Database giant D&B next year will roll out a new service, Corporate Linkage Plus, that moves beyond basic corporate data linking.
Corporate Linkage Plus, which is now being tested by 10 unnamed D&B marketer clients, offers several views of corporate data, including global relationships; logical family trees; branches and subsidiaries; franchises; agents; nonprofit chapters; and minority ownership. The service is to be officially launched in late 2005.
The service, which builds on the existing corporate data linking capability D&B began developing with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2001, links disparate pieces of data regarding a specific company under one umbrella. Also called "corporate householding," this gives marketing clients several simultaneous views of that company. D&B said this more complete picture can point its clients to additional marketing opportunities within that company.
D&B already provides more than 7.7 million legally linked records based on parent and subsidiary linkage. Corporate Linkage Plus adds global relationship views based on "alternative relationships or affiliations" where there is no actual legal ownership. These might include franchises, agents and dealerships.
Data pictures complex
Building a data picture of a corporation has been a long-standing problem for marketers, because often many stakeholders are involved in purchasing decisions and companies aren't linked in a legal context.
Add to that a business environment marked by rapid changes in corporate structures, acquisitions and consolidations, spin-offs, strategic partnerships and joint ventures, and the relationships grow even more complex.
"Corporate householding is the b-to-b challenge of the day," said Krishna Chettayar, assistant VP-marketing strategy at D&B, Chicago. It is especially challenging given the many ways to view the b-to-b customer, he said.
Chettayar cited as an example an auto manufacturer. Chances are good that marketers have no data linkage between Ford the manufacturer and the numerous Ford dealerships in the U.S. Corporate Linkage Plus can provide that data linkage, enabling the marketer to promote its services across the spectrum.
Elana Anderson, principal analyst at Forrester Research, said that while the idea of Corporate Linkage Plus is compelling, its timing may be premature. "I don't think most companies are ready," she said. "An awful lot of companies out there have not yet gotten the value out of the [basic] corporate linkage service."
Anderson said she talks with many b-to-b companies that can't afford the level of investment necessary to access up-to-date, clean, linked data. "Many say, `We can only download it once a year, or maybe quarterly at most,' " she said.
Chettayar said many b-to-b marketers say they want a single view of customers and prospects but that is not possible. "In a business environment, there is no one view. That's fiction," he said. The marketer has to maintain multiple views and understand them in context, he said.
"Marketing people mail to someone who decides or selects [a product or service] but may not be the contract signer," Chettayar said. "The contract signer might be the CFO. Service and support view the customer as the end user. They are the ones who will be buying software and services. Then there's the legal view. The four views are all correct. You have to maintain all of them."