1997 Mar 01

B2B Inc. B2B
David M. Raab
DM News
March, 1997

After years of corporate belt-tightening, growth is back in style. This is good news for data compilers, who provide the lists of prospects that marketers must contact if they want to move beyond their existing customer base. One of challenges these compilers face has been making their data available as widely as possible. Physical distribution has gotten vastly simpler, through CD-ROMs and the Internet in particular. But many potential buyers still lack even the rudimentary database marketing system needed to use any data they might acquire. This is particularly frustrating to compilers of business data, whose lists can command high prices even when used for simple promotions.

It’s no surprise, then, that major business data marketers have developed their own marketing software products. Dun & Bradstreet offers Market Spectrum and Database America has ProfitZone. ABI will gain access to ProfitZone through its recently announced merger with Database America. But before that deal was set, ABI had arranged to gain use of another product.

B2B (B2B Inc., 770-753-0988) was developed as a simple, low-cost business-to-business database marketing system. It runs on a Windows 95 PC, uses a standard relational database (Acius 4D), and provides the basic functions to import data, generate promotions, and evaluate response. It is priced at $2,500 per user per year and can be purchased with preloaded data from ABI.

Like other business marketing systems, B2B is structured to mix a list of the users’ own customers with a purchased set of prospects. The system does not store separate records for different individuals within the same business, although it would be possible to store more than one name at a business by creating user-defined fields. Similarly, the system does not store specific transaction records, although it would be possible to store a summary of transaction data, such as lifetime purchases, on a company record. B2B does use ABI’s company data to establish relationships among parent and subsidiary companies, allowing users to do selections or analysis on the basis of specific firms, their immediate corporate parents, or the ultimate owner. This type of analysis is important to business marketers who need to determine whether a given location is the actual purchaser of a product and also to do analyses that give a full picture of a company’s relationship with its customers.

Matching a user’s customer records with the ABI business file is done outside of the system, usually by ABI itself. A typical client might send its customer list to ABI and receive back a file that includes the original customers, ABI information on those customers’ revenues, number of employees, SIC code and corporate parents, and ABI information on potential prospects in the same industries. This matching and appending might be done quarterly. In between, the user could update the file with sales information or other data, matched against specific records with a unique ID such as the ABI-assigned company number. B2B makes this possible with a simple data import function and by letting users create a virtually unlimited number of user-defined fields. These fields can also include calculated values, including aggregates such as cumulative sales that are generated by adding together multiple input records.

The system provides a very easy-to-use point-and-shoot query interface that allows users to select records using any combination of the basic business characteristics plus the user defined fields. There are some limits to the complexity of the queries that can be generated directly through the interface, but these can largely be overcome either by creating calculated user-defined fields or by creating multiple lists and then merging or excluding them from each other. Lists can also be created by selecting rows from a “penetration” report that ranks SIC codes based on the percentage of total companies that are flagged as customers. This report also shows the average sales made to customers in each group and will use this figure to calculate the potential sales to prospects in the same group.

Lists selected for a marketing campaign are stored as separate files, along with a user-provided estimate of expected sales per name on the list. Standard reports will compare the actual to expected sales after the campaign is complete. Other available reports include a simple cross tab, a distribution report comparing statistics for records with different values of a specified variable, and a columnar report with user-defined sorts and subtotals. The 4D database is compatible with the Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) standard, so users could also view the data through other standard relational database reporting and query tools if they wanted.

The system uses both clustered indexes, which provide instant counts on fields with small numbers of unique values such as state codes, and conventional indexes, which allow queries at a rate of about one million rows per minute. Queries on unindexed fields run at about 100,000 rows per minute. Users can decide which fields to index.

B2B is priced at $2,500 for a single user per year. System utilities allow users to set up their own system without outside assistance, although B2B Inc. will provide implementation consulting if desired. Buyers receive one day of on-site training. The system is being offered in a $35,000 bundle that also includes matching against the ABI file, appending ABI information on up to 100,000 customer names, and providing statistical records (without names and addresses) of the full 10.5 million ABI database.

The system was introduced in late 1996 and officially released in February 1997. It had two beta customers and has several additional installations under way. B2B Inc. plans a series of enhancements to the product, potentially including integration with Database America’s map-oriented ProfitZone system.

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David M. Raab is a Principal at Raab Associates Inc., a consultancy specializing in marketing technology and analytics. He can be reached at draab@raabassociates.com.

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