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Having been in the b-to-b marketing world for more than 30 years, I can say that the advances made over the past five years have been unprecedented. The technology and communication tools now available, combined with the plethora of information, have made the b-to-b marketing industry one of the fastest-growing sectors in the economy. There remains a great deal of potential for further growth.

The greatest innovation, and what has led to so much potential, has been the ability to efficiently use the information we have for marketing. For several years now, there has been a great deal of information available, but a business had to sort through all of it with no guarantees of finding quality prospects. Businesses did sometimes find strong leads but only after laboring for days and weeks. Needless to say, it was not the most efficient and profitable process.

Think back to those who took part in the great gold rushes of the 19th century. Some of those men and women staked their lives on finding gold nuggets. However, more often than not, prospectors came away empty-handed from their efforts. This was despite the fact that there was plenty of land and that many of the people worked very hard. So what went wrong? The problem was in finding the specific piece of land that had the gold.

Any business can relate. Much like a prospector looking for his or her fortune, businesses must work a given field very hard for success. However, if businesses are looking in the wrong place, it does not matter how hard they work, they simply will not find any gold nuggets. And if they do find something, it is probably after a long time and after much failure along the way. This was the case before, as businesses had to sift through many prospects, including lower quality ones, to find their nuggets. This has changed now.

The field of b-to-b marketing has had so much innovation in the past five years that businesses need no longer sift through thousands or tens of thousands of prospects. Instead, businesses are now provided with a few hundred leads as opposed to a few thousand leads. And within these few hundred there is a much higher percentage of quality leads than there used to be. It is like giving the prospectors exact locations as to where the most gold is.

And just as a prospector would find success with his gold nuggets, more and more businesses succeed with marketing because they now receive information loaded with gold nuggets.

These past five years have proved to be great times for b-to-b marketing and it is only the beginning. As more and more businesses use the capabilities we now have, they will be more and more likely to find their nuggets and achieve their goals.

Vin Gupta is chairman-CEO of infoUSA. He can be reached at [email protected]

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