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TECHNOLOGY: Prospect management systems

 Information is king in the world of marketing, none more so than in the B2B sector where high quality sales leads are a commercial imperative for all enterprises. Traditional sources of marketing data have been available for decades, but until now the analysis of that data has not offered marketers a means of focusing their specific needs and retrieving potential customer data via an easily accessible interface.

One of the key drivers that have made today's prospecting tools a practical proposition is the Internet. Prior to this, marketing information was bought from vendors who would provide little more than list databases. The Internet has changed not only how marketing data is bought and sold, but has also added a new layer of sophistication that has enabled businesses to fine tune the prospect data they are buying.

"One thing we are seeing is a focus on quality of information and a more targeted approach,” says Nick Frazer, head of B2B marketing at Experian. “Prospecting tools are increasingly being used in a more targeted manner. We're seeing smaller downloads of data that allow clients to focus on best prospects and to go after them. There has also been an increase in directory-based tools that allow additional data to be downloaded.”

Prospecting for new clients is now more of a science, but the tools that are available today must be taken in context. In this market, one size definitely doesn't fit all, as each business's sales lead requirements will be unique to them. At first glance the new species of prospecting tools offer solutions that can deliver highly qualified sales leads for very little outlay and effort. Jeremy Keohane, MD at TW Connect however, warns that this evolution of the traditional sales tool must not be taken at face value. “Clients are seduced by the 'out of the box' promise as it seems a quick easy fix. There is often a massive unforeseen investment in learning and adaptation – sometimes this can outweigh the initial capital investment. It can also make the prospecting tool redundant if it does not live up to the hype.”

He continues, “Another concern often raised is that many businesses are complex, fast moving or have channel components. This makes the identification and distribution of prospects a non-linear activity – many prospecting tools do not accommodate for this complexity in the business structure and process.”