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My take on HubSpot acquiring Clearbit - the need for better data is clear

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher November 6, 2023
Summary:
Data, data everywhere - and we need a view into it. HubSpot's buying Clearbit - here's the skinny...

jigsaw

HubSpot has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Clearbit. This deal is all about data, and it’s a smart move for HubSpot. 

So what is HubSpot getting? Direct access to 100+ firmographic, demographic, and technographic data points of over 20 million companies and 500 million decision-makers. HubSpot will now be able to infuse a crap ton of third-party data with its first-party customer platform data to improve sales and marketing strategies (and customer support). 

From the press release:

'To cut through the noise with deep relevance, businesses need reliable, high-quality data about their customers. That means enriching your company’s internal customer data with real-time external context,” said Yamini Rangan, CEO of HubSpot. 'Clearbit has made it its mission to collect rich and useful data about millions of companies. HubSpot’s AI-powered customer platform combined with Clearbit’s data will create a powerful, winning combination for our customers.' 

This relationship between these two companies isn’t brand new. Clearbit has been in HubSpot’s Marketplace since 2019, and according to Clearbit CEO and co-founder Matt Sornson, HubSpot is Clearbit’s fastest-growing integration “ever.” Sornson offered three core beliefs the two companies share:

  • The belief that data is the core ingredient in great sales and marketing.
  • The belief that teams should have direct access to the data they need natively within tools they use everyday.
  • The belief that data, natively integrated into the CRM, could unlock customers in a way never seen in B2B.

For now, Clearbit will be a wholly-owned subsidiary of HubSpot, but eventually, it will get integrated into HubSpot’s platform.

The implications

Okay, so that's the news. For now, HubSpot and Clearbit aren't talking - I will assume it's because the deal isn't finalized. It's disappointing, but we can glean some clear takeaways from this news. There are a couple of reasons this is a good deal for HubSpot.

This is a go-to-market platform play

It's clear that data is king. HubSpot captures a lot of first-party data, but to get a complete understanding of who is in-market and showing intent requires more information. Prospective customers spend more time on other sites and listening to counterparts and similar companies trying to find the information they need to make decisions. 

They don’t only go to the brand’s website (and sometimes they don’t go there at all until the very end of their decision-making journey). According to Gartner, only 17% of the buyer journey is spent on the website. 

But even those who go to the website aren’t filling out forms. 6Sense’s Latane Conant shared research with me that found: 

...only three percent of buyers will complete a form, and companies do not know how to capture and analyze (or use) the data from the other 97%.

Clean, accurate third-party data, combined with first-party data, is essential if you want to understand who your prospects are. HubSpot only had that through integrations in their Marketplace. Now, they can build it directly into the platform, and they can leverage their new AI capabilities to mine this data quickly to support sales activities. 

HubSpot’s VP of Product for Sales Hub, Michael Walton, said HubSpot wanted to attack the problem of disjointed tools and data:

Relevance is the key to breaking through. It's about the right activities and the relevant actions to execute in those activities. It's about the right conversations. And it’s about helping sales teams eliminate the busy work that keeps them from doing the right things.

There’s a stronger focus on accounts

Clearbit is an account-based marketing platform. It plays alongside Demandbase, Terminus, and 6sense. But none of these vendors call themselves ABM platforms these days. These companies refer mostly to “go-to-market,” account intelligence, and RevOps because they work across marketing and sales and are all about customer data.  

This is good for HubSpot. The "account" capabilities from a marketing and sales enablement standpoint are lackluster in HubSpot. When they finally integrate Clearbit, companies can shift from a "lead" ‌focus and improve how they track contacts from an account and ICP (ideal customer profile) perspective. 

Tyler Lessard, GTM Exec at Vidyard, agreed with this point in a LinkedIn Post about the acquisition, saying,

Digital-first sales processes will be increasingly dependent on robust customer data. Particularly being able to confidently map out potential stakeholders and decision makers across businesses, to find ways to get in front of them in a digital on-demand way, and to turn the 'digital body language' of leads and accounts into buyer insights that drive actions.

Clean data is one thing. But using data to map out relationships, discover digital access points, and drive sales and marketing efficiency will be a foundation of the digital-first sales world. And platforms like Clearbit have a huge role to play here.”

It's easier to track and nurture the middle of the funnel

HubSpot is great at top of the funnel tracking. The new Sales capabilities significantly improve bottom-of-the-funnel efforts. But there is a messy middle that's hard to track and manage. Clearbit can help here. 

Kevin Tate, CMO of Clearbit, and I previously talked about the shift in buying behavior, leading to the need for more nurturing. He said: 

Sometimes that means people are seeing a lot more tire kickers, sometimes that means that the ICP and the buyer personas and sort of jobs to be done have changed. But all those things, I think, shine a light more on the mid-funnel and the place where you really understand what's going on in that sort of, you know, interest and consideration versus, say, awareness and action.

Right now, this isn't easy to track in HubSpot. With Clearbit data integrated, you can understand intent better, you can see company fit, and know which people within that company to engage with. And hopefully, you'll see all that data surfaced through an easy-to-understand work with interface. 

Building the Go-to-Market platform

When HubSpot came out with its enhancements to its Sales capabilities and started calling itself a "smarter customer platform," I wondered if it would lessen its focus on marketing capabilities. After all, it feels like they haven't done anything new with marketing in a long time. 

But I think the acquisition of Clearbit will change that. Lots of companies use the two platforms together already, but what I want to see is a HubSpot marketing view that combines lead and account data and provides a richer view of companies and leads so marketing can make better decisions on how it delivers experiences across the website and social channels. 

Essentially, HubSpot needs to become a complete go-to-market platform for marketing, sales, and support/service. It’s trying to get there, and this acquisition is a major push towards it.  

Tom Wentworth, Chief Marketing Officer at Recorded Future, made this point on LinkedIn: 

Hubspot buying Clearbit is another signal that we're getting closer to the end of "best-of-breed" GTM tech products. Hubspot, 6Sense, Clari, Outreach, Gong, etc. all racing to get to get to true platform status alongside Salesforce.

This is great news for HubSpot's customer base. No one wants to try to piece together disparate sets of customer data (even enterprise companies find it painful and challenging). One platform that does that and is easy to adopt is HubSpot's goal at a price point that is more reasonable for mid-sized to enterprise companies than some alternatives (e.g., Salesforce). It also puts HubSpot into direct competition with companies like 6Sense and Demandbase. 

Of course, much of this relies on Clearbit getting integrated into HubSpot, not sitting standalone to the side. So, it's good news for HubSpot overall, but let's see what the final product looks like before we start rushing to buy.

 

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