How can the market for B2B data catch up to the modern world of crowdsourcing for creating data sets, social media-powered analytics, and advanced data engineering? A startup, Orb Intelligence, a company that provides business information for marketing software vendors and B2B marketing agencies, appears to have this figured out and has set its sights on disrupting the market for B2B data.
B2B marketing decisions are only as good as the data they are built on. That’s why we put such significant time, effort and budget to integrate data from all available sources including marketing automation, SalesForce, finance, and support. That data is the backbone of campaigns and enables critical analytical activities like:
- Lead and opportunity scoring
- Building a 360-degree view of a customer
- Identifying which industry segments perform best
- Managing customer success
- Predicting churn or when it’s a good time to upsell
So when you need information about a company, what do you? For a lot of people, the answer is just what the guys in Mad Men did in the sixties: you get the DUNS number and pull a file, more or less.
Maybe your lead is a hot, young, up and coming company. Maybe all you have is an email address or website. What do you do if you don’t have a DUNS number? Do a Google search? Fine, but how do you qualify that information against your internal sources and come up with a complete picture of the prospect? Can your technologists help you match that loose external data with your CRM and other tools?
The Word of Data Has Changed
We don’t have to look hard to see that there are new ways to assemble powerful new data sets and new types of analytics. Jigsaw, now part of Salesforce.com, proved that you can create a scalable business through the brute force data entry of contact information. Incentivized in various ways, volunteers and businesses enter and trade data for both money and access to data.
ZestCash, founded by ex-Googler Douglas Merrill makes underwriting decisions based on a wide variety of analytics. Through ZestFinance, this data-rich method is now available to other lenders. An NYC-based startup, The Credit Junction, is enhancing the financial underwriting process by creating a real-time data supply chain that reports on the financial health of borrowers.
One of the under-recognized aspects of Google Maps and Factual is that they are both a massive victory for data engineering. (See “Data Engineering Is The Bottleneck For The Internet Of Things” and “Life As A Google Maps Editor: Screening Thousands Of Corrections And Making Maps By Hand”.) The idea is that any type of automated collection of must be subject to quality control. In the case of Google Maps that means lots of automation supplemented by the Ground Truth team that vets and enters tens of thousands of corrections Google receives each day. Factual has created a highly automated data supply chain that creates databases of places and products. (See “How Factual is Building a Data Stack for Business”.)
Mind Your Gap
Maria Grineva, co-founder/scientist of Orb Intelligence, is seeking to close the divide we face in B2B marketing today: the gap between the DUNS-based world we know and the modern, domain-based, social media-driven world where new business happens. Such analysis is applied in the B2C-world all the time, Grineva sees a big opportunity for B2B applcations. According to research from the Corporate Executive Board, the typical B2B buyer now looks a lot like a typical Internet shopper, spending almost 60% of their purchase journey reading and researching online. Your first contact with the buyer is likely to be an email address culled from a form on your B2B website.
The process of turning that nugget of information into a full profile that leads to conversion offers insight into some of the challenges facing B2B marketing:
Challenge 1: Data integration. Incomplete, duplicate or incorrect data records about a given customer are commonplace in large B2B enterprises. What do you do when you have an account named “Adobe Systems Incorporated” in your CRM, “Adobe” in your marketing automation system and now you’ve captured an email from firstname.lastname@example.org? Do your available systems know that Neolane is a acquired by Adobe acquired, where employees still use the neolane.com domain for email?
Challenge 2: Data normalization. Datasets often categorize the same data with different names and many systems do not recognize that these various names refer to the same information. Before you can run analytical algorithms on your data, you need a single ontology that brings together Adobe’s listing as “Computer Software” in your marketing automation system with “SIC Code 7372 Prepackaged Software” in SalesForce.
Challenge 3: Data enrichment. What do you do when your existing data sources don’t know enough? When all you have is an email address, email@example.com, how do get more information about the company’s status and needs relative to your offer?
These are not insignificant challenges. Bad data can result in ineffective campaigns. “If you can’t tell that you’re hitting the same customers multiple times, contacting customers who shouldn’t receive messaging, or simply failing to target the right customers at all, you can’t get a good return on your marketing spend,” said Grineva, who is responsible for data crawling and integration system and designs algorithms to make use of the data for B2B marketing tasks. “If your problem were just chasing one prospect, you would instinctively know where to look for answers. You’re going to run that Google search and see what you dig up. But how do you do that for hundreds and thousands of opportunities? The answer is similar—mine the Web at scale.”
Using Web Information at Scale to Power B2B
Government filings provide a starting source for basic information such as name, location and industry, all of which can be verified by other web sources such as company websites. Orb Intelligence further enriches that by capturing the multiple names, brands and other basic information about a company that is sitting out there on the Web, but is not captured in typical datasets. Orb Intelligence can identify all the websites associated with a company. Then when you capture an email address at your site, you have something to go on. You can also find the overlaps and eliminate the duplicate records for further improvement. A small company might not have a DUNS number, but they may have a half million followers on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Individual pieces of information from the Web aren’t particularly useful in large marketing operations. The payoff comes in being able to acquire information in bulk and package it in a way that makes it useable in conjunction with whatever other data sources you already have. That way, a search on your internal system for information about a company can act like a supercharged Google search, finding all the links between disparate internal and external data to improve results and provide a much richer and more meaningful view of B2B prospects. In other words, Orb Intelligence is bringing the world of data supply chains for harvesting data and data engineering to make it valuable to the world of B2B data.
Follow Dan Woods on Twitter:
Dan Woods is on a mission to help people find the technology they need to succeed. Users of technology should visit CITO Research, a publication where early adopters find technology that matters. Vendors should visit Evolved Media for advice about how to find the right buyers. See list of Dan’s clients on this page.
This article was written by Dan Woods from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.