Acquisition to bolster D&B small-biz services

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Looking to soup up its products and services geared for small businesses, Dun & Bradstreet Inc. last week agreed to purchase b-to-b sales and marketing software and services provider iMarket Inc. for an undisclosed sum.

The deal means D&B will gain access to iMarket's, a direct and database Web site that has more than 40,000 registered users.

Unlike most database service companies, which sell lists of thousands of names, Zapdata has been selling its 35 million sales and marketing leads on a one-by-one basis. It charges a minimum of $10 for a single sale. Its median sale is about $60.

Tim Murphy, president-North America for D&B, said the iMarket acquisition, scheduled to be completed by July, builds upon his company's on-going migration to the Web. That effort began in 2000 when the Murray Hill, N.J. company converted 15 million business records from flat files to Web-ready relational databases and aligned with American International Group Inc. to form the Web transaction insurance service Avantrust.

Will Reynolds, iMarket's president-CEO, said his 90-employee company in Waltham, Mass. agreed to be acquired because D&B's marketing muscle will allow iMarket's team to concentrate on new Web-enabled products. For example, earlier this month iMarket released a new service that allows sales and marketing executives to update information stored within in-house customer lists, Reynolds said.

"We felt we would be able to dominate the earth to a far greater extent [through this deal]," Reynolds said.

The iMarket acquisition will prove valuable if it can help D&B boost its business among small-business customers, said James Dougherty, business service and advertising analyst for Prudential Securities Inc., New York. D&B's earlier efforts to increase its base of small customers have largely met with failure, he said.

"The unmet promise at D&B is expanding their client base to smaller companies," Dougherty said. "The idea behind this acquisition is that they will be able to provide database services at reasonable prices through Internet access."

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