Thursday, August 28, 2014

6Sense Finds B2B Prospects Using Web Site Activities

I mentioned 6Sense briefly in a recent post about vendors who help companies find prospects on the Web. Since then, I’ve had a more detailed briefing, which clarified that their scope extends well beyond prospect lists to predictive models applied across all stages of the purchase cycle. We also clarified that users can extract company-level profiles including attributes (industry, revenue, etc.) and key activities (Web site visits, topics researched) and scores at both company and individual levels.

The extraction features are important – at least to me – because they determine whether 6Sense qualifies as a “customer data platform” (CDP), a type of system I see as fundamental for future marketing. As a quick refresher, CDP is defined as “a marketer-controlled system that supports external marketing execution based on persistent, cross-channel customer data.” The part about “supports external marketing execution” is where data extraction comes in: it means that external systems can access data within the CDP for their own use. 6Sense wouldn't be a CDP if it merely displayed its data on a CRM screen without letting the CRM system import it.  If 6Sense exposed model scores but no other data, it would qualify as a CDP by the thinnest margin possible.

Of course, there are more important things about 6Sense than whether I consider it a CDP. Starting at the beginning, the system imports a list of each client’s customers and sales opportunities from CRM and marketing automation systems. Standard integrations are available for, Oracle Eloqua and Marketo.  APIs can load data from other sources, potentially including other CRM marketing automation products, Web logs and tags, order processing, bookings, call centers, media impressions, and pretty much anything else.

The system standardizes and deduplicates this data at the individual and company levels. It then matches against company profiles that 6Sense itself has gathered from the usual Web sources – public social media, Web sites, job boards, directories, etc. – and from a network of third-party Web sites. The Web site network is unusual if not unique among B2B data providers; the most similar offerings I can think of are audience profiles from B2C site networks, from owners of large B2B sites, and based on other B2B activity such as email response. The advantage of Web site activity is it finds companies early in the buying cycle, when they are most open to considering new vendors. The system can map known individuals to individuals on partner Web sites, using hashing techniques to avoid passing personally identifiable information.  .

The result of all this is a database with deep company and individual profiles including both attributes and activities. 6Sense uses this to build company and individual-level predictive models.  Company models score each company’s likelihood to buy from the client.  Individual models predict the individual’s likelihood to be the best sales contact. Models are built by 6Sense staff using automated techniques and take about three weeks to complete.

The system can also estimate what product each company is most likely to purchase, when it will buy, and what stage it has reached in the buying process. Stages are defined in consultation with the client. Assignment rules might use purchase likelihood or a predictive model trained against a sample of companies in each buying stage.

Outputs from 6Sense can include lists of likely new prospect companies (not in the client’s existing database), contacts at those companies, current prospects organized by purchase stage and ranked by purchase likelihood, current contacts within each company, and key indicators that drive each company’s score. The key indicators can be very specific, such as searches for competitors’ names, visits to product detail pages, or activity by known leads.

Users can define segments based on these or other attributes and export their related data to CRM, marketing automation, ad targeting, or Web personalization systems via file transfers or API calls. 6Sense can also display the information on screen to help guide sales conversations and is now testing an extension to recommend specific talking points.  

Pricing for 6Sense starts at more than $100,000 and is based on factors including the number of models created and volume of new net contacts provided.  The company was founded in 2013 and released early versions of its product that same year. Formal release was in May 2014. It has ten current customers and more in the pipeline.

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