LinkedIn Acquires Fliptop: Is the predictive marketing shoe beginning to drop?

LinkedIn recently announced that it acquired Fliptop, in what appears to be an asset-oriented acquisition. Here’s the announcement if you didn’t see it yet, and here’s Fliptop’s Founder and CEO, Doug Camplejohn, announcing their acquisition. Congrats to both companies. I think this is an important milestone for Fliptop, obviously, but for LinkedIn as well.

But what does this signal for the larger space of predictive marketing?

Validating the value of predictive?

Well, at a minimum, this acquisition is another indicator that predictive technology and the predictive-powered marketing that it enables is very real, present, and strategically valuable. The acquisition of Bizo (now called LinkedIn Lead Accelerator) indicated that LinkedIn is moving strongly into the B2B marketing space, and now LinkedIn’s acquisition of Fliptop shows that they regard predictive analytics and data science as a key part of that initiative. Analysts of the predictive space have long posited that platform vendors will want to build predictive technology deeply into their architecture. That this is starting to happen shows that we have crossed a threshold into a new phase of the development and evolution of the market.

Speaking of the Fliptop acquisition, John Bara, President and CMO of predictive marketing vendor, Mintigo, said, “I think it’s exciting because it puts predictive on a much more strategic plane. Most of the major marketing cloud players are adding predictive capabilities to their platforms. The beneficiaries will be leaders in marketing and sales who will increase the precision and accuracy of their campaigns and the effectiveness of lead generation efforts.”

LinkedIn’s ascension as a uniquely-positioned B2B platform

I think it’s notable that LinkedIn has purchased Fliptop as a technology and not as a standalone business. No surprises there, but it essentially removes a predictive vendor from the space. And it suggests a lot about LinkedIn’s strategy. David Thacker at LinkedIn wrote in this post that they will use it to enhance their Sales Navigator social selling technology, presumably by using predictive to make better lead recommendations.

But will they also integrate Fliptop’s predictive technology with Bizo’s full-funnel display technology (now called LinkedIn Lead Accelerator)? This would seem to be the obvious play, as it puts them in a uniquely powerful position in the B2B advertising/marketing space. They already have one of the best sources of B2B data by far. Not only do they have updated contact information on nearly every B2B prospect, they also have your entire resume, work history, and an updated and curated list of your most important business contacts. They have direct visibility into business interactions in a way that no other company has. Armed with this rich data set, and now equipped with predictive technology, LinkedIn is in a position to offer an unprecedented degree of targeting and personalization in advertising.

Jim Walker, VP of Marketing at EverString, said, “It is good all around. Not only is it validation of the predictive marketing space, but the “fit” is right with LinkedIn. They needed predictive capabilities in front of some of their technologies, most notably, LinkedIn Lead Accelerator, formerly Bizo.”

Shashi Upadhyay, CEO of Lattice Engines, commented “LinkedIn’s acquisition of Fliptop is a great indicator for the industry. It helps to signal that predictive is not just a point solution, but instead a strategic force that marketers can utilize throughout the entire buying cycle. As a result, we’ll see more acquisitions and further consolidation of the space to the top players,”

Is the predictive marketing shoe starting to drop?

From the perspective of “tech chess,” what does this acquisition signal? Is this the beginning of a spate of predictive vendor acquisitions or is this an isolated incident? The answer probably depends on how you think about predictive technology in a broader sense.

If you have a narrow view of predictive technology’s primary application — for example, predictive equals “smarter lead scoring” — then this is just a vendor shaking out of the space, being acquired and stripped down for parts. That sort of thing happens all the time, especially in a rapidly-evolving, volatile MarTech market. I think we can expect to see more such talent-and-tech acquisitions in the coming months. LinkedIn is not planning to offer Fliptop as a stand-alone product, so the net result of this for the market in the short term is that a vendor is going away. That’s significant, but not in itself a huge deal.

But if you see predictive in a larger context, then the interesting question is how will the major software platform vendors such as Oracle, Marketo, Salesforce, IBM, Microsoft, and Adobe incorporate predictive into their offerings? Some will try to build their own in-house capabilities. Others will acquire those capabilities by purchasing the talent and technology and integrating it into their existing infrastructure. Still others will acquire a predictive vendor and continue to offer custom predictive modeling as a stand-alone product.

Marketing technology consultant and analyst, David Raab, offers this view: “Predictive analytics has largely remained separate from marketing automation systems or suites. Historically, the reason was that big companies had data scientists who were committed to specialist products, like SAS or SPSS. That barrier has dropped as analytic systems became more usable by non-specialists. But there’s still the problem that most marketing systems have only a partial view of each customer. This means that assembling a full view requires a predictive system that pulls data from multiple sources. The marketing clouds promise this complete view but so far haven’t fully delivered it. Until that happens, I expect that predictive analytics vendors will provide offerings that assemble this data for themselves and then do the actual predictive modeling on it. This means that predictive systems will largely remain separate from the big marketing suites, even though some of the suite vendors could clearly purchase or build in their own predictive capabilities. In this regard, it’s worth noting that LinkedIn is primarily a data company, so it doesn’t have the same need to assemble external data as a typical marketing automation vendor or suite.  So this acquisition doesn’t itself given an example of a marketing automation vendor buying a predictive analytics company.  It’s clear that LinkedIn can use predictive for ad targeting based on LinkedIn’s own information.  Presumably that’s what they have in mind.”

What is Intelligent Demand’s take on all of this?

At ID, we see predictive as much larger and broader than a single feature or point solution. We see predictive as a capability that can/should run throughout the entire customer journey.

Our view is that in the medium-to-long term, predictive is not a stand-alone platform. Predictive is a foundational capability that should be woven in as a key element of modern marketing and selling strategy, as well as programs and platforms. The Fliptop acquisition provides early validation of that view, as LinkedIn clearly intends to build Fliptop’s technology into their platform rather than trying to sell it as a point solution. Other platform vendors will likely follow suit. And hopefully this means that the major platforms will begin offering predictive capabilities at the core of their decision-making workflows.

In the meantime though, predictive marketing is already being implemented via proven integrations and proving itself in real world use cases. And the marketers, sellers and executives who are testing and learning will continue to advance both their companies’ own revenue performance, as well as the state of best practices within predictive-fueled, modern revenue transformation.

Eli Snyder, Senior Demand Generation Technologist here at Intelligent Demand says, “We’re still in the early stages of the revolution that predictive is bringing to marketing; early adopters stand to gain a genuine strategic advantage. Just be sure to ask potential predictive vendors about their long-term vision and plans for integrating predictive capabilities throughout the entire stack.”

What’s your take?

What do YOU think about the Fliptop acquisition? Where do you think predictive is on the continuum of “aspirational-smoke-and-mirrors” to utterly-proven-must-have technology?

Feel free to reach out if you’re interested in learning more about predictive. ID can provide a detailed assessment of your company’s readiness for success with predictive marketing — and even develop a detailed business case and set of vendor recommendations.

Author John Common

More posts by John Common

John is Intelligent Demand’s founder, chief strategist and CEO. His energy and enthusiasm for transforming companies with modern approaches to marketing, sales, and customer success is palpable. He’ll happily geek out with you during a 2-hour conversation about your customer journey. He’ll cover any whiteboard or tablecloth in sight with revenue growth strategies, messaging concepts, and program designs. But his primary passion is connecting those ideas to highly executable programs that deliver measurable results.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • John Rode says:

    My initial reaction after reading Doug Camplejohn’s blog post, and looking back to when FlipTop raised their last round ($4.6M Mar ’13), was that perhaps Fliptop sold earlier than they would have liked? I mean, I doubt the founders dream was to sell off the company for parts, unless of course the price was great. That sense has stuck with me, and declarations from competing vendors that this acquisition bodes well for the predictive industry has not erased that feeling. What else would they say? I think long-term, like this article says, predictive makes a lot of sense as many points in the customer journey as part of a larger offering. My question is whether we’re still so earlier in the cycle that the Flitop acquisition perhaps doesn’t really mean all that much.

  • John Common says:

    John,
    Thanks for the comment. Hmmm… yes, it’s tempting to wonder how Fliptop (or any acquired company) feels post-acquisition. I’m sure it’s a big mix of things.

    I agree with what one of my team members (Ed Skibbe, an ID Executive Consultant and Senior Strategist) said earlier today: “I think LinkedIn probably also has some very specific features on its roadmap for which it views Fliptop as enabling technology–less related to the general applicability of predictive and more related to LinkedIn’s desire to compete and monetize itself as a business marketing platform.”

    And I couldn’t agree more that we’re early in the cycle/process of predictive technology diffusing into the MarTech and AdTech stacks. I think we’re even earlier in the process if the milestone is predictive’s adoption into the proven, real-world practices and programs of marketers. I know that I have personally been surprised in both directions (faster-than-I expected-adoption and slower-than-I-expected adoption) with other emerging technologies/product categories.

    My kingdom for a crystal ball!

Leave a Reply