Dun & Bradstreet Inc., a leader in b-to-b data, has caught up to the Web by transferring 15 million business records from older flat-file databases to more nimble relational database files. This means D&B's records, already the most extensive in b-to-b, will be easier to analyze, serve on the Internet and merge with a company's internal customer list, D&B said.
"Our whole strategy is being reformulated," said Sandy Stoker, VP-information marketing for Dun & Bradstreet U.S. "In order to meet our stated objective, which is to help businesses identify opportunity and reduce risk, we have to be able to distribute wherever it is necessary."
The change culminates a yearlong race by dozens of D&B technicians to bring the company's flagship D&B Market Spectrum product up to Web speed. As one of many companies that track and report on a businesses's credit status, marketing contacts and purchasing information, D&B has been pushed by changes in corporate sales departments.
Today, sales representatives are pressuring management to change the way they deliver reports on prospects, said Tom Keys, VP-sales for WebLink Wireless Inc. Where once it was acceptable to run a check on a proprietary database and return the results with a phone call, sales people now demand access to information without delay or human intervention, Keys said.
Keys' company, which is shifting from selling beeper services to wireless messaging, is using the Web interface to identify leads in each of the 30 markets in which it is expanding. Sales people can access the information at any time, rather than relying on sales support or marketing.
"This allows us to buy a lead base in a local market and get those leads in action quickly," Keys said.
D&B was pushed by competitors, said Philip Russom, director of business intelligence at Hurwitz Group. Several Web start-ups have already been churning out self-service, real-time business information on the Internet.
InfoUSA.com Inc. has aggressively begun Web development and deployment, while Internet start-ups such as Zapdata Inc. are providing information on a piecemeal basis, he said.
Acxiom RTC Inc., with its Acxiom Data Network; Experian Information Solutions Inc.; and Engage Media's Technology Network are among the leaders in using the Internet to distribute mission-critical business information, Russom said.
The move by D&B, which has a 150-year history in business and credit risk management, shows the largest of information providers can't afford to miss out on the Internet.
To capitalize on the growth of b-to-b exchanges, D&B began cutting deals designed to provide business decision-making data in real-time online. It entered into a strategic alliance with Open Ratings to provide predictive scoring of a vendor's ability to pay in a timely manner. Also, it partnered with DistressDebt.com, which plans to create a b-to-b receivables exchange, to provide D&B receivable management services on the Web.
A key to D&B's upgrade is the ability to use D&B Market Spectrum as a way to update customer records, meaning that companies can use the proprietary D-U-N-S identification number to match D&B records with their internal customer database. The new files are easier to break into small bits of information on such attributes as purchasing and credit history. And, through the Web interface, a company will be able to divvy up information internally through user names and passwords.
Amy Hayenhjelm, a product director for B&D U.S., acknowledged that e-mail addresses are a key issue for most b-to-b customers, and one piece of information D&B currently lacks. In the future, D&B will likely increase the availability of e-mail addresses within its b-to-b records, Hayenhjelm said. In the meantime, corporate marketing executives can integrate their internally collected customer e-mail addresses or e-mail addresses acquired from a third party with data collected through D&B Market Spectrum Web.
D&B plans to sell D&B Market Spectrum Web at an initial yearly license fee of $15,000, plus customization costs. Its existing customers will be given the Web capabilities for $10,000 a year, plus customization costs.