterprise data.”

CMO Katie Bullard said that DiscoverOrg has “aggressive plans” to invest in SMB dataset development due to customer benefits.

With more companies, our researchers won’t have to skip over Triggers that they find through their research. We’re able to return a greater number of companies that use a certain technology, and our predictive tools like AccountView and DealPredict have larger reach with more matched accounts.

  • DiscoverOrg CMO Katie Bullard

The initial dataset is limited to North America as that is where they have the greatest current demand, but DiscoverOrg plans to internationalize the Startup and SMB dataset in the future.  While the goal is to cover all firms with at least 50 employees, the initial dataset consists of firms requested by their customers.

The press release noted how difficult it is to find reliable, actionable intelligence for SMB sales teams.  Along with company and executive profiles, the database provides 6,000 “research verified buying triggers” per month.

In smaller businesses without media coverage or press releases, almost none of the buying intent triggers that DiscoverOrg gathers – including planned investments, key projects, personnel moves, and internal spending budgets – is made available to the public. This is where DiscoverOrg’s team of researchers provides a clear advantage: While there are millions of registered companies in the US, the difficulty is identifying and gathering intelligence on the small percentage of these companies who are 1) legitimate entities and 2) have true spend / budget. By continuously verifying contact info, conducting interviews, and engaging in research activities, DiscoverOrg overcomes the shortcomings of web-scraping for hard-to-find data on the SMB space, ensuring the intelligence customers receive is highly relevant and immediately useful.

  • DiscoverOrg Press Release

“Sales and marketing teams that want to reach the SMB market have had a very difficult go of it,” said Nancy Nardin, President of advisory firm Smart Selling Tools. “There’s been a real dearth of verified, accurate data on SMBs, quite simply because it’s harder for data companies to get. DiscoverOrg is solving for this very real pain point by bringing their best-in-class research verification model to the SMB space. You can expect the same high-quality data you get from DiscoverOrg’s broad datasets. ”

Across all databases, DiscoverOrg now covers 1.5 million executives and 90,000 companies.  Customers may purchase access to the full database or various databases by job function, company size, or region.

 

Infofree: SMB Prospecting, Credit Scores, SFA, and Mobile App

Infofree mobile creditIn the past two weeks, SMB Sales Intelligence vendor Infofree has added 16 million US emails and light credit report information to its service.  Infofree provides low cost access to business and consumer databases for the SMB market (they also serve some enterprise clients, but their sweet spot is SMB).

The service has a number of similarities to Infogroup’s Salesgenie service, so prospects would be well advised to evaluate both offerings before signing up for a contract.

Key features include business and consumer prospecting; light sales force automation (SFA) features such reminders, tagging, and note taking; business trade credit profiles; events databases (e.g. New Businesses, New Movers); and a mobile app.

Infofree is not a candidate for strategic sales teams.  Profiles and screening are thinner than found in enterprise sales intelligence vendors.  You also won’t find sales triggers, public company financials, company news, or industry research.  Instead, the product should be viewed as an SMB service designed for industries that sell to both businesses and consumers (e.g. office supplies, insurance agencies, communications services, food services).

Infofree also includes a light SFA service called CRM101 which serves as a contact and list manager.  Users can store notes, set up reminders, and assign tags within CRM101.  Furthermore, CRM101 is available through their mobile app, allowing for quick note taking after field sales calls.

Other Android and iOS mobile features include mobile prospect lists, map viewing of prospect lists, click-to-call, click-to-email, driving directions, and company and credit profiles.

Infofree.com is priced at $79.95 monthly or $799 annually. The annual subscription includes up to 10,000 downloaded records per year with additional records available for five cents each.  Volume discounts apply for multiple seats.

Infofree is one of the eleven vendors I profiled in my just published 2015 Field Guide to Sales Intelligence Vendors.  In the coming weeks, I will provide mini-profiles of each of these vendors in my blog.  I have already published a few: