Demystifying Predictive Intelligence: Letters from the Front Lines

November 7, 2015

Last month, DemandGen CEO David Lewis hosted Scott Broomfield, CMO of Xactly and Zak Garner, Director of Customer Success at 6sense in a conversation about the realities of implementing and using predictive intelligence for B2B marketing and sales.

Below you can find the biggest ideas we took away from the discussion:

1. How are companies using predictive intelligence?

There are 2 main ways that predictive intelligence has been implemented in modern B2B organizations.

a) Marketing teams use predictive intelligence to improve targeting across the spectrum of their initiatives and campaigns, from advertising and display to email nurture and web personalization. Using intent data, teams can pinpoint the prospects that are in an active buying cycle and use data about their predicted buying stage to inform messaging and medium. They also use intent data to identify the prospects who are not likely to become customers any time soon — ones they should not be targeting now — to help reduce the high cost of wastage in their campaigns.

b) Sales teams use predictive intelligence to give their business development reps and account executives insights about which accounts and contacts to target first. Sales teams prioritize their daily activities by triaging prospects based on their intent score, because the most accurate predictive scores are based on behavior and timing, not on static attributes. Since B2B buyers’ needs can change daily and weekly, sales teams are alerted when prospects’ buying stages change. Further, sales teams use predictive intelligence to identify prospects as soon as they enter a buying journey. Getting into a conversation when a prospect is still in the early stages of research allows sales teams to influence the buying criteria and scope of the project. It’s also a great opportunity to build trust and offer value by educating an influencer or decision-maker and helping them through their due diligence process.

2. What kinds of results are companies seeing from predictive intelligence?

Predictive intelligence is giving B2B companies better visibility into their buyers. Within in their own ecosystem, companies can mine their own databases to uncover in-market buyers and route those leads directly to sales bypassing their traditional lead qualification process. Companies such as Cisco have seen these initiatives raise their MQL-to-opportunity conversion rates and increase their average deal sizes significantly.

Looking outside their ecosystem, companies are able to tap into third-party activity data to find new accounts and contacts with high buying intent and ones that match the buyer profile of current prospects. 6sense customer, Blue Jeans, was able to identify 1,800 net new accounts and open 299 opportunities, a 20x increase in their MQL to opportunity conversion rate because of this capability.

In the long-term, companies can inform every part of their marketing and sales funnel with insights delivered by predictive intelligence, starting at the top of the funnel with lead generation and display ads to segmented nurture streams and sales playbooks. These initiatives are already having a big impact on revenue but can also drive “soft” metrics like brand health and awareness.

3. What should marketers look for in a predictive solution?

When looking at vendors, pick an organization and team that truly understands your business, your role and the challenges you’re facing. When you’re specifically looking at a predictive vendor, you’ll want to understand what they bring to the table that you can’t (easily) do yourself:

  • How can they help you uncover buyer intent so you can be the first vendor to reach out to a prospect?
  • What do they consider to be predictive data, and how do they create their algorithms?
  • What data do they have access to that gives them an advantage in identifying your next customer?
  • Can they help guide you through the process of deploying predictive results, make it easy for end users to incorporate into their existing work processes and help you gain adoption within your company?

4. Xactly’s approach to predictive intelligence

For Scott Broomfield, Xactly’s CMO, predictive intelligence is marketing automation 2.0. He thinks of it as the next step in the evolution of marketing technology. Predictive intelligence does more than simply improve the outcomes of existing processes; it has the opportunity to fundamentally re-envision how business gets done.

Today, Xactly’s marketing team uses predictive intelligence to align their marketing campaigns and messaging to their audience’s buying stage. Doing this helps them move away from disruptive marketing and drive up conversion rates by getting their message to people who are interested in hearing it.

Xactly’s sales team uses predictive intelligence to prioritize those prospects who have shown increased intent scores from week over week. Their business development reps use predictive intelligence to triage their call-down lists and to reach prospects who have crossed the threshold from the awareness stage of the buying cycle to consideration.

Finally, Xactly uses intent scores to find new prospects who are not in their marketing funnel but are showing intent now. This capability has lead to lucrative deals from industry verticals that Xactly was not initially targeting.

What does the future hold?

For Xactly and other leading enterprise companies, predictive intelligence has paved the way for an unprecedented collaboration and alignment with sales. Scott Broomfield has moved his team to an SQL model, where sales-accepted leads are the metric driving marketing, a move which ties the efforts of sales and marketing at the hip.

You can hear the full conversation here: Demystifying Predictive Intelligence.

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