Identify new prospects and predict when they will buy – at every stage of the buyer’s journey
Remember the good old days of lead generation? Invest in lead gen activities across multiple channels, use metrics to monitor the lead flow and channel effectiveness, optimize the mix, score the leads and pass the qualified ones off to sales. Actually, that’s not so much the good old days but the here and now of how many marketing organizations try to drive revenue. It’s a process with a lot of moving parts and it takes expertise and lots of attention to detail to keep this finicky process performing at acceptable levels.
To various degrees, technology and intelligence infiltrate the nooks and crannies of this process, but little of this technology is about enabling this process in a predictive way. Most of the automation, however helpful, provides a historical view of the process performance. We can know with a high degree of precision what has happened, but none of the technology has provided that crystal ball that lets us accurately see the conversion future of leads in the funnel. This is about to change with a new product recently available from an emerging player to watch: 6Sense.
Amanda Kahlow, CEO and founder of 6Sense, got her start doing multi-channel consulting. She helped B2B enterprise clients make sense of the historical data – a look in the lead generation rear-view mirror – to wring the last ounce of performance out of their processes. At some point, she had an epiphany: let’s use this data to look forward and give sales and marketing organizations what they really want: accurate predictions about who will buy and when.
Five years ago, with a major client’s financial backing, Kahlow began turning the concept into a working prototype of a predictive marketing and sales intelligence system. The prototype showed enough promise to raise an additional $12 million investment from two partners to refine the prototype. Just less than three months ago, 6Sense emerged from “stealth” mode with a handful of B2B enterprise clients and the zeal to evangelize the marketing world about predictive intelligence.
6Sense provides a solution for identifying new leads and when they will buy – in every stage of the sales cycle – before they reveal themselves. 6Sense connects the dots between purchased behavioral data, data from relevant websites, Marketing Automation, CRM and other internal and external sources. A data catalogue is created for every client product category. So, when Dr. Emmett Brown goes searching online for information about flux capacitors, the vendors who sell them and use 6Sense are going to know who he is before he reveals himself, and when he’s going to buy with an accuracy that can exceed 90%.
6Sense claims its solution is “account based marketing meets predictive lead scoring.” Marketing is increasingly about sustaining predictable levels of performance. Organizations have little time or patience for endless trial and error experiments on the part of their marketing teams, tinkering with campaign and media mix parameters trying to squeeze some incremental results out of the effort. What 6Sense does is enable the accurate prediction of the percent likelihood, how much, what and when an identifiable prospect will buy.
In early implementations, 6Sense is showing that it has the intelligence to auto-qualify certain leads it detects. It almost sounds as if we can implement 6Sense and put marketing on auto-pilot, but even marketing predictive intelligence engines need input, and that input is in the form of campaign creation and execution. 6Sense can provide a rich stream of predictive information about the leads in the funnel, but marketing still has to do the creative work to get those leads there in the first place.
A major implication of 6Sense is its ability to uncloak some or perhaps most of the “unknown” activity that all marketers know is occurring around their content and lead gen efforts. Many studies confirm what marketers have understood as a growing trend: buyers remain hidden from sellers much deeper into the sales cycle than they once did. The buyers like to self-educate on the rich hoard of content vendors make available. Increasingly, vendors don’t know who the buyers are until they’ve reached the late, decision stage of the buying cycle. Now, 6Sense, using techniques like reverse IP lookup, and through other data it acquires, can let its users know who some of these “unknown” prospects are. That level of detailed information is powerful. This is not to say there aren’t any risks with using this information, but 6Sense makes getting it possible.
Considering what 6Sense claims to do, what Marketing Automation vendor wouldn’t want this capability tightly integrated within its system? It could give any vendor a significant competitive advantage, so why not just buy this startup company? When asked about her exit strategy for 6Sense, Kahlow acknowledged that she has received several offers for 6Sense, but isn’t yet interested in selling. Her passion to take 6Sense onwards and upwards is admirable and the acquisition interest is both flattering and validation of what 6Sense is doing. At the same time, now that the predictive intelligence cat is out of the bag, vendors who want this capability and can’t buy it will develop it themselves. It took Kahlow five years to create what she offers today. A well-funded Marketing Automation vendor – or bigger player – won’t take as long.
Marketers should familiarize themselves now with the capabilities of predictive intelligence, and determine if they will benefit from what it provides. It may seem like a “no-brainer”, but 6Sense and any other solutions like it, if they exist, aren’t for everyone. If a company’s products are bought via a “considered” purchasing process – advancing through the stages of need awareness, discovery, consideration and decision – then 6Sense is a great fit. For products that are impulse purchased, 6Sense or other predictive intelligence engines are not positioned to provide significant value.
Just having the right environment for exploiting 6Sense, such as having a B2B solution acquired via a “considered” purchase process, doesn’t guarantee readiness to implement this solution. There is surely a cultural readiness that is necessary to commit and get success from a predictive marketing intelligence platform. Those marketing organizations that are analytics averse are probably far from ready to take this journey. A data-driven mentality and belief in analytics is the foundation for success using a solution like 6Sense.
Marketing organizations that are eager to investigate predictive technology should understand that implementations like 6Sense require the development of a custom data catalogue, and each product requires a separate data catalogue. The current process for implementing the 6Sense predictive marketing intelligence solution is between four and six weeks, and this is consistent with the challenges that many Business Intelligence solutions have: it takes time and some smart people to implement them. As a small company, 6Sense will need to scale its customer onboarding and implementation process to address the demand it seems poised to get. Given its current resources, 6Sense has the capacity to serve about 20 customers in the next two quarters. Companies convinced that this predictive marketing intelligence approach is an imperative should waste no time getting in line.
Predictive intelligence is emerging technology. It has tremendous promise and is already paying dividends for some early adopters. CMOs that don’t like to experiment may find that 6Sense is a little too early-stage for their comfort. It is, however, a good fit for CMOs who want to explore predictive intelligence with a leading edge approach.
There are many reasons marketers should have intense curiosity about predictive intelligence, and near the top of the list is its ability to help marketing prove its value. Marketing is most evolved when it functions and exists as a revenue center. A solution like 6Sense can help many B2B marketing organizations leapfrog some evolutionary steps required to get there.