Gone prospecting

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B-to-b publishers turn to data companies to reach new prospects in tough times More and more demands are being heaped on audience developers to deliver incredibly high-quality readers. Prospecting for those new names can be increasingly difficult, particularly in the current economy. That climate and the resulting layoffs across the nation have led to fewer potential readers for b-to-b publications. E-mail response rates are down and opt-out rates are increasing, according to Debbie Winders, VP-circulation and distribution at IDG. “Since our budgets are not going up and, in many cases [are] going down, it is becoming harder and harder to reach the right people for our publications,” she said. “I do not anticipate things improving any time soon.” A number of data companies—such as Demandbase Inc., InfoGROUP Inc., LeadLander Inc. and Zoom Information—are trying to answer the call for names on both the circulation and advertising sides of the b-to-b equation by providing as much searchable and specific information about prospects as possible. Data prospectors are seeing more requests for midlevel director and manager contact names, said Colleen Honan, senior VP-global sales and service at OneSource (an infoGROUP company). “This is due to the fact that the budgets are tightening and having more than one contact at a business gives more opportunity to succeed with all people involved in the decision-making process.” She pointed out that today more decisions within companies are made by committees rather than by a single high-level executive. Chip Terry, VP-general manager at Zoom Information, noted a similar economy-related trend from publishers: “There are more requests for names that are not from Fortune 500 or 1,000 companies. People are thinking they were too dependent on those large companies and they need to have more companies lower on the list in case a larger one falls apart.” Susan Scarth, VP-marketing at Demandbase, said the old marketing adage about “knowing that half of your marketing is working, but not knowing which half”can be tossed into the waste bin. “Your programs are incredibly trackable now,” she said. “And you can figure out exactly what types of people are using your products and why.” Over the next year, OneSource's Honan said she expects b-to-b publishers to use social media more effectively. “People [are] using social media sites to access influencers and decision-makers,” she said. “Sales and marketing people are following these contacts on Twitter, looking for relevant topics to comment on and to gain an introduction.” Such networks make it easier to identify opportunities, she said. Another trend ZoomInfo's Terry has identified is the need for more specific niches: For one client recently, he ran a search for salespeople in Denver who own Harleys. Greg Grdodian, exec VP at Edith Roman Associates and ePost Direct (an infoGROUP company) wasn't surprised by the need for specificity. “B-to-b publishers must stay on top of changing trends in their particular marketplaces or verticals, and that is reflective in the wide range of categories or job titles they seek to market to or reach on an ongoing basis,” he said. Targeting particular industries can also help unearth new markets, Demandbase's Scarth said. “Oftentimes, you can see fluctuation in demand based on verticals or geography and maybe uncover some hidden demand that you hadn't perceived,” she said. In her own work, she said, she discovered that there were opportunities in education: universities wanted to market executive education to businesses. “I was totally surprised, but now it's a market I can talk to,” she said. Terry encourages b-to-b data prospectors to use every bit of information they have on a person when attempting contact. “The more you can personalize, the higher the chance that the person will respond,” he said. “If you can say, "I saw you quoted in X magazine' or something to that effect, it will increase the odds of making that connection.” M
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