Web-Based Prospect Databases
I recently struck up a conversation with a woman whose office is on the same floor as ours. My curiosity was piqued by the name of her firm, Red Direct, the first part of which I assumed referred to her red hair, the second part to direct marketing. I was right on both counts, but was unprepared for the full explanation of what her company does . . . she calls it Strategic Executive Marketing, or SEM(r). President Ruth Ann Barrett developed the SEM direct response program after working in the field of relationship marketing for over a decade. While it can be pricey, she's got lots of statistics to prove it works. I'll discuss more about SEM in a later column.
A critical component of SEM is idExec, an online database of executive decision-makers in any industry, which can be accessed in real time. More about idExec below.
I was also recently introduced to another Web-based prospect database software called ProspectMiner. Read further for more about this product, too. But first, let's review some database basics.
It's a shocking fact, but many (most?) companies don't have a marketing database. While all have an accounting database-where one can find a customer's company name address, phone number, and other basic contact information-most are under the mistaken impression that it can serve for marketing. Unfortunately, accounting databases rarely contain the names of the customers, but rather accounts payable contacts. Secondly, these databases generally are not set up as marketing tools, unable to be segmented by industry, by list source, by sales volume, etc. Nor are they networked for sales management.
So the first step before undertaking a lead generation program is to get your data in order. In previous columns, I've discussed the important need to have your databases link with one another. While you may not want your accounting database to directly link with your marketing database, you do want the ability to pass data between the two. Your sales database also should be able to send to and receive data from your production systems. Passwords and other safeguards can be set up in any of the databases to restrict access only to those allowed.
Don't forget about your website, which is also an essential database-building tool. We've moved swiftly from the basic fill-out-the-form-on-our-site-and-fax-it-back online ordering method to much more sophisticated database-driven "customer centers," where interactive programs are conducted via the Web to capture critical data about customers and prospects.
If you haven't gotten your databases in order and connected, the ROI on your marketing dollars will be shallow and short-lived.
In those companies that can honestly toot their customer service horn, CSR heroics are commonplace. However, those same companies fail to take advantage of this fact and effectively communicate their service capabilities. Instead, they rely on the "we have great customer service" mantra, which means nothing except that they're supposedly just like all the other printers out there.
In addition to readying your IT systems, successful prospecting must be founded on a thorough analysis of who you sell to, how you sell, and what sales challenges you face, both internally and externally.
The example set by one of our new clients is a case in point. Before we were retained, we were asked to participate in an all-day SWOT analysis session with sales reps. Conducted by the General Manager, the session was informative and exhausting. Every product was identified and categorized by market. Every market was segmented and analyzed vis a vis the company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Customers were identified by job title, and their key selling points were articulated.
The marketing audits my company conduct accomplish much the same, though more comprehensively. (We conduct actual interviews with customers, competitors, as well as staff and management.) However, the information generated from our client's session was invaluable to our ability to hit the ground running in developing industry-specific marketing materials for the company. Equally important, our client got buy-in and cooperation from his sales team, since they were direct participants in the development of the study.
Two Interesting Web-based Databases
Judging from the number of emails and calls I received when last July's column on prospecting databases was published here, lead generation is a hot button these days. I mentioned a couple of list services in that column, but Web-based, real-time databases are an entirely new breed of B2B lead generation database tools.
For those wishing to sell at the executive level-and commercial printers should be doing this-you should check out idEXEC (parent company is infoUSA), which Barrett uses in her SEM program. Go to for more information about this Web-based database tool. Basically, though, it's an online, continually updated database of decision-making executives in firms with revenues of $30 million plus. This is not a stand-alone database. It's what is referred to as an Application Programming Interface (API) that allows users to "identify and access over 450,000 top executive decision-makers in 48 different job functions at over 60,000 public, private, government and nonprofit organizations around the world." While many list services tout frequent updating, Barrett is convinced of its reliability, after 10 years of working with the product. In its own words, idExec claims "continuous, proactive, first-hand, multi-source researching and updating (4,000 changes/week) for unparalleled reliability, accuracy and timeliness."
Another Web-based database that was recently brought to my attention is ProspectMiner. It's a product of the European CRM firm update.com, which went public last year on the Austrian stock exchange. I recently was given an online demo of the product. (BTW: The demo was conducted via WebEx, which by itself was an interesting experience. But that's another column.) You can go to www.update.com/prospectminer for more information and to schedule your own demo. If you like, I can give you a specific contact.
Describing itself as an "intelligent software solution for web-based company identification and qualification," update.prospectminer "filters a large number o high-value leads from the Web at a low cost per lead ratio." Basically, the software employs meta search tools that utilize Natural Language Processing (NCP) to analyze content in websites throughout the Internet. Searches are real-time and not bound by codes and categories typical of most list resources. Users lease the software for a year for $25,000 (one location, four users) after which time they pay an annual fee, based on size of company, number of users, etc.
The technologies employed by both products are astounding and will certainly lead to ever more sophisticated prospecting applications. In the meantime, though, check these out.
Charlotte Mills Seligman is president of Traversant Marketing Communications. The firm specializes in planning and executing integrated marketing programs for printing and allied graphic arts companies, with nearly two decades of expertise in the industry. Previous columns and issues of the company's Ti Monthly e-newsletter are posted on http://www.traversant.com. Inquiries should be directed to (415) 357-2929 or charlotte @traversant.com.
© 2001 Charlotte Mills Seligman