M&A in the Predictive Marketing Space: eBay Acquires SalesPredict in an Unexpected-But-Perfectly-Logical-Move

Allison Snow

It’s not infrequent that a merger or acquisition takes place in a particular coverage area and, as an analyst, I’d typically expect to be ready to discuss the event at a moment’s notice.  

Not so when it came to last Monday’s news about eBay acquiring predictive analytics startup SalesPredict.

There are a little over 20 vendors vying to provide predictive modeling solutions to B2B marketers and sales professionals. It’s a “new-ish” technology, and one might reasonably expect consolidation or merger activity. But for most folks, this particular collaboration was an eyebrow raiser and I needed to talk to some people first.  

Founded in 2012, SalesPredict builds predictive algorithms that help B2B firms identify correlative relationships between the presence of various attributes and/or buyer behaviors to positive or negative outcomes. I had met with Yaron Zakai-Or, CEO and co-founder, and Sahil Mansuri, VP of Marketing, several times in my role as analyst. I imagine Sahil’s background in marketing helped them to grow their base within 6 months to 60 customers. But it didn't hurt that at SalesPredict, it was always about powerful technology without bounds. Co-founder Kira Radinsky, a self-proclaimed “data scientist at heart,” says that that founding SalesPredict was part of her vision “to bring about a major change in how business is conducted by unifying micro- and macro-economic predictions.”

This didn’t go unnoticed by eBay, with its own goal of increased sophistication in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science to support its structured data plan. In fact, that is exactly how eBay described the acquisition - frankly reminding me of how broad the use cases of predictive technology really are.

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Marketing Automation Can Be Made In Europe

Peter O'Neill

Many new marketing automation solutions are now available to help B2C marketers manage customer engagement, B2B marketers manage leads, and marketers of all ilk manage other marketing processes, such as campaigns and digital asset management.

European marketers are traditionally more hesitant about investing in technology projects, leading to a perception that they are late adopters. But in 2014, we observed a new European propensity to invest, and this trend continues with an increasing sense of urgency. In Forrester's Global Business Technographics® Marketing Survey, 2015, 50% of 248 European markers even named "don't have the right technology" as their most important organizational concern related to achieving their marketing priorities — and European firms now have stronger investment plans than their North American peers in almost every marketing category.  

As well as having to deal with a more complex regulatory environment, marketing and sales disciplines are also markedly different in Europe. The survey showed that European businesses tend to:

  • Have federated marketing organizations.The fragmentation of the target markets that European firms sell to means they need to use many more channels, languages, and messages to be effective.
  • Rely more on channel partners.Nearly one-third of the European marketers we surveyed stated that their channel partners were their primary sales channel, compared with 11% in North America. The result? Marketing and sales enablement projects are quite different, with a stronger need for through-channel marketing in Europe.
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Confronting The Stigma Surrounding Sales

Peter O'Neill

Never having been an analyst that thinks he knows it all, I periodically attend external conferences as a mere delegate (no speech) to learn something new and network. I was at last week’s conference of the Association of Professional Sales (APS) in London with over 400 other marketers, sales enablement professionals, sales training companies and even sales executives to discuss

“The New Era Of Differentiation”.  

What you sell is not enough but how you sell it is everything: What you say, what you do, what you offer and who you hire into sales.

The APS was formed two years ago by enterprise sales executives at EMC, EY, SAP, Wipro, WorldPay, and Royal Mail, and now has well over 1000 members. Its objective is to raise awareness of sales as a profession (one speaker opined that hairdressers and butchers are more appreciated than salespeople) – by providing accreditations, training, certifications and codes of conduct.  The word “profession” is usually attributed to occupations like lawyers or doctors in the English language so these aspirations are high.

One of the sponsoring partners for this initiative is Corporate Visions Inc. – kudos to Tim Riesterer, their Chief Strategy Officer in recognizing the potential of the Association. Tim was a keynote speaker and, as usual, he presented eloquently about effective sales conversations.  Neil Rackham, most famous for the now 30-year old book “Spin Selling” is also involved in the APS and he spoke too; as did leaders from Royal Mail, IBM, EY, CPM, Wipro, SAP, EMC, Clarify, F5 Networks, and Ciena. The other sponsor of the event was LinkedIn Sales Navigator.

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Hedgehogs, Foxes, And Third-Party Data: What Sellers Need From Marketers

Steven Wright

In Isaiah Berlin's most popular essay, “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” the famous Latvian-British social and political theorist quoted a fragment of ancient Greek: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Since its publication in 1953, this concept has become an intellectual parlor game (something Berlin said himself) that those with a binary view of the universe have used to divide writers, politicians (Kennedy: fox; Nixon: hedgehog), and executives into two neat categories.

What’s forgotten is that Berlin used this ancient aphorism as a way to evaluate Leo Tolstoy. His conclusion? Tolstoy was actually a fox, despite many declarations that would indicate Tolstoy wanted to be a hedgehog. In short, Tolstoy was both — a fox by inclination, but a hedgehog by choice.

B2B marketers want sellers to know lots of things, and they use third-party data providers as part of that desire. At a recent Forrester event, I asked a marketer from a large financial services firm how may data providers they used; she casually replied: “77.” Seventy-seven separate data providers! If only a fraction of this data is provided to sellers, they must feel overwhelmed.

The consultative seller needs both the characteristics of the fox – knowing many things about the buyers, their companies, competition, and industry – and the hedgehog – knowing the one big thing (or maybe a few) that will lead to a sale.

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Marketo Goes Private: A New Epoch in Marketing Software May Have Just Begun

Peter O'Neill

Lead-to-revenue management automation player Marketo has certainly been in the news recently. First, in May, it held its annual Marketing Nation Summit in Las Vegas and announced plans to provide a marketing automation system, powered by a new architecture, which will enable marketers to engineer a great customer experience across the entire customer life cycle. 

Clearly, this was a financially ambitious plan, reviving age-old speculation about a potential acquisition of the vendor. Candidate Marketo suitors included SAP, which has a glaring marketing automation hole in its portfolio as enterprises increasingly compete on customer experience, not operational excellence; Microsoft, which has a large base of CRM customers ready for the "prequel" of marketing automation; and even Google, which could boost its reach with midmarket business customers and enhance its overall cloud software and infrastructure business.

But Principal Analyst Lori Wizdo provided another point of view, saying: “Executing on that ambitious vision would take some investment. A private equity investment could provide the equity and the sight screen to enable that steep investment.”

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Open The Door To Sales Enablement Success

Steven Wright

Open The Door To Sales Enablement Success

After seven months as a Forrester research analyst, with scores of vendor briefings and customer inquiries under my belt, I've seen certain patterns to unlocking sales enablement success emerge. Five Keys To Sales Enablement Automation Success brings together lessons learned from vendors and practitioners to show where B2B marketers should focus their attention. Some considerations to keep in mind – especially when it comes to content: 

  • Design content for conversation. B2B marketers naturally focus on outwardly focused content (PDFs, white papers, videos, third-party, etc.) and use sales enablement automation to make that content visible and easy for sellers to use to engage with buyers. But sellers need more – they need information on how to use content to best engage not with emails and links but in conversation. That’s where the real connection is made.
  • Keep it concise and consistent. Shorter is better. Fewer is better. Whether that’s the amount of content or the places to discover it, less is more. Using analytics, marketers can see what content is used, how often, and by whom. That unlocks insight into how to improve quality, not quantity.
  • Build in collaboration to improve customizing. Sellers will always need to personalize and customize content, whether it's an email, a presentation, or – most frequently – any sort of proposal. Analysis can show what is most frequently changed, and marketers can use that to better understand how to improve content.
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Your B2B Prospects Don't Want You To Call Them

Steven Casey

So this makes it official: the rite of passage for every new analyst. My first research report, How Self-Service Research Changes B2B Marketing, has just been published.

I covered the premise of this report in my first blog post — but I’ll summarize it here again: multiple Forrester surveys have shown that B2B buyers strongly prefer to conduct their own research, without ever speaking with a sales rep. Forward-thinking B2B marketers will embrace this change and enable the customer-directed research journey with self-service technologies such as contextual help solutions and virtual agents.

Many B2B marketers may feel that this is a risky move — giving up control and resisting the urge to email or call every prospect who lands on your site and guide them along a carefully crafted content path — but after more than a dozen conversations with vendors and their customers to create my report, I’m more convinced than ever that this is the right thing to do. This is true for lots of reasons, which I cover in the report, but the most important one is that we’re all digital consumers now. So the self-service habits we have all learned over the last decade or so are now preferred behaviors — even for B2B buyers, who now just want to be left alone to find the content they need.

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Do Millennials Lack Grit?

Mary Shea

In a recent blog post, "Why Millennials Struggle For Success", well known psychologist, author and MacArthur Fellow Angela Duckworth, explores the question many experienced business leaders and managers ask as well: What’s wrong with Millennials? Why do they keep changing jobs? Why do they complain when work needs to be taken home over the weekend? And so on. She asks if it’s because they don’t have enough grit. Duckworth believes the secret to outstanding success is not talent but rather a special blend of passion and persistence called grit. Duckworth developed a Grit Scale and now has scores from thousands of Americans where her data reveal that grit and age go hand and hand.

So what do we do with those Millennials? Today, Millennials make up one third of the workforce and in four years time they will be half. With the average age of the US B2B sales rep at 40 years old, millennial sellers are, or soon will be, the future revenue generators and business leaders for their firms. Smart sales and marketing leaders realize that status quo communication, management approaches and tools will fail to inspire, and are adapting their enablement strategies and tech stacks to resonate with this important group of employees.

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What Do B2B Marketers Really Do? Forrester Wants To Know

Laura Ramos

Have you ever wondered about the tactical challenges B2B marketers (like you) face across role responsibilities like building brand/awareness, generating qualified demand, nurturing leads into qualified sales opportunities, enabling sales/channel partners to better close business, and expanding current customer relationships? 

Or how your practices around technology adoption, process change, modern marketing skill development, and sales alignment compare to peers?

If you tell us -- we will tell you more in return.

Many of you read our blog and research, or talk to us during inquiries, about best practices.  We have deep experience helping many clients strategize and execute on many aspects of modern marketing, but sometimes it's great to have some fresh input all at once.  Therefore, the B2B marketing research team has fielded a survey to take an indepth look at the state of B2B marketing tactics and sales enablement activity.   We hope you will take about 10 to 15 minutes to share your experiences by clicking here.

All responses will be kept confidential and results reported in the aggregate (so no one can figure out who's leading and who's lagging!)

We planned to close the survey last Friday, but would LOVE to hear from a few more of you to help us get a nice healthy sample.  And if you want Matt Camuso (our RA working on the survey) to stop badgering your with all those emails, now's the time to take the survey!

Time runs out officially this Friday, May 6 at 5 pm ET. Take this Survey!  Or the dog gets it.... (c'mon, you remember National Lampoon?)

Simplifying the Seller's Journey -- Real World Sales Enablement Experts Weigh In

Steven Wright

In this, the age of the customer, the value of simplifying the customer’s journey seems abundantly clear. But what is sometimes left in its shadow – especially as B2B marketers work to better align sales and marketing efforts – is how to simplify the seller’s journey.

For the new report, “Simplifying the Seller’s Journey,” I spoke with sales enablement practitioners at various companies, with from ten  to thousands of sellers, to investigate  how they are simplifying the seller journey – including using various sales enablement automation solutions.

Their experiences point to some key points to consider when planning on how to implement seller-focused projects for content management, training, engagement tracking and more:

  • Know your sellers: The more you understand a day in their life and where you can remove obstacles the better.
  • Understand how sellers – not just prospects – engage with content: This will help not only  marketers  to better target content, but sales  managers will be able to  better coaching their teams.
  • Improved efficiency opens the door to effectiveness: B2B marketers can then  measure how effective content and related sales actions can produce faster and larger sales.

That’s just the beginning – implementing solutions that are flexible and transparent so that they easily integrate with e-mail and your CRM helps ensure rapid adoption as well as rapid response to changes in your environment.

Continuously curious –

Steven