Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Test Drive: Zoominfo 2.0 Offers Sophisticated Access to Business Information

BtoB Online covers the launch of the refreshed ZoomInfo business information portal, equipped with a much more usable interface and improved content quality. The home page features three main tabs: company searches by keyword or company name, people searches and job searches via content from Zoominfo's content partner Indeed. Company content and most of the other site content is ad-supported, while searches for people by keywords and company name are part of a premium package that includes more powerful search tools. An interesting addition to the home page is a tag cloud representing popular keywords used for searches on ZoomInfo - some of which seem to show left-over preferences from testing but which in the long run should give users a sense of the "buzz" being generated by business information users.

It's interesting that the default search for Zoominfo is now keywords rather than company name, implying that the tool is useful for people trying to locate companies that offer specific products and services. A search for "flushometers" yields eight companies that seem to fit nicely, each with a summary of their strengths. One can refine their search with further clustered subcategorizations - in this instance "flushometer manufacturing"and "flushometer tank"are available - as well as by geography or annual revenues. A quick click of an icon next to the results adds the company profile into a Zoominfo "QuickList" at the bottom of the browser window; a user can define multiple QuickList folders for reference. Company profiles include revenues, number of employees, industrial classifications, Web site thumbshot and contact data - most of which is gleaned directly from Zoominfo's Web mining operations. A search results listing of competitors can be displayed by clicking on a link on the profile page; a competitive search for Sloan Valve Corporation yielded 29 potential competitors, most of which seemed to be very much in the thick of their competitive space.

Ad-supported visitors can get access to personal profiles built from Web content, which provides a Web-derived employment history, references to key Web pages covering the person's activities and the opportunity to build social network contacts with the individual. Registrants can maintain this profile information if they would like it to provide more accurate information. A search for Factiva's Clare Hart yielded one seemingly accurate profile but other people with a more complicated professional life still challenge Zoominfo's improved semantic processing. A search on Presidential advisor Karl Rove, for example, yields a robust list of alter egos defined for Rove in the online press, including a number of epithets.

Searching people by keywords or company names and titles yields an anonymous list of matches for ad-supported visitors, which can be converted into a listing with names associated with titles for premium PowerSearch subscribers. The shift to PowerSearch from free results gives somewhat different information, but with the additional filtering tools available in PowerSearch you can zero in on key contacts very quickly and get a list of probable phone numbers and email addresses. Gliding over a given contact name in the search results in PowerSearch mode pops up a summary of the person's profile page. Job searches work similarly overall, with filters for proximity, job types, job sources and company revenues.

While the improved technologies in ZoomInfo seem to yield improved results in many instances, the notable improvement in this release is the professional-grade design of the interface. Functions are easy to navigate and are organized consistently from one function to another: there's little guesswork involved. It's easier to normalize company information online than personal profiles, so this edition of ZoomInfo rightfully emphasizes this capability. In doing so ZoomInfo is positioned as a very useful multi-purpose company mining tool that can help both purchasers and sales and marketing professionals zoom in on the right targets for their efforts very quickly. The more problematic personal profile information is only going to be as good as the Web itself in most instances but that in and of itself can make ZoomInfo a very useful tool for accelerated "Googling" of people in professional roles. And once one gets into the PowerSearch tools the information can help to accelerate prospecting with ZoomInfo's frequent update cycles.

As we noted in our earlier news analysis on Zoominfo and Generate born-on-the-Web content is becoming the default "golden source" for corporate information, giving tools such as ZoomInfo a strong leg up as a structured reporter of how companies have positioned themselves in the marketplace. This shows up especially when one takes advantage of the on-the-fly clustering of company profiles: pop in a term like "Wiki" that's not in any industrial classification system and you get a relevant listing of companies that provide Wiki software and services. More traditional business information tools offer more sopisticated services and broader data sets to mine, but this edition of Zoominfo serves as a reminder that Web-first business information services are becoming a key resource for today's professionals.
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