Exciting New Tools for B-to-B Prospecting

Finding new customers is a lot easier these days, what with innovative, digitally based ways to capture and collect data. Early examples of this exciting new trend in prospecting were Jigsaw, a business card swapping tool that allowed salespeople to trade contacts, and ZoomInfo, which scrapes corporate websites for information about businesspeople and merges the information into a vast pool of data for analysis and lead generation campaigns. New ways to find prospects continue to come on the scene—it seems like on the daily.

Finding new customers is a lot easier these days, what with innovative, digitally based ways to capture and collect data. Early examples of this exciting new trend in prospecting were Jigsaw, a business card swapping tool that allowed salespeople to trade contacts, and ZoomInfo, which scrapes corporate websites for information about businesspeople and merges the information into a vast pool of data for analysis and lead generation campaigns. New ways to find prospects continue to come on the scene—it seems like on the daily.

One big new development is the trend away from static name/address lists, and towards dynamic sourcing of prospect names complete with valuable indicators of buying readiness culled from their actual behavior online. Companies such as InsideView and Leadspace are developing solutions in this area. Leadspace’s process begins with constructing an ideal buyer persona by analyzing the marketer’s best customers, which can be executed by uploading a few hundred records of name, company name and email address. Then, Leadspace scours the Internet, social networks and scores of contact databases for look-alikes and immediately delivers prospect names, fresh contact information and additional data about their professional activities.

Another dynamic data sourcing supplier with a new approach is Lattice, which also analyzes current customer data to build predictive models for prospecting, cross-sell and churn prevention. The difference from Leadspace is that Lattice builds the client models using their own massive “data cloud” of B-to-B buyer behavior, fed by 35 data sources like LexisNexis, Infogroup, D&B, and the US Government Patent Office. CMO Brian Kardon says Lattice has identified some interesting variables that are useful in prospecting, for example:

  • Juniper Networks found that a company that has recently “signed a lease for a new building” is likely to need new networks and routers.
  • American Express’s foreign exchange software division identified “opened an office in a foreign country” suggests a need for foreign exchange help.
  • Autodesk searches for companies who post job descriptions online that seek “design engineers with CAD/CAM experience.”

Lattice faces competition from Mintigo and Infer, which are also offering prospect scoring models—more evidence of the growing opportunity for marketers to take advantage of new data sources and applications.

Another new approach is using so-called business signals to identify opportunity. As described by Avention’s Hank Weghorst, business signals can be any variable that characterizes a business. Are they growing? Near an airport? Unionized? Minority owned? Susceptible to hurricane damage? The data points are available today, and can be harnessed for what Weghorst calls “hyper segmentation.” Avention’s database of information flowing from 70 suppliers, overlaid by data analytics services, intends to identify targets for sales, marketing and research.

Social networks, especially LinkedIn, are rapidly becoming a source of marketing data. For years, marketers have mined LinkedIn data by hand, often using low-cost offshore resources to gather targets in niche categories. Recently, a gaggle of new companies—like eGrabber and Social123—are experimenting with ways to bring social media data into CRM systems and marketing databases, to populate and enhance customer and prospect records.

Then there’s 6Sense, which identifies prospective accounts that are likely to be in the market for particular products, based on the online behavior of their employees, anonymous or identifiable. 6Sense analyzes billions of rows of 3rd party data, from trade publishers, blogs and forums, looking for indications of purchase intent. If Cisco is looking to promote networking hardware, for example, 6Sense will come back with a set of accounts that are demonstrating an interest in that category, and identify where they were in their buying process, from awareness to purchase. The account data will be populated with contacts, indicating their likely role in the purchase decision, and an estimate of the likely deal size. The data is delivered in real-time to whatever CRM or marketing automation system the client wants, according to CEO and founder Amanda Kahlow.

Just to whet your appetite further, have a look at CrowdFlower, a start-up company in San Francisco, which sends your customer and prospect records to a network of over five million individual contributors in 90 countries, to analyze, clean or collect the information at scale. Crowd sourcing can be very useful for adding information to, and checking on the validity and accuracy of, your data. CrowdFlower has developed an application that lets you manage the data enrichment or validity exercises yourself. This means that you can develop programs to acquire new fields whenever your business changes and still take advantage of their worldwide network of individuals who actually look at each record.

The world of B-to-B data is changing quickly, with exciting new technologies and data sources coming available at record pace. Marketers can expect plenty of new opportunity for reaching customers and prospects efficiently.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

New Developments in B-to-B List Acquisition

To reach cold prospects among business audiences, sales and marketing teams often begin by developing a list of prospective targets. Marketers can find just about every target company, title and job function they need from traditional list suppliers. Plus, the Internet has made possible the introduction of some excellent new opportunities for identifying prospects at various stages of the buying cycle. Let’s look at what’s new in B-to-B lists these days

To reach cold prospects among business audiences, sales and marketing teams often begin by developing a list of prospective targets. Marketers can find just about every target company, title and job function they need from traditional list suppliers. Plus, the Internet has made possible the introduction of some excellent new opportunities for identifying prospects at various stages of the buying cycle. Let’s look at what’s new in B-to-B lists these days.

Traditionally, the first step in list development has been working with a list broker who has experience in your target audience category. There are more than 40,000 business lists available for rent in the U.S., plus numerous databases and online data enhancement services to choose from.

Business lists can be divided into four general types:

  1. Compiled files assembled from directories, the Internet or other public and private sources, by such suppliers as D&B, InfoGroup, Data.com, NetProspex and ZoomInfo. In recent years, many compilers have been making their data available for rent via an online interface, vastly enhancing the speed and flexibility of ordering.
  2. Response files created as a by-product of other businesses, like catalog/e-commerce sales, seminars, trade organization memberships, or magazine and newsletter subscriptions. Response files tend to be more current and accurate than compiled files.
  3. Cooperative databases from multiple list owners, offered in either open format, where you pay for what you use (examples being MeritDirect’s MeritBase, InfoGroup’s b2bdatawarehouse and Mardev DM2’s Decisionmaker database), or closed format, where only members who put customer names in can take prospect names out (examples include Epsilon Abacus Cooperative and the b2bBase, a joint venture of MeritDirect and Experian).
  4. Internal databases populated from billing systems, lead management systems, and website registration systems. Many companies today use their marketing automation or CRM systems as their marketing databases, and populate them from a variety of internal and external sources.

A New Direction in B-to-B Lists
The B-to-B list industry has changed considerably in the last decade, with the proliferation of social networks. But the big new development today is the trend away from static name/address lists, to dynamic sourcing of prospect names complete with valuable indicators of buying readiness culled from their actual behavior online. Companies such as InsideView and Leadspace are developing solutions in this area.

Leadspace, created by a team of former Israeli intelligence officers, is a leader in targeted, real-time prospecting data for business marketers. Their process begins with constructing an ideal buyer persona by analyzing the client’s best customers, which can be executed by uploading a few hundred records of name, company name and email address. Then, Leadspace scours the Internet, social networks and scores of contact databases for look-alikes and immediately delivers prospect names, fresh contact information and additional data about their professional activities.

How LevelEleven Took its Prospecting to the Next Level
LevelEleven provides a cloud-based platform where sales managers can create fresh and compelling sales contests within Salesforce.com. For example, the Detroit Pistons recently used LevelEleven to organize a sales contest for skyboxes at their arena, and drove sales of over half a million dollars. In other words, 50 percent of the skybox annual sales target was closed in a mere six weeks.

LevelEleven’s target prospect is a sales manager or sales operations manager in any company that uses Salesforce.com as its CRM system. Today, LevelEleven’s sales team gets leads from four sources:

  1. The Salesforce.com AppExchange, where other Salesforce users search for partners.
  2. Conferences and trade shows, like Dreamforce.
  3. Registrations from content downloads at the LevelEleven website.
  4. Rented lists of prospects.

LevelEleven has tried a variety of list sources over the years, with mixed results. In the first half of 2012, the prospecting sources produced zero in closed sales. In June 2012, they began experimenting with Leadspace. In the second half of 2012, a full 30 percent of LevelEleven closed deals came from this source.

According to Bob Marsh, CEO, the power of Leadspace for LevelEleven is its close targeting based on the LevelEleven customer profile. “Leadspace helps us infer pretty accurately whether a prospect is using the Salesforce platform,” he says. “And they deliver to us a short list of highly likely contacts in the account, like the Salesforce administrator or the sales operations manager. Everyone on our sales team has a Leadspace license, and it is performing for us.”

It’s a good thing that the B-to-B list business is continuing to evolve in new directions. What new developments are you seeing?

A version of this post appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.