List compilers forge alliances to enrich their databases

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Not content with the specific data-research processes they've previously relied on, database list providers are combining with former competitors, a variety of other suppliers and services, and new social resources to augment the richness of their lists.

Last week, Hoover's—the business information company that maintains a database of some 33 million companies, primarily by using an in-house editorial staff of researchers—linked up with social database site Jigsaw, which allows members to exchange and share their business information.

The resultant deal will add more than 7 million of Jigsaw's contacts into Hoover's ConnectMail service. Since Jigsaw members are continually updating their information, in a manner appropriate to a true social site, Hoover's expects its e-mail marketing lists will be more current as well.

And it goes the other way. Last summer, Jigsaw worked a deal with direct marketing company Harte-Hanks to enrich Jigsaw's own database with market intelligence on information technology companies and their purchasing intentions. The new liaison will provide Jigsaw the ability to append additional marketing intelligence from Harte-Hanks' targeted IT, telecommunications and overall technology investment databases, including information about companies' installed technologies.

This year, Dun & Bradstreet, Hoover's parent company, forged a deal with Jigsaw to offer more than 9 million contacts with business-to-business e-mails and direct-dial numbers. Meanwhile, database company ZoomInfo has been gradually extending its own list-building process, one that scrubs the Web for any and all business and employee names and information.

For several years, ZoomInfo allowed listed people to “claim” their profiles and update them, in LinkedIn or Jigsaw fashion. Now, ZoomInfo is set to launch on Dec. 1 an outreach called Fresh Contacts, to encourage users to provide contacts out of their Microsoft Outlook database in exchange for ZoomInfo contacts, a swap also reminiscent of the Jigsaw model.

“I like the idea of these companies doing deals with other companies,” said Bernice Grossman, president of database marketing consultancy DMRS Group. “Compilers started years ago with phone books, and you could only update your lists as quickly as you could. Now everything can be updated several times a day.”

Grossman points out that the new ZoomInfo offering is not intended to be used for database marketing.

ZoomInfo confirmed this.

“It's more of an application for the out-of-work professional, or the sales rep and small-business owner, rather than a marketer,” said Chip Terry, VP-general manager, enterprise solutions, for ZoomInfo. He noted that users can download just one contact at a time from ZoomInfo's database of 45 million names, in exchange for their entire Outlook database. Moreover, the program extends just two months per user.

“We'll be getting enriched databases, but of course a lot of those contacts will be out of date,” Terry said. “But the other thing we're getting, and expect when all these people go back to work, is really good word-of-mouth.”

Terry sees an inevitable trend toward further convergence of list-building and data-hygiene technologies, in particular as database services migrate to an on-demand, cloud-based model.

That was borne out with the unveiling last week of the Marketing Cloud, an alliance of marketing vendors offering their services via an integrated, on-demand process.

The participants include list companies Demandbase, Hoover's and Jigsaw, as well as content-management company Alfresco, marketing automation company Marketo, webcasting and virtual events provider On24 and business intelligence company PivotLink.

Demandbase is an example of a list company that already is partnering with others. Its own proprietary list-building technology massages and enriches data from Dun & Bradstreet, Harte-Hanks, Hoover's, Jigsaw and others.

"Marketing effectiveness is no longer about the number of clicks; it's about traffic quality, conversion, sales pipeline and revenue," said Chris Golec, Demandbase CEO, of the Marketing Cloud initiative. "The cloud provides ... the infrastructure and scalability that is needed to map 100 million Web site visitors every month with 120 business databases.”

Demandbase may be the beneficiary of great synergies with outside vendors. One of its investors is Adobe, which in September announced it would acquire Web analytics company Omniture. How an Omniture-Demandbase mashup would play out is open to conjecture.

“It's still fairly early,” said Golec. “I can't discuss too much more. Adobe and Omniture are just trying to figure out how to put themselves together, but it's a pretty exciting opportunity for those companies.”

As for Adobe and Demandbase, Golec said, “There are certainly a lot of linkages there.”

To some extent, all the information-sharing and partnering that's going on, even among former competitors (Jigsaw and Hoover's, for example), is a recognition that no single method is ideal for assembling absolutely perfect marketing lists.

“In the past, marketers were primarily using physical direct mail, but the trend is toward e-communications, which is easier to measure and more cost-efficient,” said Peter Poulin, exec-VP of marketing and business development with Hoover's, of the Jigsaw alliance. In social media fashion, Jigsaw's individual businessperson listings are all “anchored” by business e-mail addresses verified by users.

“Freshness of the data is increasingly important, and these wiki models are powerful,” Poulin said, citing the value of user-verified information in a social media model. “Users today have grown up in the world of Web services, APIs and mashups, and they expect these kinds of integrations.”

Poulin said Hoover's has other integration arrangement with customer relationship management services such as Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle, and Siebel. Each has the potential to feed real-time accuracy into databases that formerly had been updated only periodically.

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