What Are The Right B2B Data Sources?

What Are The Right B2B Data Sources?

September 2021 | Marketing Operations

Building a marketing database is hard. Choosing the best third party data sources for your database is even harder. The right vendor depends on your audience.

There is no such thing as a perfect marketing database. Data is forever changing to reflect the constantly evolving digital marketplace. Contacts change jobs, companies merge, and opportunities close. Trying to keep up with all this change is an impossible task. Yet, too many marketers don't even try.

Responsibility for data accuracy often rests with marketing ops and sales ops. Keeping all this information up-to-date is a team effort, requiring the co-operation of everyone across marketing and sales. After all, your sales teams are generally the most accurate data source that you've got. Unlike most data vendors, they'll have spoken to the customer directly. As such, they'll have the latest information about the state of the business, as well as the roles and responsibilities of the people working there.

Of course, few sales reps want to take responsibility for data updates. However, they can be persuaded if incentivised to properly use the CRM system. Actually persuading them to enter information into Salesforce or Dynamics is often the hard part, but data quality will improve substantially once a routine is established.

Giving sales ownership over their accounts and contacts is essential, particularly in an era of increasing data protection. They can be your best source of opt-ins, but they need to feel in control of the conversation. Creating email templates and call scripts that allow sales to promote marketing opt-in to their customers is vital. If that can be extended to include data validation too, then that saves time for everyone.

None of this replaces the need for a reliable source of account and contact information from outside the business. It simply isn't possible to profile new accounts correctly if you're missing their industry and company size. Sales or telemarketing can't be expected to manually research these details for every net new lead that crosses their desk. Besides, it's probably too late by that point anyway. You need to accurately segment them when you start marketing to them.

Choices, Choices, Choices

For many enterprise organisations, the decision about where to acquire account data is simple. Dun & Bradstreet has been the gold standard firmographic vendor for a very long time. Their DUNS number hierarchy is the foundational layer for many marketing databases. D&B's unique identifier is used to detect and merge duplicate account records in the CRM system.

D&B are the obvious choice for a good reason, but they are not infallible. When it comes to US headquartered multinationals there generally is no one better. However, their data becomes less accurate the further you stray from this sweet spot. Local data suppliers are often more accurate if you're interested in small business information in Asia and Europe.

Similarly, for contact information, ZoomInfo has rapidly become the default data source for many enterprise organisations. Their data is more likely to be validated by the contact themselves, making it more reliable than competitors. They suffer from the same biases as D&B though. Their focus on North America means that other suppliers are frequently better when sourcing contact data in Europe and Asia. Not many decision makers in France or Germany have an actively maintained ZoomInfo profile.

The same regional biases are true for intent data. Bombora popularised this category, turning the page views of publishers and media firms into a real-time view of what companies are researching. Their business model requires them to ingest vast amounts of web analytics from their publisher network. That network is biased towards English language sites though, which means they have a much smaller coverage in Europe and Asia. Competing intent data vendors such as the UK based Cyance are less exposed to this problem.

Setting Priorities

In general, there is no single data provider that provides a global view, which means that organisations looking for such a view need to combine the major vendors with local sources. That can lead to complexity, especially when trying to judge the relative accuracy of different sources. Identifying the best data source for each market or segment is essential. The likes of D&B or ZoomInfo can then be used as a backup when the local sources are incomplete.

Try not to get too detailed when prioritising data sources. No matter which vendors you use, it is inevitable that good data will get overwritten with bad. Be careful about updating records that field teams are manually maintaining. Agree on rules of engagement around those accounts. After all, the last thing you want to do is discourage sales from taking an active role in improving data quality. All other accounts are fair game for any data enrichment process. Just remember that no database is perfect.

Banner Photo by Tobias Fischer / Unsplash

Written by
Marketing Operations Consultant and Solutions Architect at CRMT Digital specialising in marketing technology architecture. Advisor on marketing effectiveness and martech optimisation.