Competitive Intelligence:  What you must know to be successful (Part 2 of 2)

Below are four steps you should take when selecting a competitive intelligence provider to ensure that you source the best possible information for your sales and marketing program. Taking the time to complete these steps at the outset could save you from a disaster later on.  In today’s world the margin of error is thin, and getting it right the first time can give your organization a competitive advantage. To assist in the evaluation process, please download the following template.

1.      Understand the provider’s research process

Cut through the sales spin to understand how the information is being collected, validated and, most importantly, refreshed.  If the provider’s information is self-reported, try to establish the means by which this is accomplished.  Is it being collected via web forms or through outbound call efforts?   If outbound calling, is the call center located within the United States or is it offshore?  A call center in the Philippines operates differently than one in India.  Keep in mind that it’s unlikely you will receive 100% truthful answers to all of your questions, but organize the provided information and ask follow-up questions to help validate.

2.      Establish a short list of providers

After determining the research process for each potential provider, weed out the weak ones.  This will allow you to evaluate the remaining vendors.  You will want to learn if the software install is a standalone solution or if it’s part of broader business intelligence offering.  Review supporting collateral, videos and client references.  Don’t be afraid to ask the company to provide 10-15 customers who can talk to you directly about the install information that they acquired.  Perhaps call two or three to determine their experience and see if they will share valuable best practices.  Lastly, tap social networks, such as LinkedIn, to glean additional insight on the company.  Organizations with good standing include SiriusDecisions, MOCCA, IDC CMO Advisory, Forrester, Eloqua and the DemandGenReport.

3.      Evaluate providers based on alignment to your install requirements

Determine each provider’s expertise.  Do they focus on select installs, specific industries, or company sizes?  A lot of entrants in this space focus on the more popular installs or ones that tend to be easily identifiable.  Determine if the provider is the one performing the primary research or if they are simply “buying” the information from others.  Similar to the list business, there is a lot of reselling going on behind the scenes which further compounds the ability to quantify accuracy.

 4.      Consider the full loaded cost and not just the cost of the install

Take a step back and determine the full cost of acquiring the competitive intelligence.  First, you need to work with the provider to reformat the data so it can be imported within your CRM or marketing automation platform.  In many cases, this involves standardizing the install names.  This is a logistical task with real expense incurred when the data is applied against a marketing or sales initiative. How much internal and external expense will be incurred when the install intelligence is aligned to a displacement or complimentary program?  More importantly, how much time and resources will sales invest working this intelligence?   If you are a marketer, the last thing you want to do is tarnish the relationship you are building with sales by delivering them bad data.

Summary

Software install intelligence is a double-edged sword and incorrect install information is often worse than no information at all.  If campaign messaging and call scripts are crafted to align to the install intelligence and it is determined to be incorrect, the resulting campaigns will likely underperform.  This problem is further compounded when the provider includes contact names that are either outdated or simply not optimal based on the objectives of your campaign.

When driving demand creation, remember to be discerning. Invest the time to learn the ins and outs of competitive intelligence and ensure that you arm your sales and marketing group with the optimal data.  If you are interested in learning more about this topic or how you can leverage business intelligence attributes to secure a competitive advantage, feel free to contact me directly at bhession@oceanosinc.com

 

Competitive Intelligence:  What you must know to be successful (Part 1 of 2)

As sales and marketing technologists increase their focus on named-account demand creation, they seek new ways to differentiate their message.  One approach is to understand the prospect’s technology infrastructure in preparation of a displacement or complimentary program.  This install intelligence, when combined with other business intelligence attributes, assists sales and marketers in the prioritization of accounts and the development of more relevant and enticing content.

Profiling an organization’s technology infrastructure is not new, but recently it has gained mainstream popularity, particularly with marketers.  The number of providers offering software installs has increased, resulting in varying degrees of quality.  A similar scenario presented itself eight years ago when Jigsaw brought disruptive change to the data space.  They were the first to provide sales and marketers with full contact records, including phones and email addresses, for perpetual use.  Up to that point marketers relied heavily on third-party email rental, which had come to exhibit fatigue and lower responsiveness.  Additionally, many organizations were looking to scale their CRM and/or marketing-automation investments, for which the Jigsaw model was ideal.  As a result, other data providers came onto the scene with similar crowd-sourced models.  It was a gold rush and the provider able to boast the largest counts was the winner, regardless if 20% or more of the emails hard-bounced.  In retrospect, this easy consumption led to overindulgence and contributed to data issues that organizations are wrestling with today.

This same phenomenon appears to be repeating itself, this time with software installs.  Unfortunately, evaluating quality of software installs isn’t as simple as deploying an email campaign and returning the contacts that hard bounced.  As sales and marketers, we need to be more discerning in what we buy and look beyond who has the largest counts.  When evaluating vendors it is critical to understand how the information was identified.

For example, outbound calling is promising in theory but often inadequate in practice. Consider the following viewpoints:

In most cases outbound calling is performed offshore.  The information is collected by a call agent, who is making hundreds of dials per shift, has received an ambiguous amount/quality of training and is often contending with a language barrier.

  • The person reached may not be qualified to provide accurate information.  Additionally, the nature of the call may motivate the individual to provide inaccurate information.  If you still have doubts, speak with your technology group and ask them how many sales calls they receive on a weekly basis, how they handle these calls and if they feel comfortable providing information about the technology infrastructure to random call agents.
  • Sharing an organization’s install intelligence rarely provides any benefit to the organization and can lead to issues with future vendor negotiations.  In many mid-size and enterprise companies the release of this information to a third party conflicts with internal compliance standards.

This is not to say that call centers have no role in the competitive intelligence discovery process, but one needs to be cognizant of the channel’s weaknesses.  It is likely that your sales people are equipped with the skills and access to information necessary to engage a productive conversation.  But keep in mind that the whole process relies on self-reported information.  The sales group is counting on the prospect to share accurate information, which of course does not always happen.

Consider a scenario that recently occurred here at Oceanos.  We had delivered approximately 1,400 sites that use SAP Business Objects software.  The marketing group then released the data to inside sales for a call down.  During this process, inside sales identified 64 sites which they confirmed did not have Business Objects.  Although this was a small percentage (approx. 5%), the BI analyst who performed the initial research was asked to review these 64 accounts.  The analyst itemized specific information reasonably confirming that at least 47 out of the 64 sites (74%) did in fact use SAP Business Objects.  The remaining 17 were confirmed by an approved partner, but we were unable to provide “proof”.  Below is snapshot of the analysis which provides insight into the research-intensive nature of this work.

                       

The outcome of the research highlights the challenge that a sales team faces when targeting contacts based on install intelligence. Certainly call center results would improve with double or triple verification, but costs spiral.  Oceanos’ competitive intelligence discovery is diversified, incorporating proprietary search technology, a network of third party contributors and internal research processes performed by a BI analyst.  This balanced approach increases reach, but more importantly, serves as a platform to cross-validate information.

When driving demand creation, remember to be discerning. Invest the time to learn the ins and outs of competitive intelligence and ensure that you arm your sales and marketing group with the optimal data.  If you are interested in learning more about this topic or how you can leverage business intelligence attributes to secure a competitive advantage, feel free to contact me directly at bhession@oceanosinc.com

 

Oceanos is excited to share a new solution called the List Optimizer™ Contact Valuator.   This solution will allow you to improve your contact prioritization, content alignment and overall sales and marketing efficiencies.

To explain how Contact Valuator works in simple terms, it helps you score contact records based on their alignment to an audience definition.   This is accomplished by first enhancing the contacts with social media, firmagraphics and other intelligence attributes.   Rather than evaluating a contact based solely on their job title and company, the appended intelligence provides insight into the person’s roles and responsibilities.  To establish a valuation the model compares each contact’s “ProspectDNA™”.

To illustrate, let’s say a client is targeting technology security professionals within large organizations.  Between client provided data and those contacts procured by Oceanos, the prospect pool contains 35,000 contacts.

One of these prospects is Mr. John Sample, who based on his contact record is an IT Director at UPS.  As we know, a large organization like UPS will have several IT Directors, many of which will have no influence on technology security. Within an IT security campaign, most marketers would suppress John Sample, simply based on his broad job title.  However, using Contact Valuator, John’s “ProspectDNA™” reveals a very different story.

Let’s look at just his LinkedIn profile.   We see the job title on his profile references IT security.  Also, the Summary and Specialties section reveals a wealth of insight…that he is responsible for Global IT Security, holds multiple ISACA security certifications, and specializes in Information Security, Risk Management, Business Continuity, IT Architecture and Regulatory Compliance.

We can also learn more about UPS including their firmagraphics, financials and technology infrastructure.   Other intelligence attributes that might play a role in the valuation process include trigger events.  It’s clear that John Sample would not only be included in the campaign, but would map to a top decile.

 

Just think how differently you would nurture and message this prospect based on a better understanding of his “ProspectDNA™”.  You might route John Sample directly to an experienced inside sale rep, or perhaps he’s the ideal candidate for a direct mail communication with a personal follow-up phone call.   When you know the lead is top grade, it removes risk and opens creativity.

To find out more how the Oceanos Contact Valuator solution can improve your sales and marketing programs, please view our video:  http://ow.ly/hqUN5 or download our solution sheet:  http://ow.ly/hqVgY

Or feel free to contact Brian Hession, President & Founder of Oceanos at bhession@oceanosinc.com

 

 

My biggest take away from 2012 is that data acquisition will change more in the next year than in the previous five.  Previously, the name of the game was to procure as many contacts as possible that aligned to a prospect definition and embark them on a nurture program.  Competitive advantage was created by identifying  more names than your competition.  I recall the SiriusDecisions quote, “The battle between competitors is being won and lost at the top of the funnel.”  This approach still has merit, but it’s the execution that has and will continue to change.  Let me explain.

Many marketers pin their data acquisition needs on a few well-known providers.  This is understandable since they provide access to millions of contact records and the logistics of managing more vendors taxes your internal resources. These same providers are Oceanos vendors and we strongly advocate their value in a demand creation strategy.

However, our analysis reveals that their combined reach is typically 30% of a client’s target audience.  In addition, their strong brand awareness ensures that their contacts reside in both you and your competitor’s database.  It’s clear that the company most effectively nurturing the other 70% will win the so-called battle.

As a savvy marketer, what do you do?  The optimal approach is similar to an investment portfolio: source contacts from a large network to produce a custom data asset that is stronger than the sum of its parts.  It’s the execution that presents all the challenges including data asset identification, internal logistics, cost negotiation and timing.

Because you can go only so far with third party feeds, there is a point where custom research is necessary to identify incremental contacts.  Custom discovery requires web and social media mining along with other research driven techniques.  But it’s these contacts, which cannot be acquired via third party, that provide the competitive advantage.  For this reason, finding a partner that has the know-how and technology to accomplish this in scale is invaluable.

Out with the old and in with the new and undiscovered.  Make 2013 the year of achieving your competitive advantage; where better to start than at the top of your funnel.

View our video for more information on Oceanos:  http://ow.ly/gHxVi

Brian Hession is President & Founder of Oceanos and can be reached at bhession@oceanosinc.com

 

Designing a federal government demand creation strategy presents data concerns.  The biggest challenge facing marketers is identifying and isolating target contacts.  Many large databases are weak in their ability to delineate federal from state and local contacts, and although the government trade publications have good coverage of the market, they offer broad job function segmentation.  Most marketers tend to accept this limitation, resulting in non-targeted campaigns or in some cases, reaching institutions outside of federal government.

You don’t have to accept weak data.  Oceanos can help you overcome your data challenges and give you a competitive edge.

The first step in designing a data strategy is the development of a robust prospect definition; you must first highlight the characteristics associated with the target agencies and then define the types of contacts to reach.  Oceanos’ objective is to build a named account list with the institution’s demographics, domain and any valuable business intelligence.   Contact identification is imperative because the market for technology products in federal government is diverse.  Although contacts can be categorized based on your unique marketing approach, the default groups are:

  • Decision Makers
  • Influencers
  • End Users

To facilitate job title identification we recommend job title mapping, an analysis that is critical in the identification of the optimal job titles and key words for segment mapping.   The next step is the creation of the balanced data portfolio, which is necessary to ensure repeatable demand creation.  An Oceanos federal government data strategy includes twenty to forty different sources.  When architecting a data strategy, we seek to leverage the strengths of each data source to produce a custom solution that provides a competitive marketing advantage.

There are  five data types within a scalable data strategy:

  • Perpetual crowd-sourced data feeds provide you access to the full contact record.  Oceanos’ List Optimizer is synched to these sources, including crowd sourced providers and select publishers.
  • Perpetual research-based data provides various levels of intelligence to assist sales executives that are actively selling into government institutions.
  • Rental lists include both vertical and horizontal source and are derived from trade publications, associations, show attendees and communities.
  • Leased data allows you to receive the data directly to support predefined nurturing strategies via your internal marketing automation platform.
  • Federal government business intelligence is primarily sourced from RFP’s and outbound calling programs.  This intelligence can be procured and released directly to assist in segmentation, prioritization and messaging.

Oceanos can serve as the Data Acquisition Hub for all public sector units.  We can assist in establishing standards for all third party data acquisition.  Centralization of the data acquisition will provide your company immediate cost efficiencies and will minimize the procurement of poor quality or duplicate data across business units.

View our List Intelligence Brief:  Architecting a Federal Government Data Strategy at http://youtu.be/5pt7zpwtNAw.  For more information on how Oceanos can help you overcome data challenges associated with federal government, please contact Brian Hession, President & Founder of Oceanos at bhession@oceanosinc.com

 

 

 

On November 8th, Oceanos will celebrate it’s 10th Anniversary – a milestone for our company!   We’ve come a long way from our original start in Marshfield 2002.  From those humble beginnings, Oceanos has thrived and grown into an industry leader in database marketing.  We’ve evolved as a research and advisory firm that designs data strategies to support all types of demand creation strategies.  Our solutions are powered by proprietary List Optimizer™ technology and smart, focused people.   We view ourselves as data consultants, akin to an investment firm, but rather than stocks we analyze data.  This includes both traditional list sources along with all types of business intelligence.

Sales and marketing organizations look to us to architect a data portfolio that aligns to their prospect definition, is scalable and will drive returns.  The expertise we provide is not just selecting data source A over B, but rather the ability to combine pieces of data, from a multitude of sources resulting in a solution that is stronger than the sum of its parts.  It’s maximizing data utility to support both contact prioritization and the ability to segment and align messaging to tightly defined audiences.  This is List Intelligence™  and our blue chip client roster is the proof that we deliver results.

Over the years, we are proud to report that Oceanos has received numerous business and industry accolades including articles in the “Boston Business Journal” as well as being named to “Inc. Magazine’s” Fastest Growing Private Company list for three consecutive years.  Our impressive client roster includes blue chip clients such as Iron Mountain, Autodesk, Bloomberg, Citrix, CA Technologies and Lenovo.   Thank you to all our clients for helping make Oceanos a success.

As Oceanos approaches its 10th anniversary, we are more confident now than ever that our intellectual capital and technology has created a very special company.  To learn more about Oceanos can provide you with a unique data strategy, view our new video: http://youtu.be/zcOiTM30_W4

If you are interested in learning how Oceanos can optimize your demand creation activities, feel free to contact Brian Hession, President and Founder at bhession@oceanosinc.com

 

 

We have all read plenty of articles about “good data”,  how important it is and “good data” is like gasoline in your car…. so on and so forth.   But how many businesses can definitively stand behind the data they sell you?  At Oceanos, we believe we have cured bad data.  The past few years of research and investment into our List Optimizer™ software seem to be really paying off.

So, how do we make “good data”?

Oceanos, does not own any data. We have partnered with dozens of data providers and based on your requirements, we pick the best vendor and buy the data for you.  But this data is just the raw material, like crude oil.  We run this raw data through a detailed process of refinement identifying bad email addresses and correcting phone numbers.  In addition, we run a whole phone verification process on your file and also standardize the postal addresses.   At the end of this process we produce a certificate called the Oceanos “Data Audit Certificate”.   The certificate tells you what we started off with and what we have done to get it right.  It proves what we have done to get to “good data”.  You will be surprised how the data gets modified as we refine it and will learn many times that we have corrected 50 – 60% of the file.  These steps result in a clean list that enables you to target your message to the right audience.

View the Oceanos Data Audit Certificate:  http://www.oceanosinc.com/objects/pdfs/DataAuditCertificate.pdf

Give us a chance to do business with you and try out the Data Audit Certificate yourself.  Good data is not a theory anymore, good data is a daily practice at Oceanos.

If you are interested in learning how Oceanos can  guarantee “good data”, feel free to contact Raghu Prabhu, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at rprabhu@oceanosinc.com

 

 

Excerpt taken from IDC CMO Advisory Survey

Customer Data Acquisition: The Keys to Effective List Management

Customer Data Management is the foundation of digital marketing and is emerging as a discipline of its own.   The importance of having accurate, timely and well managed data is crucial in today’s marketing efforts.  Every aspect of the customer data management process should be designed to deliver the highest data quality possible.  It is recommended that list acquisition teams at the very least include advisors from sales and channel management to facilitate standard compliance. The day to day mechanics of sourcing, vendor management, negotiating, data cleansing, etc. can be left to small marketing group. But this must be done in the context of a larger policy that is designed to create a seamless customer creation process.

It is no surprise to see that formal request for proposal (RFPs) are generally not required for list purchases, as the dollar amounts are usually under the corporate threshold. However, the lack of a standardized review process can make buyers vulnerable to poor list acquisition decisions. As a result, it is recommended that companies establish a Customer Data Advisory Board.

The panel should work with the Customer Data Czar to establish standards for customer data acquisition which should include: standardizing data structures across applications, establishing guidelines for list requisitioning, providing written policies for list usage, and identifying preferred sources by data type (contact, market, company, social, etc.)

Oceanos can work with your business to support all types of demand creation and database building programs.  We also provide risk mitigation, diversification and cost certainty strategies to ensure data investment optimization for your business.

For full report visit: http://oceanosinc.com/idcreport

 

 

Oceanos was proud to introduce keynote speaker Michelle Vaughan, Worldwide Director of Demand Generation for Citrix Systems, at the SiriusDecisions Summit in May.  Michelle’s presentation outlined the Oceanos Competitive Intelligence Data Strategy that Citrix implemented to secure market share from a direct competitor. 

The first step in a displacement program is to identify the competitor’s customer base.  Citrix turned to Oceanos to architect the competitive map resulting in the identification of approximately 8,000 named accounts.  Below is a brief summary of the software install intelligence collection process. 

  • Data is gathered from hundreds of sources on the web including news releases, lease filings, trade publications and a wide moat of research providers.
  • Data is reviewed, standardized, processed and assigned a confidence indicator based on the algorithm that weights each piece of intelligence.
  • The process is systematically repeated to identify and validate new and existing intelligence.

After identifying the software intelligence, it is mapped to the company domain level.  The domains are then loaded into List Optimizer™, beginning the process of building targeted, multi-channel contact data sets.  After the competitive sites and targeted contacts are mapped, marketing and sales are provided a platform for rolling out a robust displacement program.  To extend reach into the target audience, our research analysts will architect a data strategy that includes rental list sources. 

Combining research with proprietary technology, the Oceanos solution enables a marketing department to produce downstream revenue with increased pipeline velocity.  Industry leading organizations, such as IBM, SAP, Lenovo and Citrix, are utilizing our software install intelligence with great success. 

To learn more on this topic, download the Oceanos – Citrix case study:

http://www.oceanosinc.com/Citrix-Oceanos-Case-Study_SiriusDecisions_Summit.pptx

 

 

 

Having the right data is an invaluable asset.  To maximize the return on your investment, you need a Data Asset Manager.

Would you just invest your entire retirement in one stock?  Well maybe if it’s Apple; but in practice it exposes you to extreme risk.  When you are investing your valuable resources in the acquisition of data assets meant to support your sales and marketing program, how are you differentiating each data source?  Can any source be the total solution or do you need to follow the traditional investing wisdom “DIVERSIFY”?

Statistical analysis of all campaigns contained in the Oceanos Knowledge Bank, an aggregate of all campaign results show there is no single database that will provide you with adequate diversification to mitigate your risk while providing you with exposure to the assets you need to speak to your audience.

SO HOW DO I BALANCE MY PORTFOLIO AND MAXIMIZE MY RETURN?

Marketers are overwhelmed with having to sort through a dizzying array of data providers all promising to be the best solution; they need guidance.  An independent data management firm who represents YOU and not the data providers can help.  At Oceanos, we’ve identified four characteristics you should look for in your data partner:

MAKE SURE YOUR DATA PARTNER WORKS FOR YOU.  Work closely with an independent data advisor not aligned to any particular data source.

QUANTIFY IT.  Use empirical statistical and technical analysis to identify trends and potential market trends.

DISCUSS THE METHODOLOGY.  Work with your data advisor to develop a strategy to identify and obtain the assets you want.  Determine the methodology used by the advisor in grading potential assets for inclusion in your portfolio.

DETERMINE FAIR MARKET VALUE.  It is no value to pay two times as much to get an asset that performs at a level equivalent to better valued assets.  Ensure that your data provider is able to establish fair market value for the assets you obtain to provide with your best chance to maximize your return. 

Download the Oceanos List Optimizer E Book at http://www.oceanosinc.com/ebook/ to learn about our proprietary software that will enable you to diversify your data investment.

 

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