Company identification tools under test16. May 2019
Linking e-mail consent to a prize draw20. May 2019
From anonymous tracking to real leads
Today, using web tracking solutions such as Google Analytics or Etracker is standard equipment on a business website. The analysis tools create the basis for measuring the success of content marketing and continuously improving customer journeys. Which websites are clicked how often and which landing page works better are undoubtedly important information. But for companies with a B2B focus, specialized tools are available that transform anonymous visitor tracking into a highly effective way to generate leads.
It sounds rather trivial at first: By far not all visitors to a B2B website step out of anonymity during their visit – neither through a contact request, a live chat nor a newsletter subscription. If you compare the number of daily website visitors to the number of sales requests caused by these visits, only a fraction is identified – in most cases less than 1 percent. Remarkably, those responsible in B2B marketing regularly acknowledge this low conversion rate with a shrug of their shoulders. They are satisfied with the findings that the stream of visitors consists largely of “personas” that are not relevant for B2B sales, such as end consumers who have “got lost” in googling, students thirsting for knowledge, job seekers, competitors, partners – and last but not least employees of existing customers with whom you have already made contact.
The same marketing managers, however, would also consider the following numbers to be quite realistic – if not too cautious: Even if all visitors not relevant to sales together produce a proud 90 percent of the web traffic, out of 100 visitors there would still be 10 contacts from companies that visit the web presence of a B2B company with concrete business interest. These 10 contacts presumably also conceal the one contact who – see above – is “identifiable” on a daily average by request. This means, however, that 9 contacts (or still 90 percent of the “real” potential) are lost as sales opportunities – they disappear again into the anonymity of the Internet.
Pages or users? The change of perspective
Common web analysis tools such as Google Analytics, Etracker, Webtrends or Adobe Analytics are not conceptually well prepared to exploit this remaining 90 percent of sales potential. This is mainly due to the fact that they all specialize in page-related website analysis (“How many visitors were on which page for how long?”). A visitor-related view (“Which pages did a visitor visit when and how often?”), which is necessary for a comprehensive evaluation of the company-specific website “commitment”, is at best made possible by laborious methods. A second drawback: The precise definition of the IP addresses of visitors is often not the focus of these tools for data protection reasons. This is because the IP address is an identification feature for natural persons, the storage and evaluation of which is subject to data protection consent. In addition, private individuals and small organisations usually use dynamic IP addresses of their Internet service providers, which change daily, to go
online. Even with complete IP address storage, the tracking tool would always only “see” the respective Internet service provider, not the consumer behind it.
From the IP address via the network domain to the company
For B2B companies, these data protection and identification problems do not arise – or at least in a strongly mitigated form. Many of the organizations that are the target focus of B2B sales teams use their own IP dial-in addresses to access the Internet. This has two advantages for website tracking: if these organizations are legal entities (and only those are tracked), no explicit consent is required from them to store their IP address and the corresponding visit activities. Such permission only needs to be obtained from natural persons. Secondly, since the IP address is bound to the company, a reverse DNS lookup can be used to infer the IP address from the company domain.
If the reverse domain is found as homepage information in a company database such as Hoppenstedt, Bisnode or Hoovers or in the company profile on LinkedIn or Xing, the complete company name including address data can be assigned to the originally anonymous website visitor. However, this enrichment has its pitfalls: For example, the reverse domain can be a “technical” company domain that refers to the (internal or external) IT service provider. Or the (sub)domain of a subsidiary, sister or parent company is displayed, which provides central Internet access.
Which tracking provides the best results?
To avoid misalignments in IP and company data, providers of “classic” website visitor recognition tools such as LeadForensics, SalesViewer and WiredMinds employ matching teams. These manually check the matches suggested by their software between the reverse domain and the company database entry – and correct it if further information (e.g. the specific dial-in point or further referrer information) makes this appear plausible. This procedure is economically attractive for the customers of the software providers. Because once an assignment has been made to a customer, all customers benefit from this point in time. Altogether the customers share the high expenditure of the manual first verification (and finance it by the monthly quantity-dependent software fees).
For some years now, new competition has been emerging for the “classic” providers, who work with their own tracking scripts and company databases that are connected for a fee. Tools such as Leadberry, Leadboxer, Leadfeeder and Snitcher obtain the tracking data via the Google Analytics API – this saves the high costs of developing their own tracking system. They bring the Google data into a view turned from head to toe: As is usual with all B2B recognition tools, all visited pages are now displayed bundled per visitor. The matching and data enrichment of the IP and domain information provided by Google is often automated via API queries against the company master data that companies maintain on their profile pages in business networks such as LinkedIn. This process saves money, so some of the GA-based tools are among the cheapest solutions on the market. However, due to their concept, they have several disadvantages:
- They can only ever be as good at basic recognition as Google Analytics – and Google is by no means the benchmark in this respect.
- The Google Analytics-based tools access an anonymized data base, because Google generally sets the last three digits of the IP address, which lie between 0 and 254, to 0. This reduced data accuracy is a decisive shortcoming with regard to correct recognition of the reverse domain.
- In addition, automated matching also involves a very high susceptibility to errors, which has a negative effect on the number of recognized leads.
This is why none of the providers working in this way was able to convince us sufficiently in our tests. All the web applications mentioned above lag behind the solutions with their own tracking snippet and manual matching.
B2B company identification tools present bundled website visitor information that was previously scattered in the depths of traditional analytics tools. With easier accessibility, new ways of lead generation are opening up for marketing and sales. How they deal with the newly acquired knowledge in detail and what workflows look like depends strongly on the preferences and the tool used. With the increasing number of suppliers in this market and the constant development of the given solutions, B2B company identification represents a promising tracking alternative. In the future, marketers will find it easier to identify sales-relevant target companies and lose fewer website visitors to the anonymity of the Internet.