Searcher Vol.8, No. 5 • May 2000 
Sales Generation Databases: Willy Loman Doesn’t Die
by Rosemary Whitney
Partner, Creative Strategies LLC

At a time when my husband, my father, and my son were salesmen, I watched Dustin Hoffman’s performance as Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s classic Death of a Salesman with a lump in my throat. Happily the men in my life have been more fulfilled than the ill-fated Willy Loman, but the image of the tired salesman coming home dispirited because he had lost an order or had just learned about one he’d never quoted on was all too familiar.

To achieve the primary goal of getting and retaining customers, today’s salesperson can rely on technological aids not known to Willy Loman. Tools can include software for contact management, for mining the data warehouse of customer information, for territory mapping, for simply updating mailing list ZIP codes. Software and hardware options for sales force automation and for the mobile “road warrior” abound. One of the most critical and basic sales tools is a well-maintained and frequently updated customer database, especially in the fast-growing business-to-business market. The explosion of “” companies makes this more rather than less important. Like many information professionals today, I find myself recognizing new avenues to meet client needs. Assistance with the creation, enhancement, or updating of a customer database has become one of the services that small to midsize businesses which sell to other businesses have begun to request.

Customer companies move, are acquired, change area codes, and adopt new company names all the time. The U.S. Postal Service estimates that a business list goes out of date at the rate of 1 percent a week (at least, according to a promotional message from iMarket). Marketing efforts increasingly require fax numbers, Web, and e-mail addresses, as well as mailing and telephone information.

In addition to infusions of updated information on existing customers, sales departments need data on potential new customers. Prospects for a product or service are often identified by “cloning” customers — i.e., finding companies that share characteristics with existing customers, such as size and type of business. Other criteria may target prospects for a new product or a new territory.

Traditionally salespeople have been the primary resource for obtaining and updating customer and prospect data. The salesperson’s input remains invaluable. Today, however, with the average cost of each sales call hovering at $200 (according to a recent article in Sales and Marketing Management), and the time demands of CRM (Customer Relationship Management), it makes economic sense for salespeople to be “information consumers” rather than primarily “information producers.” No optimally productive salesperson can make history as well as document history at the same time.

In this sales environment, information professionals familiar with database products that provide accurate company listings, good market analysis, and effective prospecting can serve sales forces better, whether contracted to work directly on a client’s customer database or relied upon as an advisory resource.

Sources for Clients
In the field of business directory information, Dun & Bradstreet and InfoUSA are the giants, each claiming databases of about 11 million American businesses. Harris InfoSource provides a niche directory for the manufacturing sector with a database of about 400,000 American manufacturers.

These providers differ in the sources from which their base information is obtained in the variety of pricing levels, in methods and frequency of updating, and in the array of access formats. Resources sometimes consulted by the diligent salesperson are often the same that these directory providers contact: government agencies (state, federal, and local), chambers of commerce, advertising-supported directories such as the Thomas Register of Manufacturers, trade association member listings, trade journal subscription lists, and commercial mailing lists.

Formats for accessing directory and database information can include a variety of options:

For sales departments of small to midsize companies, individually customized database marketing solutions are often too costly. According to an October 1998 press release, Dun & Bradstreet Connect — the software component of D&B’s Information Warehouse Solutions — sets prices “starting at $25,000 for a standard FTP service to a full-scale information warehouse solution for $1 million and over.” At the other end of the pricing scale, simple directory listings in print or on CD-ROM continue to have value and can cost under $200.

For optimal usefulness, salespeople and their information professionals need affordable customer database solutions that not only contain directory information, but also allow analysis of existing customer data and exploration of prospective target markets. This article will look at some features of iMarket, D&B, InfoUSA, and Harris products and ways to access each that advertise desktop database solutions for small to midsize business end users. Information consultants can use these products on behalf of a client or patron, as long as terms of agreement are honored.

This article focuses on customer database resources for small to midsize businesses that sell to other businesses and will not consider consumer marketing or costlier customized programs used in large companies. This overview is not intended to be comprehensive. Information and URLs were current as of  March 2000.

Please note: The accuracy and currency of any directory or database does not rely solely on frequency of updates or on the directory providers’ sources of information. As with any listing of companies, accuracy also depends on the listed companies’ self-reported data and on the validity of product coding information.

SIC Codes and even NAICS codes are not always perfect descriptions of what a company does — and the code or product description can change from one information provider’s list to another’s. Elements such as annual sales figures may be missing or inaccurate, especially for private companies that do not have SEC reporting requirements. Parent and subsidiary relationships may be hard to trace, even with sophisticated search tools. Not every company has a fax number, a Web site, or e-mail addresses for contact names. For example, out of the 11 million businesses listed in the D&B database on the iMarket CD-ROM, the file only carries 1,700,000 fax numbers.

iMarket Marketplace
D&B’s huge database forms the base source of company information for iMarket. So we will follow this look at iMarket with a look at D&B’s own products for database marketing. [For a more thorough overview of iMarket, see the article “How Did You Find Me? In the MarketPlace with iMarket” by Karen Ann Drebes in the Nov/Dec 1999 Searcher, p. 10+.]

Briefly, iMarket provides information on each company’s type of business, names of executives with a variety of titles, information on annual sales if available, number of employees, type of location (headquarters, subsidiary, branch, etc.). It offers easy analysis by a number of criteria without having to use meter credits until one chooses specific records for purchase.

Users can export information retrieved in the comma-delimited format handled by most database programs, such as Excel or Access, or by contact management programs, such as ACT! or Goldmine.

Base data comes from Dun & Bradstreet’s database of almost 11 million corporate records. In addition, D&B uses a wide variety of sources for contact and industry information. These include the following:

An annual subscription includes quarterly CD-ROM updates. The currency of the data depends on the frequency of updating by the numerous information providers.

Ways to Access
Desktop CD-ROMs
MarketPlace: The basic CD-ROM product with access to three levels of information — mailing, telemarketing (includes mailing information plus telephone numbers), and “demographic” — the full record, including annual sales (if available) and number of employees.

MarketPlace Pro: Includes MarketPlace plus MarketMatch, an integrated match engine.

MarketPlace Gold: All of the above plus more sophisticated analysis and prospecting tools.

MarketPlace Enterprise: A customized product with enhanced lead generation.

Web Tools
Zapdata [http://www.zapdata. com]: New Web-based access to iMarket data — zapmarkets, zapprofiles, zapleads, zapenhance, zapinsights. This new access allows the user to define a list (SIC, geography, company size, etc.) and to purchase that list online with a credit card. The list appears as a compressed (“zipped”) file. In an informal comparison we conducted, the number of records retrieved seemed to indicate that zapdata information is identical to that on the iMarket CD-ROM.

Zapmarkets: Free market profiles and business leads. Registration required. The Reports generated using SIC Codes to profile a U.S. Market break down by state and 4-digit SIC, giving an impressive overview. These reports are similar to the reports one can generate using the MarketPlace CD-ROM product.

SIC Finder (free): Search tool that allows users to type a word description and find the 2-, 4-, 6-, or 8-digit SIC code. Note that only D&B-based resources offer the 8-digit level of SIC code.

ROI Calculator (free): The user can enter costs and projected results to calculate Return on Investment for a marketing program by entering information such as program costs and number of pieces mailed.

MarketPlace CD-ROM with quarterly updates: Starter kit for $850 includes 1,000 metered credits. Additional credits available in blocks of 1,000 for $.10 each per credit or $100. The Starter Kit includes a year’s worth of quarterly updates. Subsequent year renewal subscriptions drop in price. A Mailing Info record is 1 credit or $0.10. Telemarketing Info is $0.15 per record. Demographic Info is $0.35. Add $.05 for fax numbers (if available). There are additional per-record charges for “Selects” and “Contacts”:

Zapdata: Formerly a component of the iMarket Web site, zapdata now has its own site [] with pay-as-you-go pricing for lists:

The CD-ROM products permit more flexibility of analysis and searching than does the Web-based zapdata. Brief sampling indicates that zapdata in early March was identical to data on the Jan-Mar CD-ROM. The advantage of zapdata, of course, is direct Web access without having to buy the CD-ROM. iMarket, since it uses D&B data, supports SIC codes to the 8-digit level.

Metered credits require the attachment of a special counter to the printer port; the printer cable in turn attaches to the meter counter. With some printers, or with some attachments that use printer ports such as zip drives, this can cause a conflict.

Personal experience with MarketPlace Pro’s MarketMatch indicates that one has to know the SIC codes in the target market. MarketMatch does not presently match on SIC, so one can retrieve prospects that match on some other element but for an irrelevant industry.

Dun & Bradstreet
Dun & Bradstreet offers a bewildering array of products and services. We will discuss only those available directly from D&B or from commercial online services and ones that relate to the affordable creation or enhancement of business-to-business customer databases.

Dun & Bradstreet information can be accessed through a variety of gateways and resources, but the base information for all comes from the same D&B master database. According to a D&B representative, sources include information from D&B’s own immense storehouse of collected corporate data, from their staff of reporters, from public records, trade tapes, banks, commercial creditors, telephone directories, and wire services. Information also comes from the companies themselves. A new feature encourages companies to update their own records on the Web [], but D&B claims to call every company at least once a year for verification.

The Business Information Report updates at least annually and often much more frequently. If  new information, e.g., about a bankruptcy, is received, D&B provides that information to corporate customers the next day. And, according to a D&B rep, the same information goes out just as fast to the gateways. The gateways, however, may have their own schedule for adding the updated information, loading the tapes, etc. An unscientific sampling of a few DMI records in Dialog File 516 in March 2000 showed “latest update to this record” dates that varied from October 1998 through December 1999.

The iMarket software provides quarterly updates. When I compared information on a few companies with which I am familiar, the CD-ROM did not seem to have significantly more outdated information than Dialog’s DMI, iMarket’s zapdata, or LEXIS-NEXIS’ Dun’s Market Identifiers Plus File. I must admit, this was hardly a scientific sampling.

Ways to Access (excluding iMarket):

Web Tools
Free registration permits searching D&B data free of charge on the Web site. After you have selected your criteria, you can purchase Marketing Lists online with a credit card.

Web Access Pricing
Registration on the Web site and searching the D&B database are free of charge. Credit card purchases will cost the following:

For details of what appears in all these formats, visit the Web site [].

Database Marketing Solutions Pricing
Customized services from D&B zInformation Warehouse Solutions [] can cost from $25,000 to $1 million and over.

D&B Dun’s Market Identifiers on Dialog: Full DMI record is $3.70. This figure does not include DialUnit or other connect charges for searching nor costs for any Dialog subscription plan.

Pricing for D&B Dun’s Market Identifiers Plus on LEXIS-NEXIS costs $35 per search and $2.75 per document printed or downloaded. Actual searching costs can vary greatly, depending on search strategy and subscriber’s subscription package or negotiated price.

Provides SIC coding to the 8-digit level.

Availability of Credit Reports is based on payment history.

Many options are priced out of reach of a small business sales department building a customer database with numerous records.

InfoUSA, formerly American Business Information, started with Yellow Pages information but has greatly expanded its sources. The Web site [] targets small and entrepreneurial businesses. Like iMarket, the CD-ROM products allow defining lists by various criteria such as annual sales, geography, type of location (subsidiary, branch), etc., and can export results into other formats.

Yellow Pages still provide directory business information. Other sources include federal, state, and county government data, bankruptcy and public records, annual reports, SEC filings, new business registrations, postal service information, business magazines, and newspapers. Every business is called one to four times a year. Like D&B, InfoUSA now offers the option to add or change your own business information online. [Go to, click on “About InfoUSA,” then click on “Products and Services” and choose the “11 Million Businesses” option.]

CD-ROM directories update once a year. Information accessed from the Web site may be more recent, depending on that company’s updating schedule. InfoUSA also promises, “We will soon be able to update our customers daily, weekly, or monthly via e-mail.”

Ways to Access
InfoUSA uses its base database to create a variety of directories for businesses, including state directories, Entrepreneur’s Directory, and directories of Manufacturers, Big Business, Dentists, and Physicians and Surgeons, as well as Business Credit Service information. These are available on CD-ROMs and in print (bundled together).

InfoUSA staff will match a customer database against the InfoUSA storehouse of information to update existing customer information and to identify prospects. At present there is no desktop matching software available from InfoUSA that compares to the iMarket MarketPlace Pro MarketMatch product.

ReferenceUSA is the InfoUSA product for libraries. Call 800-289-2804 for information. [The Web site for this service — — only took me to a login screen.]

NewBusinessUSA will have its own Web site for information on new businesses. This division (800-332-6500) collects information from a variety of sources, including Secretary of State incorporation filings, County Clerks’ offices, media, and, through a representative, “people in remote areas.” Procedures ensure that only never-before-listed businesses appear on each update. A subscriber can request weekly, bimonthly, or monthly notice of all new businesses in a given geographic area in a given SIC code, for example.

InfoUSA on Dialog is File 531, American Business Directory.

InfoUSA on LEXIS-NEXIS is the U.S. Businesses File (USABIZ).

Web Tools
The Yellow Pages, White Pages, Business Mailing Lists, and “Business Credit Reports” are all accessible from the Web site [].

Marketers should consider the “Analyze your customers for free!” section of the Web site. After you type (or upload) a list of customer telephone numbers and define a specific geographic area (even the entire U.S.), InfoUSA responds with the SIC codes used by customers on the list and counts of how many prospects appear in those industries in your target area. InfoUSA then lists the companies by name and city and state. More detailed information about these prospective customers is available with online credit card purchase.

After free registration and several click-throughs [], you can receive a free Business Credit Report “for a limited time.” This is a business listing with a credit “rating.” As Mary Ellen Bates noted 3 years ago [“American Business Information: Here, There, and Everywhere,” Database, April 1997], these are not true Credit Reports based on payment history. According to InfoUSA, these codes “are indicators of probable ability to pay. They are based on business demographic factors such as number of employees, years in business, industry stability, barriers to entry, and government data. We recommend that these ratings be used primarily as a starting point and should not be the sole factor used in making a credit decision. You must obtain more information from bank and trade references, local credit bureaus, or other sources before extending credit.”

The site at has replaced the Lookup USA site. Free lookups are available, along with other promotions and freebies such as “Add White and Yellow Pages to Your Website.” The “Free Directory Assistance” and “Nationwide Yellow Pages” include searches by business name, by personal name, and a reverse lookup feature.

Print directories and CD-ROMs bundle together under one price. Annual State Directories vary in price from $350 to $495 by state. The Manufacturer’s Directory’s annual subscription costs $595, which includes 500 business profiles on a meter system that does not require a special appliance for the computer as iMarket does.

Lookups in the Yellow Pages and White Pages are free on the Web.

To order a Business Report from the Web, you can register and search for free. Directory listings cost about $1 each, based on the results of my “free analyzer” search. The more complete “Business Credit Report” costs $5.

If you want the InfoUSA staff to custom match a customer database, the base processing to match a list of about 5,000 records, according to what InfoUSA staff told me, would cost $3,000, in addition to per-record charges, which would vary depending on level of detail required.

A full record from File 531 on Dialog, excluding DialUnits or connect charges, costs $2.15. Again, this does not take into account the costs of any Dialog subscription plan.

LEXIS-NEXIS pricing costs $35 per search and $2.75 per document printed or downloaded. Actual searching costs can vary greatly, depending on search strategy and subscriber’s  package or negotiated price.

CD-ROM is easy to load and fairly intuitive to use.

No separate meter appliance needed. The metered information is built into the CD-ROM. Each CD-ROM includes the print directory at no extra charge.

The InfoUSA CD-ROM products are searchable directories but do not offer as much in the way of search, sort, analysis, etc., as do the “database” products from iMarket and Harris.

There are some inconsistencies in SIC assignment. For example, a large number of businesses seem to be identified by SIC 3599 — “industrial machinery not elsewhere classified” — whereas D&B or Harris provides more precise identifications of what those businesses manufacture. This is an example of how comparing counts of businesses from different providers can mislead users. If USA counts 51,764 establishments in SIC 3599, where D&B counts 32,330 and Harris counts 32,166 (both counting primary and secondary SICs), it may mean that the product coding is less precise, not that InfoUSA has found more businesses.

I also found a number of businesses, which InfoUSA identified as primarily manufacturers or manufacturing sites, which I knew to be wholesale distributors.

Harris InfoSource
The Harris history of providing information about manufacturing companies dates back to the first state directories of manufacturers that came out in the early 1970s. Now, as Harris InfoSource, the company continues to offer the still-popular directories in print and on CD-ROM and has added the Selectory database product. (Harris makes a distinction between its directories and its Selectory database solutions product.) [For a complete listing of products, visit the Web site at]

The company prides itself on high- quality information, not necessarily the highest counts. The Harris database lists about 400,000 American manufacturers, compared to 664,141 manufacturers on iMarket (from the D&B data), and 645,000 on the InfoUSA Manufacturers Directory.

Founder and chairman Bob Harris believes the differences reflect care in counting manufacturing sites only, not, for example, sales offices of manufacturers. This is hard to verify without more research. A quick check of iMarket by limiting the list of “manufacturers” to “manufacturing sites only,” however, only reduced the iMarket count from 664,141 to 646,219.

According to the Harris Web site, “We profile manufacturers because they represent the largest, most concentrated group of purchasers in the American economy, spending more than $1.7 trillion each year on products and services.”

In a telephone conversation, Bob Harris cited a “multiplicity of sources” that includes partnerships with state departments of economic development, chambers of commerce, new business statistics providers, and a strategic alliance with the National Association of Manufacturers. “We have 40 years of experience getting data on manufacturers,” said Mr. Harris, who emphasized that Harris focuses on the manufacturing sector represented by the SIC Code range of 2000-3999. The staff contacts every company at least once a year to verify all information.

Mr. Harris confirmed that Harris InfoSource receives no advertising support nor paid listings. The Harris credit scores come from Experian business credit reports.

Quarterly updates come with a subscription to the Selectory database CD-ROM. Print directories are annual. Updating of records is an ongoing process, with each company’s information directly verified by telephone at least once a year. Online access to the Selectory database, which is included with the CD-ROM subscription at no extra charge, will access the most current updates.

Ways to Access
Print directories by state, by region, or nationwide, and the same directories on CD-ROM.

The entire Selectory database, with search and sort functions, exportability to comma-delimited and other formats, is available by annual subscription on CD-ROM and directly online either by subscription or a pay-as-you-go plan.

Harris is not available from Dialog or LEXIS-NEXIS.

Web Tools
A new free Analysis Tool allows searching of the master Harris database by company name for a sample record, or by target geographic area or target industry. Free registration provides access to the Selectory database for counts, market size, and other basic information.

For complete pricing options, check the Web site [].

The functionality provided by Selectory can be purchased as Selectory CD-ROM or subscribed to at the Harris Web site as Selectory Online. Each product is available for an individual state, for regions of the U.S., or nationally, with customization for size of company.

Online subscription is available via the Web site for a monthly “subscription allowance” of $17.95. Records vary in price from $0.39 for a “Profile” (full) report for a purchase of 1-99 records, to $0.19 per report for a purchase of 1,000 or more records. “Summary Reports” and Mailing Labels cost less.

The pay-as-you-go option requires a $7.95 minimum order, with a similar sliding scale of prices; per-record charges  are higher than with the subscription plan ($0.49 per Profile Report, for example).

Directory prices vary by state or region. The Ohio Directory, with 22,260 firms, costs $174 for the CD-ROM, $20 more for both CD-ROM and print versions.

The Selectory CD-ROMs offer more information, more executive titles, the Experian credit score, exportability, and search and sort functions. The price varies by state or region and by the size of companies searched. The Ohio Selectory for companies with one or more employees costs $749; companies with 10 or more employees, $579, etc. Regional Selectories — New England, Midwest, etc. — are also available. The National Selectory of over 400,000 companies with one or more employees and over 1 million executive names costs $9,995. The National Selectory of companies with 100 or more employees is $2,375. Every Selectory CD-ROM subscription includes access to Selectory Online.

The unique focus on one sector, Manufacturing, means more accurate product code assignments.

Multiple search options. For example, a search can be designed using primary or secondary SIC or NAICS coding, or by product keywords or by product categories.

The list of searchable titles of “decision makers” is impressive, including designations such as Applications Engineer, Art Director, Employee Relations Manager, Mill Manager, and VP Environmental Affairs. It also includes multiple variations of similar responsibilities, such as “Purchasing Manager,” as well as “Director of Purchasing.” (Note that The Harris Manufacturing Contacts File is purchased by iMarket for its “Selects” options.)

About 50 percent of the records of companies with 100 or more employees include Web site addresses.

Selectory’s annual subscription cost for the national database is high ($9,995) compared to similar options from iMarket ($850 for the first year’s subscription, plus metered credit costs per record) or from InfoUSA.

The installation of the Selectory CD-ROM requires three separate reboots of the computer.

Willy Loman’s Lifesavers?
Okay, Willy Loman, this is for you — about 50 years too late. For some reason I carried in my memory that you sold shoes. A quick re-reading of the play did not turn up any information about what your product was. I think you thought you could sell anything to anybody.

But we know you were on the road and that your territory was New England, that you carried a sample case, and that you had to deal with buyers. Your Boston lady-friend giggled about how she could get you in to see the buyer. So if you did in fact sell shoes for a shoe manufacturer, there are 206 wholesale establishments (SIC 5139) and 1,867 retail shoe stores (SIC 5661) in the six New England states that could be prospective customers, according to iMarket. We can supplement that with other sources. It will take a little work, but it can pay off in increased sales. Linda told your sons, “Attention must be paid.” We’re paying attention, Willy. . . .

iMarket CD-ROM products use D&B data for almost 11 million company listings, supplemented with data for contacts and analysis from an impressive collection of other sources. [Check out the thorough coverage from another angle in Karen Ann Drebes article, “How Did You Find Me? In the Marketplace with iMarket,” in the November/December 1999 issue of Searcher.]

Dun and Bradstreet
D&B offers database marketing solutions directly from its Web site, by subscription, and through customized Information Warehouse Solutions, using data collected and organized by its experienced staff of almost 11 million American companies.

Formerly American Business Information, InfoUSA also claims 11 million businesses in its database.

Harris InfoSource
Harris sold its first print directory of state manufacturers in 1974. The database now also appears on CD-ROM and online on the Web, carrying about 400,000 listings of American manufacturers nationwide.

Traditional Search Services as an Alternative
Although the traditional online services continue to offer the best depth of coverage and the most search options, their pricing is not realistic for building or matching a large customer database. 

Most of the desktop options now include some of the functionality associated with the value-added features of Dialog and LEXIS-NEXIS, such as the ability to search a company’s type of business by word description or SIC or NAICS, geographic area, including county, MSAs, etc., executives by name or title, sales figures for public companies and for private companies when provided by the company, size (number of employees), type of site (parent, branch, or subsidiary), fax number, Web address, ticker symbol. With online Web versions of data being updated frequently, even the currency of the traditional online services may not be as significant a factor as it once was. For an end user, or even for an information specialist working with an end user, the desktop solutions have much to offer for building or enhancing a customer or prospect database of perhaps thousands of records.

It’s hard to make a direct cost comparison between, say, Dialog and iMarket because both offer so many pricing variables. But just taking the Dialog DMI File 516 Full Record cost of $3.70 compared to the full “Demographic Record” cost of $0.35 on iMarket for a database of 5,000 customers, puts the Dialog cost at $18,500 (without subscription or connect charges) and the iMarket cost at $1,750 (not including the cost of the annual CD-ROM subscription). Even if we add a number of “Selects” to bring the per-record iMarket cost to $1.40 per record and add in the price of the initial CD-ROM subscription of $850, the iMarket cost totals $7,850. InfoUSA charges would run less in Dialog File 531, but still would cost $10,750 for the 5,000 full records. Even on Harris, if the 5,000 companies are in one state or region, the Selectory cost can be under $1,000.

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