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Finding the revenue influencers: Pursway wants to be the Klout for sales

Companies are getting more tools to find their influencers, those standouts whose voice carries the most weight. But while services like Klout and Kred are identifying people with a strong social presence, the challenge for many companies is to highlight the individuals who actually drive sales and make an impact on business results. That’s what Pursway, a Waltham, Mass., startup is trying to do for enterprise clients.

The company, which counts Orange, Sony and MetroPCS (s pcs) among its customers, has created a big data analytics tool that can sift through a client’s customer data and identify “purswayers,” the often-hidden people who are able to prompt others to buy products or use services. The company said that these influencers, about 7 to 15 percent of a company’s users, are not necessarily the customers that spend the most or the loudest users, and they may only influence a handful of people. But they can be very valuable to a particular company because they help influence purchase decisions, for good and bad, in their vertical.

pursway, influencePursway says that information can be used to provide better customer service, tweak marketing campaigns or to extend special offers to the influencer. That can ultimately mean less customer churn, better adoption of products, faster acquisition of new customers and, ultimately, more revenue, it says. Pursway said the top 10 percent of customers with a lot of influence can impact more than 50 percent of a company’s revenues.

Here’s how it works: a company turns over its customer lists and sales data, usually 12 months worth, to Pursway. Pursway taps online and social information along with its own data to establish existing “shopping relationships” and tries to understand the strength of those relationships. Then it looks for actual purchase behavior that appears to have a causal relationship, like if one person buys a product and then a friend buys a similar product the next month. It gives users a score to represent that person’s purchasing influence.

Pursway co-founder Ran Shaul told me that there’s only about a 25 percent overlap in a company’s heaviest spenders and its  most-influential customers. Some influencers are only trusted in specific categories. “Instead of focusing on displaying and pushing ads, this is about whom do you push the ads to,” Shaul said. “Social media is important, but word of mouth is everything.”

pursway, influenceCompanies who use Pursway don’t tell their influencers they know who they are. Pursway said it can increase marketing ROI for companies by five to 10 times by just directing their work toward these influencers.

Pursway’s work highlights the power of transactional data. Former PayPal CTO (s ebay) Mok Oh told me that transaction data, combined with consumer behavior information, can be used by merchants to identify and interact with their best customers.

Pursway was founded three years ago as Datanetis and has taken on $6 million from Battery Ventures. We’re just getting started thinking about how to measure influence and how that impacts the bottom line. It’s not easy work, blending offline actions and online data — it involves analyzing terabytes of data. It also potentially runs into some privacy issues, though Shaul said all the data is legally obtained. I would like to see more case studies that prove out Pursway’s proposition, showing how they can home in on real-world influencers.

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