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Buyers of information technology (IT) are one of the most valued audiences targeted by business marketers.  Globally, these professionals spend $3.6 trillion on hardware, software and technology services.  My colleague Bernice Grossman and I recently investigated the availability of prospecting data available to tech marketers for reaching this desirable group, and we found some surprises. 

We asked twenty companies who supply prospecting data to business marketers to share with us statistics about the quantity and quality of the data they have on IT buyers in the U.S.  Nine vendors graciously participated in our study—specifically, Data.com, D&B, Harte-Hanks, Infogroup, Mardev-DM2, NetProspex, Stirista, Worldata, and ZoomInfo.  Our thanks to them for letting us poke around under their hoods.

We asked each participating vendor to report to us on the number of companies on their databases in ten industries, by SIC code.  We also asked for the numbers of contacts with IT titles in a sampling of twenty firms in those SICs, ten large enterprises and ten small businesses.  Finally, we sent them the names and addresses of ten actual IT professionals (people whom Bernice and I happen to know, and were able to persuade to let us submit their names), and we asked the vendors to share with us the exact record they have on those individuals.  The results of our study can be downloaded here.

This is the same methodology we have used in past studies on prospecting data available to business marketers—although this was the first study we have done on a particular industry vertical.  Our objective is, first, to get at the question of coverage, meaning, the extent to which a business marketer can gain access to all the companies and contacts in the target market.   And second, we want to show marketers the level of accuracy in the data available for prospecting—for example, is Joe Schmoe still the CIO at Acme Widgets, and can I get his correct phone number and email address?

The answers to these questions, in general, was YES.  The data reported was surprisingly accurate, especially given how much business marketers complain about the data they get from vendors.  And the coverage was wide, meaning there seem to be plenty of IT names in a variety of industries for us to contact.

But the data also revealed some interesting trends in business marketing in general and tech marketing in specific.

  • Prospecting data is being sold these days out of massive databases, which makes it far easier for marketers to select exactly the targets they want, by such criteria as title, company size and industry, irrespective of whether a “compiled” or a “response” name.
  • Company counts by SIC varied widely among the vendors, reminding us that data providers may have their own proprietary systems for flagging a company by industry code.
  • Job titles are getting fuzzier than ever.  We found real IT professionals using titles such as Platform Manager and Reporting Manager—which makes it tough to know what they really do.

Given these developments, we urge our fellow marketers to probe carefully on data sourcing and categorizing practices, and to specify in great detail exactly what targets you’re going after, when buying data for new customer acquisition.  And we suggest that you source from multiple vendors, in order to expand your market coverage potential.  Happy prospecting to all.

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Ruth Stevens

About Ruth Stevens

Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention, and teaches marketing at companies and business schools in the U.S. and abroad. Crain’s BtoB magazine named Ruth one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing. She is the author of Maximizing Lead Generation: The Complete Guide for B2B Marketers, and Trade Show and Event Marketing. Ruth serves as a director of Edmund Optics, Inc., the HIMMS Media Group, and the Business Information Industry Association. Learn more at www.ruthstevens.com.

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