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ANALYSIS: Market Location aims to shift the B2B data agenda towards quality

Data is arguably the biggest ongoing concern that client-side B2B marketers face in ensuring that their marketing activity is effective. But that's not to say that it isn't an issue for the supply side as well. Indeed, almost certainly data is the hardest fought and most competitive sectors of the B2B marketing service industry, with numerous different solutions being pushed hard by vendors . Of these, third party data is the most competitive area of the lot, with resellers and data owners slugging it out in what is an increasingly commoditised market.

Whilst all the talk is on competing in terms of value-added service, in reality the price of raw business data is increasingly being ground down, with rumours proliferating regarding larger operators taking a loss on individual orders, rather than risk losing the business to a rival.

This places pressure on the smaller suppliers, who are unable to match these tactics, and as a consequence are reacting in very different ways. As reported in B2B Marketing in February (B2BM Feb 06, p08) Conduit has been acquired by Pendragon Marhaus, with the expectation that it will leverage the benefits of being part of a larger group to generate new opportunities, as well as cutting costs. However, this is conjecture; full details of its strategy are still under wraps.

In complete contrast, as reported last autumn (B2BM Nov/Dec 05, p12), Market Location (formerly Wegener DM Business Solutions) has gone completely the opposite direction, buying itself out of its parent company, and now launching its own data file. If the market is as tough as some are claiming, this should be seen as a bold move.

 

Innovation

“I only wanted to take on the company if we could become data owners,” explains Steve Cook, managing director of Market Location. But far from using this to engage in a price war, Cook is placing the onus firmly on innovation.

He explains that the Market Location business universe utilises a new maintenance methodology, using modelling to identify businesses that are encountering financial problems – and are therefore likely to be going bankrupt – and prioritising these for data refreshment. This reflects the fact that certain sectors of the business community are very stable, and experience very little change, and focuses file maintenance where changes are more likely. Cook claims it contrasts with the traditional approach to database cleaning, which involves calling all companies in a strict rotation basis, regardless of their propensity to fail.

Market Location is running this approach to refreshment alongside the usual updates on business moves and startups, and a more proactive approach to handling goneaways. “Our updating process reflects the real changes in the UK economy and allows us to present this to the market in a much more efficient and timely manner. “What it adds up to,” says Cook, is “the B2B equivalent of the Electoral Roll.”

 

Waste disposal

Other suppliers of business data will almost certainly pour cold water on Cook's ambitious claims. But despite this, it is certain that focusing on quality will be good for the long-term health of the B2B data market, and for the effectiveness of B2B direct marketing campaigns. Any opportunities for B2B marketers to be smarter with their direct marketing – and to cut down on waste – will be of huge benefit to the market.

Simon Lawrence, joint MD of data analytics agency Information Arts, comments, “focusing on data accuracy is certainly something to be encouraged, but its important for marketers to focus on which companies are growing as well as those who are having problems. Companies which are growing represent the best opportunity to sell goods and services.”

What is clear is that there will always be scope for innovation in B2B data, and all attempts shift the agenda away from price must be welcomed, as they will raise the overall standard of what is being supplied and encourage other providers to raise their game. And Market Location should be applauded for seeking to add value to market, rather than exacerbate the downward spiral.

The battle against this gradual squeeze on quality will almost certainly also be assisted by the revision of the Business List Audit by the Direct Marketing Association. This is welcomed both by Steve Cook of Market Location and Nick Martin, general manager of Mardev, who praises the requirement for multiple extracts during the audit process. “The nature of the scheme demanded that it sharpen its teeth, which is exactly what it delivered,” he comments. “I expect it will now become a robust quality kitemark.” Perhaps things are looking up for B2B data.

 

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