SaaS Offering Keeps Contact Info Current - InformationWeek
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5/24/2011
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SaaS Offering Keeps Contact Info Current

ZoomInfo touts its proprietary technology as it seeks to 'map the business landscape in near real-time.'

Given the rate of personnel turnover in corporate America today, this stat from The Sales & Marketing Institute isn't all that surprising: 71% of the business cards you collect will have at least one piece of outdated information within a year. About 66% of those changes will be related to job title or function.

ZoomInfo, a business info provider based in Waltham, Mass., is aiming to be the go-to source of up-to-date contact data for businesses, especially SMBs. The company has its work cut out for it; the competition includes NetProspex, JigSaw, LinkedIn, and others. But Kathy Greenler Sexton, vice president of marketing at ZoomInfo, believes that the company's patented, proprietary technology can do a better job of maintaining near-real-time data than anybody else's in the field.

"We provide deep profiles 'beyond the business card,'" Sexton said in an interview. "We're talking about not just a name and contact info but also background data, including 10 years' worth of Web articles covering a professional and his or her career."

To acquire data, ZoomInfo uses Web crawlers that cull millions of websites, SEC filings, and newswires. In addition, users of the service contribute to the database by trading their contacts for fresh ones. The ZoomInfo Extraction Engine performs entity tagging and uses natural language processing to extract data from records. And the ZoomInfo Matching Engine checks "new" data against existing records to prevent the storage of redundant files.

Having recently launched its free Community Edition, ZoomInfo has come under fire for including an Outlook plug-in with that version of the product. The plug-in mines contact information from a computer user's Outlook address book, and some are skeptical about the data-collection tactic, saying it breaches privacy and can even be considered a form of spyware.

To date, the ZoomInfo database contains 50 million unique profiles of individuals and 5 million business profiles. According to Sexton, the company's goal is to map the business landscape in near real-time. "The freshest contact records I know of are about 90 days old," she said. "We'd like to narrow that time frame to 30 days."

It's a tall order, especially when you consider this: According to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 40 million people change jobs every year. That's 6,000 people every hour. Need I say more?

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