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Revenge of the Data Nerds: Who Will Be the Next Heartthrob of the B2B Data Market?

Written on
Dec 4, 2013 
Author
Mike Hilts  |

ADOTAS — A quick glance at the dance card of digital B2B data providers reads like a dotcom spelling bee.  I don’t mean to disparage these brands (or their clever use of the English language), but noticeably absent from the RSVP list are the more academic-minded stalwarts of the B2B database marketing industry.  Traditional, class valedictorians are studying hard, and making great strides to bridge the digital gap, but to date have steered clear of the dance floor.  They appear to be content hanging out by the punchbowl while the new guy gets his groove on.  Things are about to change however and one of these players just might put on the dancing shoes and show moves that would teach Justin Timberlake a thing or two.


Flashy, life of the party first movers, ones that lack the burden of legacy systems and customer commitments, have been able to turn some heads in the B2B digital data arena. While some might say the marketplace is somewhat desperate for anything new and different, when it comes to long-term relationships, trust, dependability and commitment still matter. The experience, infrastructure and capabilities that traditional B2B data companies bring to the party cannot be more understated. Think humorous, kind, stable job – you know, the marrying type.

There are two primary reasons why the battle for affection over database marketers is not a fair fight – quality and depth.  For decades traditional B2B data companies have invested heavily in quality and have mature verification and validation processes that ensure greater accuracy.  In addition, their direct mail upbringings have developed their modeling and segmentation expertise.  As a result they are able to offer far better insights and greater depth to the data they bring to market.  Add to the mix the requirements of the data driven, omnichannel marketer and the need for data partners that can support all messaging channels, and it becomes clear who the odds favor.

A secondary reason for the unfair advantage these players hold stems from the evolution of the data industry and the “big data” revolution.  While traditional companies have been working to “bridge the gap” from offline to online, companies specializing in “bridge building” have emerged.  These digital wingmen enable businesses that, in the past have struggled with sudden shifts in technology, to keep pace.  The emergence of DMPs is a prime example, as well as companies such as my own (shameless plug) that provide domain expertise, infrastructure and tools.   As a result, technical barriers are much easier to overcome making some of the trickier dance moves a little easier to learn.

Ultimately, the battle for who gets the B2B data bachelor (or bachelorette) comes down to the courage to make a move.  Already there are several signs in the marketplace that the data superpowers are trading their pocket protectors for skinny jeans and hoodies.  Most noticeable is D&B (Dun & Bradstreet).  In addition to hiring a new CEO with a proven track record in the digital arena, D&B has released some very intriguing product offerings in the past year.  Furthermore, it was just revealed that D&B targeting data will be available on the BlueKai Audience Data Marketplace.  This represents a significant move for D&B and should put the rest of the market on notice.  Current online data players will need to focus their attention on how they address depth of offering and quality while traditional players will need to step up their game.

In the end, results are the difference maker.  All digital marketing disciplines (search, email, display, social, mobile, etc.) have pursued an aggressive path of greater precision, greater accuracy and more choices in order to deliver the promise of results.  The B2B digital data market is no different, and I expect to see a familiar name get the trophy when it is all said and done.  Oh, and don’t be surprised by their age either.





Mike Hilts is the COO of WhoToo, Inc., a Seattle based data-as-a-service company focused on the email and mobile channel (www.whotoo.com). A former member of the Infogroup executive team and President of Yesmail, Mr. Hilts has been active in the marketing technology and database marketing industry since 1999.

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