New York’s Happiest B-to-B Database Marketer

Speaking at a BMA conference in New York recently, I posed a question to the audience: “Are any of you happy with your marketing data?” To my surprise, two hands shot up.

Adam Gelles, Partner, Marketing2Marketers
Adam Gelles, Partner, Marketing2Marketers

Speaking at a BMA conference in New York recently, I posed a question to the audience: “Are any of you happy with your marketing data?” To my surprise, two hands shot up.

Now, normally I find business marketers complaining endlessly about their data. It’s out of date. It’s incomplete. Too many duplicates … But that day I was presented with a rare opportunity. So after the session, I collared one of the hand-raisers, Adam Gelles, who turned out to be a partner at Marketing2Marketers, a B-to-B agency specializing in ad-sales marketing. Adam agreed to share his data secrets in a follow-up interview. Please meet New York’s happiest database marketer.

Q: Your company supports the ad selling function. So I am guessing your target audience is media buyers. Can you tell me more about your clients’ targets? Who are these people/companies, and how do you reach them?

Yep, we help media, advertising and marketing tech companies reach business decision-makers whose responsibility is marketing and advertising. Think CMOs at major brands and their global teams. Plus the marketing, advertising, media and creative agencies that support them.

Historically, clients have used traditional means — event sponsorships, ads in advertising-trade journals, and so forth — to drive business. But in today’s complex marketplace, a more sophisticated approach is needed. This is where M2M comes in. We help clients scale and grow their businesses by customizing marketing automation platforms, social media marketing tools, and content marketing systems specifically for ad sales marketing. In some cases, we also manage these tools on behalf of clients as a managed service. Lastly, we have built a couple of our own tools where existing offerings fall short or aren’t completely compatible to the uniqueness of ad-sales marketing.

Q: I was so impressed to hear you say you were happy with the B-to-B marketing data you have on hand. Where do you get it?

We use several sources to support our clients’ data needs. Some — like Hoovers and Data.com — are typical for the B-to-B marketer, and some are unique to the advertising business, like trade journal circulation databases. Lastly, we have a special technology that direct integrates our Salesforce Instance with LinkedIn data.

All sources are curated. That is, data is aggregated, normalized and reconciled at the individual and company levels. We encourage clients to manage multiple data sources to triangulate the truth.

Uniquely, we also add our own layer of intelligence (custom attributes) for segmentation. These attributes are designed to improve how actionable this data is for both the marketer and the sales teams. Some of these attributes include company-specific firmographics unique to ad-sales marketing, and some are attached to the individual business decision-makers.

For example, we developed an “innovation” score, on both the contact and the company level. The score is based on public information — Unilever’s Foundry program, for example — to grade the top 200 advertisers’ inventiveness, on a one to five scale.

Q: How is your data housed and accessed?

Currently, we use Salesforce for much of our database management. Salesforce connects via APIs with many of the marketing tools out there, like Pardot and Hootsuite, so the individual attributes, market intelligence and segmentation can be populated across multiple marketing tools. In some cases, we have also built custom tech to support technologies that don’t currently sync with Salesforce.

Good News: B-to-B Prospecting Data Is More Accurate Than You May Think

Business marketers are always complaining about their customer data. “It’s pretty bad,” they’ll say. “It’s a mess.” But our latest study shows that prospecting data is surprisingly accurate — well over 90 percent.

PE0214_dataBusiness marketers are always complaining about their customer data. “It’s pretty bad,” they’ll say. “It’s a mess.” Over the last decade, my colleague Bernice Grossman and I have studied this issue, producing a series of five research reports on the quality of the data B-to-B marketers can rent or buy for prospecting purposes. Our latest study, published this week, shows that prospecting data is surprisingly accurate — well over 90 percent. We actually verified the accuracy by outbound phone, thanks to the call center at PointClear.

In past studies, our focus has been on both data quantity and quality, with the goal of giving marketers a sense of how likely they will be to reach all the prospects they want, with minimal waste, using the prospecting data provided by U.S. vendors today.

We were generally satisfied with the method we used to get at data quantity, where we asked vendors to provide company counts in specified sample industries and contact counts at specified sample companies.

But when it comes to data quality, we have long wished for a better method of verifying the accuracy of the company records provided by data vendors. Fortunately, an opportunity arrived with a generous offer from Dan McDade of PointClear to televerify the data samples. PointClear provides lead generation and management services, and houses a sophisticated and efficient call center run by Karla Blalock.

So we invited vendors of B-to-B prospecting data to participate, and we structured a research study to get at the accuracy of a statistically projectable sample of company records from the vendors. The five participants who agreed, and contributed a data sample, are Equifax, Harte Hanks, Infogroup, Lake B2B and Salesforce. Our sincere thanks to them all. (Harte Hanks has since sold its prospecting data business.)

The televerification process took place immediately on receipt of the names, but the analysis was more complex than we expected. Eventually, the skilled analyst David Knutson generously volunteered to work on the research data for us.

Methodology and Process
We asked the vendors to supply records as follows:

  1. All firms located in PA, GA, WI, OH and CO, with $25+ million revenue, HQ locations only.
  2. Company name, address and URL.

We planned to televerify firms that were common to all five participants. PointClear conducted a merge, and called the common companies in random order, stopping when 103 companies had been contacted successfully. The televerification took place during the period of August 28 to September 15, 2014.

The Research Results
Having asked for all headquarters sites of $25+ million revenue companies in five states, we found the company-level data to be generally accurate, above 90 percent.B-to-B Prospect Data Accuracy

Overall accuracy by vendor ranged from 92.9 percent to 97.8 percent. When looking at the accuracy by data element, company name was the most likely to be inaccurate, at 91.2 percent overall. There were some minor (less than 5 percent) accuracy problems with the street address, zip codes and URLs. The state data reports at a perfect 100 percent because the companies were selected on a state level.

Marketers can feel fairly comfortable that the prospecting data they get from vendors is likely to be reasonably accurate when it comes to company names, postal addresses and URLs.

Advice to Business Marketers Ordering Prospecting Names
B-to-B marketers should be prepared for a certain number of errors, due to the inherent limitations of merge/purge software, and software variations among vendors. Business addresses are complicated, with variations like P.O. box versus street address; headquarters versus divisions and subsidiaries; and legal name versus trade name. Marketers need to examine how their vendors maintain data at the company level, and then specifically ask for data to be pulled the way they want it.

Other suggestions for marketers to consider:

  • Take a sample of records for testing, and do your own televerification, before placing a large order.
  • Examine the incoming records for problems.
  • Use a trusted list broker who has a thorough knowledge of the particular vendor’s file.

We hope our research is useful to business marketers who are renting or buying data for finding new prospective accounts. The data may be a lot more accurate than you think.

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

New Ways of Thinking About Marketing in 2016

What are you to your customers? A vendor? A catalog? A funny commercial mascot? For many brands today, there’s a chance to be so much more. The key is in how you think of what you are to them.

What are you to your customers? A vendor? A catalog? A funny commercial mascot? There’s a school of thought that says that’s all you should be; that customers will say “I don’t want a relationship with my cough drops, I just want them to fix my cough.”

GrumpyCatParadigmFor many brands, new ways of thinking about marketing offer the chance to be much more. With today’s tools (social media, websites, apps, etc.), your brand has the chance not just to sell products and services, but to entertain your target market, help them make friends, or even reach their goals. The key is in how you think of what you are to your customers.

Here are four new ways of thinking about your marketing that could open a whole new world of customer connection. I’ll go into one in depth, and hit the others briefly. If you’re interested, let me know in the comments and we’ll explore them in more detail.

The Undiscovered Country
The biggest difference between online media and offline is space. Your marketing content is not constrained by air time, page counts or the budgets to get them. When a new prospect finds your company, your entire online presence is a vast new space to explore. Give them something to discover!

The Undiscovered Country is really about content, and it works best when your products or services have interesting nuances and details to talk about and stories to tell, because your goal is to get the audience to spend a lot of time exploring it. Content marketing does a lot of great things, but usually we focus on it as a way to improve SEO, or to generate leads. Here you’re using content as a way to earn prospect and customer mindshare and become an online destination.

By creating a deep content destination with articles, videos and other content that defines your space, you give fans a place to come and hang out. A place to spend time thinking about the hobby, job or task your products are used in. You become like Disney: The first brand that comes to mind and one that’s associated with entertainment and good times.

In the B-to-B space, you can see this done well by the marketing automation companies like HubSpot and Marketo. They educated marketers about lead generation, nurturing and the other marketing tactics their tools enabled through extensive blogs, downloads, webinars, studies and other content. Those things gave their audience new ideas, and exploring those ideas paid off by making that audience better at their jobs. And all of it promised there’d be more to discover if they bought into the products.

In the consumer space, think of what Red Bull does with its content marketing, completely owning certain areas of extreme sports and providing hours of discoverable, bingeable content on Red Bull TV. Or what Maybeline does with makeup tips. Or what Home Depot does with home improvement project ideas.

People spend an unbelievable amount of time looking at content online, they might as well be looking at that content with you.

What Are Some Other Ways of Thinking?
I’ve seen marketers using other strategies that I think qualify as “new ways of thinking.” And I’d be very interested to hear of ones you’ve spotted, too.

One I’ll call The Tribe is when companies use social media and the reach of online marketing to create branded communities (on their own websites, as well as on the relevant social networks) where their prospects and customers can meet like-minded individuals and discuss things related to that market. Like The Undiscovered Country, the goal is to become a destination for your target audience and earn mindshare. But it’s access to like minded individuals that brings them and keep them coming back. This works well when your product is in a niche with strong enthusiasts, especially if they’re geographically dispersed. The social sharing enabled by companies like Nike, which uses online tracking to allow runners to connect and compare their achievements, is a good example.

When I look at companies like Salesforce, or Apple when Steve Jobs was alive, I really see them leveraging what i would call The Movement. They’re not just selling a product, they’re selling a new way of approaching the world and getting adopters to evangelize it to other users. They hold huge events to build devoted fanbases that really believe (perhaps correctly, I don’t mean to be cynical about any brand using these tactics) that they’re using better tools in better ways than everyone else. Unlike The Tribe, The Movement uses live events and spaces (conventions, Apple Stores) to bring followers together to celebrate The Movement, its new products, and to have a good time with like-minded individuals. It’s a powerful tactic, and you can probably think of someone in your life who’s been swept up in one.

Finally, it’s not hard to look at what a company like Tom’s Shoes is doing and see The Mission. The Mission is about taking the focus off of the transnational aspect of your relationship with customers, and proving to them that by doing business with you they’re making the world a better place. Tom’s famously donates a pair of shoes to children for each one you buy. Jessica Alba’s Honest Company isn’t giving anything away, but they are spearheading a movement to have open, honest, simple ingredients in cleaning and beauty products people use. You could look at what Ben & Jerry’s has done for years as an example of exactly this kind of strategy (not all of these ways of thinking grew on the Internet). All of them put the focus on selling their mission, and sell products almost as an afterthought.

Take a look around at the companies that grab your attention and the potential they may or may not be cashing in on. What are some other ways of thinking to add to this list?

3rd Pick in the 2013 Marketing Cloud Acquisition Draft Is …

Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Gosh, it is almost getting boring around here waiting to see where the next selection will go. Salesforce grabbing up ExactTarget with the first selection was the first big surprise. Not so much the ExactTarget side, because there had been rumors for some time that ET was on the market.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Gosh, it is almost getting boring around here waiting to see where the next selection will go.

Salesforce grabbing up ExactTarget with the first selection was the first big surprise. Not so much the ExactTarget side, because there had been rumors for some time that ET was on the market. The surprise was more about Salesforce jumping into the fray. Oh, they definitely needed this acquisition or one like it. For all the great tools that Salesforce has for gathering, organizing, prioritizing and listening to your contacts and gathering data, what they have never had is a robust and efficient way to segment and actually reach those valuable contacts. ExactTarget gives them that one big missing capability through the ET campaign management platform, along with many fresh concepts and ideas in social opportunities.

The other gem in what Salesforce picked up in this acquisition, and what likely drove the total price of ExactTarget so high, is ET’s recent purchase of Pardot to strengthen their own marketing automation growth plans. Even the Salesforce CEO gushed about the inclusion of Pardot in his Twitter post around the purchase, thrilled that the transaction included: “The fastest-growing marketing automation and lead nurturing company for Salesforce users.”

But that price. Wow—$2.5 billion. Worth it? Yes, most likely, in the long term. But in the short term, it is a real drain on the cash flow for Salesforce; probably severely limiting other expansion plans or possibilities. It seems painful enough that now, just a month later, they have had to take out a $300 million loan to carry the cost. I have to believe that Salesforce is certain that the long-term cross-sell and integration possibilities for both companies will make it all worthwhile.

Then a few weeks later, an even bigger shock when Adobe slips in to scoop up Neolane. Another big matchup that fits the overall strategy needs of both organizations. While I hadn’t heard of any open shopping of Neolane, it makes sense that they would be eventually in the crosshairs of a larger enterprise. A strong set of campaign management tools, a top-line roster of satisfied clients, a steady string of industry honors and awards during the last four or five years, and continuous innovation of the product line toward achieving “visionary” ranking across three separate areas in Gartner’s “Magic Quadrant” reports and named a “leader” in Forrester’s “Wave” report. There was a whole lot of upside potential waiting there for the right suitor. Like Salesforce just a little earlier and Oracle in 2012, before the Eloqua acquisition, Adobe was the big man on campus in its primary business, but has stumbled about in efforts to build a suite of contact management and execution tools that would translate to the market segments outside of its solid base of agency clients drawn in by its creative leadership. Neolane will certainly be able do that and bring powerful new strategic offerings to the Adobe table.

So the 2013 first- and second-round picks have been completed. Where do the prognosticators think the next two or three picks will fall? Silverpop, which had also flirted with Salesforce in the past, seems primed. But who trades up to get them? SAS maybe? Or are they completely satisfied with their own marketing automation tool? They might jump in to keep up with the Joneses in finding a way to up the game on their existing marketing automation capabilities. Or maybe SAS goes for top-gun Marketo, which is always talked about in merger potential conversations, but never seems to work out the final details of a deal. How about Microsoft? Do they take their time, because they had the last move in 2012 when they picked up Marketing Pilot, or do they decide to make the bigger splash with one of the big dog free agents—either before SAS moves, or will they wait for one of the other choices? There are plenty of potentially available independents out there ready and willing to be courted. And there is never a shortage of companies looking to add a ready-to-serve subsidiary to their arsenal.

So who do you think will be the next CRM/Marketing Automation data darlings to join forces toward World Marketing Domination? Take a guess, email it to me, and I will dig up a special prize for the first one—or ones—to get it right.