Choosing a Data Provider for your Business-to-Business Product, Part I: Market Landscape

In a relatively short period of time, lead scoring, predictive analytics, and other innovative technologies have permanently transformed the way business-to-business (B2B) marketers and salespeople manage the sales funnel and close more business.

If software is the engine driving modern B2B marketing, data is the fuel powering that engine. While there are many different types of data that a marketing software or software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendor might choose to integrate into its product, two of the most fundamental are contact data and company (or business) data.

While both contact and company data present interesting challenges to those companies working to collect and utilize them, the company data space is perhaps unique in that it has historically been dominated by a handful of old-world information providers. For years, these publishers were the only way to get marketing data on companies, short of collecting it yourself. Today, the business model of the old-guard publishers is being fundamentally challenged by specialist providers and startup companies taking new approaches to collecting company data.

For founders and product owners whose products and services depend on company data, choosing a provider and a strategy for integrating their data into the product is a critical decision that is likely to have a tremendous impact on the business for years to come.

Company Data Provider Market Overview

Due to the inherent difficulty of amassing and managing a directory of corporate profiles and data, there are actually not a huge number of companies doing it. Still, the space is rapidly evolving and noisy, with all vendors seemly claiming to do everything. As a result, it helps to have a lay of the land of the business data provider marketplace.

The space consists essentially of:

  • Old-Guard Publishers. These are companies like Dun & Bradstreet (aka D&B, a company founded in 1841), Hoovers (acquired by D&B over 10 years ago), LexisNexis, and Dow Jones. NetProspex (also now part of D&B), InfoUSA and Experian fall under this category as well. Generally speaking, these companies hire teams of professional editors to research and update their company databases, though they are slowly incorporating technological methods. For years these companies were the only way to get marketing data on companies.
  • Repackagers. These are firms that repackage and resell data from one or more of the old-guard publishers in a way that makes it more conducive to the needs of a specific use case. A good example are ReachForce and InsideView. They consume triangulate data from several data providers and offer a data appending service to Salesforce users. In general, these firms cannot offer general data services to the marketplace as a result of various restrictive clauses in their contracts with the publishers.
  • Niche Players. The niche players are firms that offer business information as the consequence of some other services they provide, only provide information on a specific type or sector of business, or only provide data based on a particular data source. Enigma.io, CrunchBaseFactual, Datanyze, HGData and BuiltWith are examples of niche players. Enigma specializes in public records published by governments and other organizations, CrunchBase offers information only on startups, and Factual provides information on business locations.
  • Technology-Enabled Upstarts. The technology-enabled upstarts are companies whose core business is providing company information, and who collect this information primarily through the use of highly automated techniques based on technologies like big data and machine learning. Orb Intelligence is an example of a data-driven specialist.

Now that we understand a bit about the companies that make up the business information space we are in a better position to compare and contrast the various options.

In our next post we’ll explore key criteria for selecting a business data provider.