Data is the fuel that powers a company’s revenue engine. Without it, marketers and salespeople would be flying blind. And, using data in the most effective way for your GTM engine starts with choosing the right data provider.
This guide will give you an overview of the B2B data space, along with questions to ask potential data providers and how to differentiate one from the other. In a subsequent article, we'll cover some proxies for accuracy and provide a short comparison between a few different data providers.
First, What Is a B2B Data Provider?
The term “data provider” describes a wide array of business services. Sales intelligence, pipeline prediction, data hygiene, CRM management—these are just some of the things modern data providers provide. In the early days of B2B marketing, data providers were mostly focused on selling contact information. Now, the industry has quickly evolved to allow for entire sales and marketing teams to work in tandem to define their ICP, build targeted campaigns, and engage with highly qualified prospects.\
In spite of what most data providers will tell you, there is rarely a one-size-fits-all solution for any business. Different providers have different strengths. Whether or not a certain provider will fit your needs depends on the type of data you need, the industry your prospects operate in, each provider’s feature set and so much more.
If you're starting to think about purchasing a data provider, think about your goals. Are you looking to enhance your current database? Are you testing out a hypothesis? Later in this piece, we dive deeper into a few questions to ask yourself before settling on a data provider.
Types of B2B Data
Generally, there are three types of B2B data: Fit Data, Market Intelligence Data, and Opportunity Data.
Fit Data: This is basic demographic, firmographic and product/service data. Fit data provides an opportunity for marketers to target their campaigns based on the company’s size, location and industry. This information may be collected either by a third party or directly from an organization’s website. It typically covers the following attributes:
Market Intelligence Data: Market intelligence allows marketers to gain insight into a particular audience’s interests, which in turn helps them develop more effective campaigns. This includes some of the following data points:
Opportunity data: This type of data can help you identify favorable conditions for your company to act on and encompasses some of the below attributes:
Why Do I Need A B2B Data Provider?
To reach the right prospects, B2B companies need to have access to a wide range of data. In addition, using multiple data sources helps B2B companies stay informed about their industry's latest trends, identify buyer behavior patterns, and accelerate sales. Also, by using multiple data sources, B2B companies gain unprecedented insight into their buyers' needs and buying process.
Here at Primer, we find that B2B companies tend to search for a data provider for one (or more) of the following reasons:
- The desire to generate a high match rate audience and unlock a new channel for growth.
- You’d like to move beyond a specific channel, drill down to the people you actually want to speak to, and stop “spraying and praying”.
- Make really big, really efficient ad audiences.
- You want to build audiences that encompass different segments of folks in your target market. Building efficient high-intent audiences will boost conversion rates and decrease wasted ad spend on unqualified clicks/impressions.
- Build your ICP and test a hypothesis.
- You’re looking for access to data to build effective audiences/lists. Ultimately, you want to convert your ICP hypothesis into real audiences for outbound, LI, FB, Google.
- Target your ICP across every channel to increase awareness.
- You want to deploy your audiences in every marketing/sales app you use in a couple of clicks.
Here’s an example of how one might use data to acquire customers more effectively:
Let's say that you're a B2B marketer at a financial services SaaS company looking to grow revenue from CFOs at other B2B SaaS companies located in the United States and Canada. A great place to start is by identifying which companies have raised funding rounds recently—these companies might be good places for you to focus your efforts as they are likely considering expanding their business through hiring additional staff or purchasing new equipment. Additionally, if one of these companies has hired a new CFO or other leadership position, it may be time for them to reevaluate their existing strategy.
The more up-to-date and accurate business data you use in your sales and marketing activities, the more likely you’ll achieve success. The reason is simple – with current, accurate data, your GTM teams won’t waste time targeting and speaking to the wrong people.
How To Evaluate a B2B Data Provider
There are so many B2B data providers out there, all making claims about having the most up-to-date and accurate data. How do you know which one is right for your business?
There are a number of things you can do to get an accurate assessment of a B2B data provider’s data. The first thing is to know how you plan to use it. Once you have a clear idea of what you want, run a test to get a number of fresh, relevant complete records that meet your target audience criteria. Evaluate if the contacts meet your specific needs based on the following criteria:
- Whether or not the contacts from a data provider match your target audience criteria and how relevant the database attributes are to your ICP.
- Examine how complete and up-to-date the records are, including details about each person's job title, work email address, phone number and social media accounts.
- Finally, inquire about data freshness. Ideally, the information should be less than 30 days old (and most B2B data providers will let you know how long each field has been updated).
At Primer, we evaluate data providers on a number of different factors but find the most important ones to becoverage, or the number of attributes a provider captures and the fill rate, or the number of times (expressed as a %) that a specific attribute is populated on a set of records. More on each factor below.
It's important to look beyond basic contact counts when evaluating B2B data providers. You want to know about the quality of the data and whether or not it includes up-to-date information about your target accounts in a specific region.
A good B2B data provider will provide significant coverage, or breadth, of attributes with which to build and enrich your ICP. Additionally, it’s important to understand how frequently those attributes are updated. They should also be able to give you examples of recent additions and deletions from their database.
At Primer, we find that the best way to evaluate a data provider’s coverage capabilities is to request a sample of data. This data should also have a refresh rate of at least 1x a month (30 days).
Fill rate refers to the completeness of a company record in a database. A company record often ends up being ‘micro’, meaning that it contains only some, but not all of the data pertaining to it. For instance, key leadership data may be missing from an address or contact details. Such micro profiles don’t add any value to businesses that use this information; therefore, it is very important for data providers to maintain complete, accurate and up-to-date company data in their databases. This is where fill rate comes into play.
Here at Primer, we recommend looking for data providers with attribute fill rates in the range of 80% or greater. This means, for example, that a field such as ‘work email’ will be populated on a record greater than 80% of the time.
How to Choose the Data Provider That’s Right For You
Typically, data providers either have broad-based people and company data that often serves as a “base data set” or are more niche providers that provide very specific data on attributes.
What data provider you choose to work with depends on whether you want a broad swathe of data or you find it more valuable to go after a very small niche.
In terms of breadth and depth, at Primer, we find that using a combination of both such sources gives you the highest quality data. We’ve included a helpful visual below to further illustrate the point. The providers on the left are the “breadth” providers and the ones on the right are niche providers categorized by their specific data attributes.
In the next article in this series, we'll dive deeper into accuracy and compare a few of the leading B2B data providers.