6sense Raises $27M to Uncover Hidden Interests of B2B Buyers

Let’s say you’re wondering whether another software provider could do a better job for your business than the one you already use. You start a web search on its competitors. Suddenly, you get a friendly message from your current software provider, asking how things are going.

Was it a sixth sense? Nope, as you can probably guess by now. It’s technology.

Companies such as 6sense are using advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence software to help their customers find early signals of interest from potential buyers—and maybe their discontent with existing suppliers. For 6sense, the methods include tracking searches on Google, or reader activity on technology news sites and CNET reviews, for example. To facilitate tracking, the marketing management company forms partnerships with online publishers and operators of other websites that B2B purchasers check for information. Then, 6sense can then tell its clients that a specific business is looking into a certain product—usually without saying exactly which individual at that business did the search, says 6sense co-founder and chief technology officer Viral Bajaria.

That kind of B2B marketing intelligence can alert a 6sense client that it may be in danger of losing a customer. Or it can flag a promising sales lead for another client trying to attract new customers, Bajaria says.

San Francisco-based 6sense announced today that it raised $27 million in a growth-fundraising round led by Industry Ventures, which was joined by previous investors Bain Capital Ventures, Battery Ventures, Costanoa Ventures, Salesforce Ventures, and Venrock. The new capital brings the company’s fundraising total to $63 million since its founding in 2013.

As a private company, 6sense doesn’t disclose its revenue, or the number of its paying customers. But its customers include Cisco, Zuora, Cumulus Networks, and Domo, according to a spokesperson.

Bajaria says 6sense uses its predictive analytics and other techniques to coordinate efforts between its customers’ sales teams and the marketing departments that publicize its offerings. The company plans to use its new capital to help customers rely less on shotgun email marketing blasts, and instead to target their marketing dollars along multiple channels toward businesses that have been identified by 6sense as more likely buyers, he says.

How would business executives know that their web activity is being tracked by 6sense? Bajaria says they can look at the terms of the privacy policies of the sites they visit. Many websites now surface a billboard message alerting visitors that they may use cookies or other tracking techniques. The visitor’s control over the tracking depends on regional privacy regulations. In restrictive regions, “our tracking codes won’t fire unless you opt in,” he says. In the United States, visitors need to opt out in order to deactivate the 6sense tracking, Bajaria says.

In this era of enhanced concern over data privacy, the stricter regulations in Europe and other regions haven’t had a big impact on 6sense yet, Bajaria says. Many of these regulations are centered on protecting the data privacy of individuals, rather than of businesses, he says.

For 6sense, the names of individuals are hard to get, unless they identify themselves by means such as filling out a form on a website, Bajaria says. The company makes use of aggregated data to provide its customers with certain characteristics of web visitors, such as the company where they probably work, the size of that company, the industry it belongs to, and its geographic location. In addition, 6sense adds a “confidence code’’ telling its customer how relevant the signals of buying interest detected may be to its marketing goals.

“It’s up to our customers to decide what confidence level they want to act on’’ when they devote marketing resources toward a potential buyer, Bajaria says.

Photo by Flickr user formulanone  via a Creative Commons license

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