Marketers will tell you that databases that don't match up can help kill a sell even before it starts. iMarket Inc., a Waltham, Mass.-based marketing data provider, is on a mission to make sure this doesn't happen.
This week, iMarket will begin marketing to corporate sales forces a souped-up version of its database matching software. It will be tailored to a client's specifications and can be sent over the Internet to far-flung sales people, said Doug Borchard, VP-general manager of zapdata.com, iMarket's Web business unit.
The matching software aggregates information from the databases of iMarket and the customer to give salespeople a clean list of top leads. "It solves the problem of finding new customers," Borchard said. "Any sales rep can fire up their browser and get this information."
Typically, a salesperson might sift through many databases to piece together a worthy lead list. Such a process is not only arduous, but also random.
Real-time information can also be hard to get in such a scenario. Data, for example, might be as fresh as that found in a yellowing newspaper, with dated titles and phone numbers. To avoid this problem, iMarket's matching software is constantly refreshed through Internet downloads.
iMarket is targeting midsize and large companies, "mostly, companies with at least 50 salespeople that sell b-to-b," Borchard said. The company is concentrating on industries, such as insurance, that have field sales forces, he said.
Still, potential pitfalls exist. "Most field salespeople are not used to all the technologies," said Robin Neifeld, principal of Internet consultancy NetPlus Marketing Inc. "You've got to make sure it's user-friendly."
Borchard said iMarket's software is easy to use. It works by matching its database against the client's. Many nearly identical leads might exist in both databases, but read differently.
A Donald Dalton, CEO of Younameit.com in one database, for example, might be incorrectly listed as a Donny Delton, chairman of YouNameit.com in another. Or names might not exist at all, only titles or phone numbers. Such confusion can lead to gaffes. The software produces the most accurate and updated version by fixing things such as incorrect spellings, Borchard said, as iMarket's matching software is continually updated with correct information.
John Murray, senior consultant at TeleSales Inc., said iMarket's software has made his job easier. "We're trying to call specific targets within an organization, CIOs or very high-level IT executives," he said. "Often we don't have contact names. So iMarket's products have been useful here."
The corporate sales drive coincides with the latest incarnation of iMarket's matching software, the first version of which was introduced in 1996. Over the years, it has been sped up and made accessible in PC, server, CD-ROM and Internet versions.
Database matching software products are not unusual, and while not yet a staple with field sales forces, they are catching on. iMarket is gambling that its latest rendition will take off because of its speed and accuracy, Borchard said.
The company is also touting the software's database, he said. iMarket compiles information not only from its own databases, but also from partners such as Harte-Hanks Inc. and Cahners Business Information.
About 20,000 customers currently use the software, a number iMarket execs aim to double within a year, Borchard said. The products will be promoted through an ongoing ad campaign running in magazines such as Business 2.0 and The Industry Standard. The company's overall marketing budget, Borchard said, is "several million dollars a year." He declined to be more specific.