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How Web 2.0 is REALLY Revolutionizing B-to-B Direct Marketing

Ruth P. Stevens - B-to-B

To me, the new media are still behaving more like PR tools - high potential for awareness-building, and some spin-off lead generation on the side, but not ready for prime time in delivering the predictable volumes we need to run our businesses.

So, as I survey the new media landscape, I say, great, let's keep up the experiments. Let's give Web 2.0 a shot, and if a viral video campaign on Facebook can get business buyers' attention, and motivate them to respond, then let's do more if it.

But for the time being, we still need a solid base of mail, phone, email and the other proven, reliable, outbound communications media to get the job done.

New Data Sources for Marketers

In the meantime, however, there is one exciting new aspect of the social media world where I do see immediate application for us B-to-B direct marketers. I am talking about the websites that are creating entirely new data sources for us, based on the consumer-generated media concept popularized via Web 2.0.

So far, I've seen a bunch of new tools that are making a powerful contribution. And no doubt more are on the way.


Jigsaw's founder, Jim Fowler, calls it "the most complete and accurate B-to-B database in the world." Wow. Originally organized as a business card swapping site for sales people, Jigsaw has rapidly become a major new competitor both to long-established sources of business intelligence like Hoover's, and to mailing list data compilers like InfoUSA.

You might say Jigsaw is the Wikipedia of B-to-B data. Here's how it works. Jigsaw users - there are nearly 500,000 of them - upload information from their Rolodexes.

To qualify, a record must be "complete," meaning that it includes company name, contact name, site address, phone, fax and email. Jigsaw then confirms that the listing represents a real business with a ping to the company website. (Only records with corporate email domain names are allowed. So legitimate business people who happen to use AOL or Earthlink will not make the cut.) Jigsaw is growing by 20,000 new records daily.

Users are awarded Jigsaw points for uploading information, and they can spend their points to download new contacts and create prospect lists. Users also get points for updating Jigsaw records with correct information - and lose points if someone else makes a later correction to "their" record. Says Fowler, "The point system is our secret weapon. We have half a million people doing our data hygiene for us, daily. Compare that to twice-annual outbound phone calls from Omaha."

Jigsaw also offers company level information, which it compiles from public sources, from partners, and from users. The data on public companies is validated by Jigsaw, and private company information is added and updated by the user community.

For marketers, Jigsaw offers two key services:

  1. fresh data for outbound campaigns and

  2. append and hygiene for your marketing database. Unlike traditional list rental, when you download data from Jigsaw, you own it. You can import it into your database, and you can contact the names as often as you like, through any medium.

Jigsaw stands to make its money from the second service, namely, hygiene and append. Marketers may send their house files to Jigsaw's data services team. In a recent example, a mid-sized professional services and training company sent in 51,620 names from their marketing database.

The Jigsaw team was able to complete the contact-level information of 3,473 records (6.7%) and update the old information on 14,254 records in an append process. On the hygiene front, they flagged 23,985 of the names as "dead" (46.5%) and 623 as duplicates.

In another instance, a $125 million software company called Taleo was about to launch a new product. Their traditional product was bought by heads of recruiting, but the new product was intended for vps of HR and heads of organizational development. So Taleo took its 500-company installed base to Jigsaw, appended 5,000 additional contacts who met the new criteria, and began marketing to them using mail, email and phone.


Another worthy competitor to Hoover's and InfoUSA has emerged in the form of PowerSell, a service of ZoomInfo. Unlike Jigsaw's consumer generated approach, ZoomInfo's strategy involves automated scanning of the Internet for business information and merge-purging it into a gigantic list of companies and contacts, available to marketers and sales people.

"We are a business information search engine," says Bryan Burdick, president. "Our competitive advantage is our 'semantic' search technology, an algorithm that identifies useful information, tags it, and matches it successfully to other pieces of information." The result is records of 42 million contacts and nearly 4 million companies.

Another way PowerSell is different is that you can search the names based not only on criteria typical in B-to-B, like company size, industry and title or job function, but you can also select targets based on the kinds of information that can be gleaned from press releases about employees, like whether they had just joined a new company. Financial planners, brokers and insurance sales people, for example, would certainly be interested in identifying a list of CEOs whose stock options recently vested.

According to Chip Terry, vice president of the sales intelligence business unit, ZoomInfo's method of scanning the Internet and harvesting data about companies and employees means higher levels of accuracy than most databases. "The first thing a company does when an executive leaves is update their website," says Terry.

"We compare the information to the company's previous list of executives, and if someone is suddenly missing, we can infer that the person has changed jobs. Our system is updating 30 million profiles a day." Registered users of ZoomInfo are also voluntarily updating another 10,000 of their own profiles weekly.

ZoomInfo recently crafted a deal that allows users to search and pull in PowerSell data from within the tool for either cold calling or account penetration. ZoomInfo names are also on the rental market, managed by Worldata.


LinkedIn is arguably the grand-daddy of B-to-B social media sites, with 20 million contacts registered. Just about everyone I know is using the tool. It's a startlingly good resource for finding people in target companies, and networking your way to introductions to people you want to meet. So far so good, for business development and job hunting.

But as a data resource for marketing campaigns, LinkedIn data is probably never going to be available. Why? LinkedIn doesn't own the data, and thus can't make it available in bulk to marketers. Says Scott Roberts, senior director of business development at LinkedIn, "We want people to use their networks in a positive way. Our model is based on business etiquette and privacy protection. If you want to reach LinkedIn members in a one-to-many way, then targeted display advertising on our site is the solution."

Not much help for direct marketing. But there are some indications that B-to-B direct marketers are looking for creative ways to take advantage of the LinkedIn database. OneSource, a high-end global business data supplier owned by InfoGROUP, recently announced that it had attached a widget to its Global Business Browser that allows clients who are looking at a particular target company on the OneSource database to instantly view the company employees that are already in that client's LinkedIn network.

"The main benefit to our subscribers is convenience," says Sham R. Sao, CMO of OneSource. "With LinkedIn's three degrees of separation, a small number of contacts can represent a million-name network. OneSource users now have the option of approaching their targets through personal LinkedIn introductions instead of cold calling."


Most B-to-B marketers have traditionally sourced campaign data through brokers, or, when using online data sources, through subscription-based services like SalesGenie and Hoover's. But for a Web 2.0 world, where user expectations for ease of use and flexibility in e-commerce are at an all-time high, Demandbase has created a concept that is changing how business marketers can access prospecting data.

Like many compilers, Demandbase aggregates business data from multiple sources, among them D&B, Hoovers, LexisNexis, and Zoom. They then extract the "best" element from each source, using a proprietary algorithm that compares duplicates and identifies which one to keep. No surprises there.

But what's different is the Demandbase user experience. It feels like an e-tailer, with a shopping cart and the kinds of functionality you'd find at Amazon or Apple. More important, the content of your cart is priced by the item.

So marketers with very narrowly targeted campaigns - which happens all the time in B-to-B - can order up as few or as many names as needed. "We think we're selling to a 'business consumer,'" says Chris Golec, founder and CEO. "Many business marketers simply can't use 5,000-name minimum orders." MeritDirect is representing Demandbase to the traditional list brokerage industry.

 Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition & retention, and teaches marketing to graduate students at Columbia Business School. She is the author of The DMA Lead Generation Handbook, and her new book is Trade Show and Event Marketing, now available at Amazon. Reach her at

Copyright Ruth P. Stevens: 155 East 34th St., New York, NY, 10016: 212-679-6486 /

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