Big Data

Here’s how big data is helping Nitro sell half a million PDF software units (yes, PDF)

Image Credit: Infer

Back when Hadoop was a baby and big data was just for scientists, Infer’s co-founders were dreaming up their big idea.

“There were no ‘killer apps,’” chief executive Vik Singh said in an interview with VentureBeat.

So the company set out to build one.

In short, Infer takes incoming leads and passes them through a customized model. This model incorporates the company’s own customer relationship management (CRM) data, information about the lead from purchased databases, and information extracted from crawling the Web. Infer then scores the leads on their likelihood to convert, helping the company direct its sales efforts more efficiently.


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Prior to Infer’s beginning, its co-founders were working at companies such as Microsoft and Yahoo, seeing firsthand how data science works for online advertising and optimizing links.

They wanted to apply what they learned to a new area, and what better than enterprise customer acquisition. The data is already in the cloud (so no need to go behind a company’s firewall), and “if you can move the needle there, that will drive revenue,” said Singh.

So the team spent two years with access to two marketing and sales automation companies and came up with a solution for predicting lead’s conversion likelihood based on a company’s own sales database and information extracted from crawling the Web.

“When we started, this whole predictive thing was almost like science fiction,” said Singh.

By spring of 2013, the company was ready to launch publicly after testing its product with a few customers. It even announced a $10 million first round of funding at the same time. It now counts companies such as Zendesk, Tableau, and ZipRecruiter among its customers.

Selling more PDF software  

Nitro is an Infer customer. It’s also a case of a freemium business model using Infer’s services to get better conversion rates.

Nitro, a company all about PDFs, provides free trials of its product both at the consumer level and for enterprises. Naturally, it loves when those free trials turn into paying customers.

Nitro gets its leads from two sources: free trials and purchase interest forms. Infer takes those, scores them, and relays which should be pushed to the sales team.

“Infer helps us look at these inbound leads and which ones are strong opportunities,” Nitro senior marketing manager Sean Zinsmeister said to VentureBeat in an interview.

“Instead of having a cone shape funnel, it’s more of martini glass. Infer has really helped us organize and prioritize,” he added.

The results: The volume of qualified leads sent over to the sales team has increased by 3x, and the highest-scored Infer lead covert 7.4 times better than the average conversion rate.

Despite declining to reveal specific revenue metrics, Zinsmeister did share that the bottom-line revenue from trial conversions is growing month to month.

Infer’s been coming up with some more nifty ways to help customers such as Nitro optimize their sales, and one such trick Zinsmeister is particularly excited about is the integration with Google AdWords.

“We’re starting to get Infer scores at the keyword level,” said Zinsmeister. “And everything is done right in the Google AdWords platform.”

Nitro heavily uses AdWords as a customer acquisition channel, so Infer’s scoring enables the company to optimize its AdWords spending based on the quality of leads various keywords yield.

And that additional bang for its AdWords buck is just one of the ways Infer’s got Nitro hooked on its services and willing to try whatever new features Infer develops.

“We feel really, really strongly about our relationship with the Infer team. We’ve become really fond of the relationship,” Zinsmeister said.

Nitro sees itself as a challenger brand, so services like Infer that enable its money to work more smartly are almost god-sent.

“What’s exciting about partnering with a company like Infer … is getting in early and figuring out how to leverage [it],” Zinsmeister said.

More information:

Infer delivers data-powered business applications that help companies win more customers. Its cloud-based solutions leverage proven data science to rapidly model the untapped data sitting in enterprises, along with hundreds of external... read more »

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