Friday, August 30, 2013

LeadSpace Offers A No-Memory Approach to B2B Lead Scoring

My discussion last week of Infer, Mintigo, and Lattice Engines raised the question of what other B2B data vendors might be considered Customer Data Platforms. It’s easy to exclude companies that provide basic B2B lists (D&B, Data.com, Netprospex, ZoomInfo, etc.) since they’re clearly in a different business. But there’s another set of vendors that look very much like Mintigo, Infer, and Lattice Engines building detailed profiles by extracting data from Web sites, social networks, and other sources. This group includes InsideView, OneSource, SalesLoft and LeadSpace. So far as I know, none of them maintains a permanent copy of a client’s own customer file, which is the essence of being a Customer Data Platform. But if you’re a marketer needing to identify and score B2B prospects, you’d still want to give them a look.

I bring this up because a colleague suggested reconsider classifying LeadSpace as a CDP, which prompted me to learn more about them. Here’s what I found.

- LeadSpace, like the other vendors, scans Web sites, blogs, Twitter feeds, LinkedIn profiles, job hunting sites, and other sources to build a picture of a company’s business, managers, technologies, and similar attributes. Of course, every vendor argues it does this better than anyone else.  I  suspect there are indeed significant differences.  But I haven’t done any testing or seen anyone else’s test results – so all I can say is that wise buyers will test for themselves before making a choice.

- LeadSpace does build lead scores, something its Web site doesn’t reflect. This is one of the major points of differentiation among vendors in this space, so it’s worth understanding exactly what kind of scores each company provides. In LeadSpace’s case, the company builds “ideal buyer profiles” that measure how similar a lead is to a sample of existing customers provided by a client. Most clients have multiple profiles for different products or customer segments. Other companies in this group build different types of scores: say, for response to a specific campaign, or becoming a sales accepted lead, or having a high lifetime value. Some also estimate the incremental financial value of taking an action. It’s easy for buyers to gloss over these differences, but that would be a big mistake: they largely what kinds f applications a system can support. So be sure to explore them in detail (or read our explanations once we release the CDP Report itself.)

- LeadSpace doesn’t maintain its own permanent master database of all companies on the Internet. Rather, it conducts a fresh scan as each client requests research into its target audience.  This is another big difference from its competitors, who do run continuous scans and keep the results. LeadSpace argues that its approach avoids outdated information, saves the cost of storing and updating a persistent database, and lets the system collect precisely the right attributes for each situation – which can’t be known in advance. The company also points out that even a new scan will capture some history: the public Twitter feed goes back one year, as do job site listings. I have doubts about these arguments – I think older data can show important trends, am sure there’s plenty of outdated information on current Web pages, and suspect there’s the important attributes are pretty similar from one project to another.  Perhaps LeadSpace is really making the subtler argument that the incremental value of older information doesn’t justify the incremental cost of scanning and storing it, which is perfectly possible.  The company does store some old information, such as common job titles, to help analyze and classify inputs.

- LeadSpace doesn’t load a copy of its clients’ customer names, either. That’s essential for a CDP, which by definition has the potential of evolving into a primary marketing database. But it's not essential for LeadSpace's primary business of lead scoring, where even can be built on just a sample of a few hundred records. The arguments for and against the permanent master database also apply here, so I won’t repeat them. In addition, LeadSpace says its clients care more finding prospects with the right attributes, such as industry, company size, and technology fit, than trends in their behaviors or new job titles. Again, I’m not sure I agree, but should point out that LeadSpace mentioned combining their own scores with behavior data captured in marketing automation: so LeadSpace itself is at least implicitly acknowledging that behaviors are important.. LeadSpace's approach also means it can’t monitor a set of names and issue alerts when they do something interesting.  This is definitely something salespeople like to do. LeadSpace is closing that particular gap by developing a service, soon to enter beta testing, that will do a monthly scan of a client’s customer records.  It will feed the results back to the client's CRM or marketing automation, which themselves will highlight any changes.

- LeadSpace provides both prospect lists (i.e., new names) as well as data enhancement (i.e., information on names provided by the client). Most of its competitors also do both, but some do only enhancement. Again like its competitors, LeadSpace provides an interface for sales people to view the details associated with an existing customer. This is where its on demand approach comes in handy, since the interface can present information in categories tailored to each client’s needs. The system also lets sales people rate each lead with a thumbs up or thumbs down, providing feedback to fine tune the scoring model. I haven’t seen that particular feature in competitive systems but it’s not something I’ve specifically researched.

LeadSpace was founded in 2007 as a prospecting tool that let salespeople enter a company name and receive a list of individuals and their associated information and social conversations. The evolutionary path from there to the current system , launched in 2012, is fairly obvious. The company currently has more than 50 clients, mostly large B2B technology vendors. Pricing is based on the number of records either enhanced or provided in prospect lists, and starts around $25,000 per year.

4 comments:

Ian Goldsmid said...

David

In the UK I've had a couple of contacts refer to EU data privacy laws as possible friction to the market entry of these types of products. Do you have any insight on that?

Ian

David Raab said...

Not really. My not-very-educated guess is it applies more to consumer data than B2B. The vendors are careful to collect only publicly available data but I don't know whether that exempts them from privacy regulation. These vendors do little business in Europe but my impression was that had more to do with languge and market size constraints than privacy.

Chris Jones said...

David - thanks for your post, this is extremely interesting. Seems like the contact info market is going through some major changes.

Are you aware of any independent quantitative comparison of the tools you're mentioning?

I'd love to give LeadSpace a test drive, but wonder how it compares to other options. Testing all these tools would be a fairly big project for us.

- Chris M.

David Raab said...

Hi Chris,
No, I haven't seen any quantitative comparisons. We've gathered some data but not done the only comparisons that really matter, which are accuracy and coverage of appended data, number and quality of prospect names, and performance of their scoring models. I don't know whether people who already run some tests would be willing or even permitted to share their results. Perhaps the vendors will find a way to permit simple, low-cost testing for prospective buyers. Some products seem more automated than others in terms of new client set up, so I'd imagine some would find that easier to do.