Earlier this year VNU relaunched its online services and directories, improving functionality and introducing an enhanced listings facility for organisations wanting to include more detail in their own records.
The relaunch focused particularly on VNU's datasite, an online and CDRom directory of IT end users, sourced from the IT Sites volume of the better known and highly regarded Computer Users' Yearbook, which has been in existence for over 30 years.
The IT Services volume of the year book, and the Software Users' Year Book have been amalgamated into datasite's sister product, CSS (computer software and services), a directory of software, hardware and IT service providers. Both directories have a similar format and layout, differing only in terms of content.
This review focuses on datasite, a lead generating and referencing tool aimed at sales and marketing managers at IT systems suppliers, training companies, recruitment agencies and consultancies.
It enables them to target prospective customers by providing detailed information regarding the elusive end user: who they are, where they are and what systems they are currently using.
The directory is a comprehensive database of nearly 14,000 end user organisations in the UK and Ireland, with a minimum annual turnover of £10m, or an IT spend over £100,000, across a broad range of industries. It is updated regularly, with the top 1,000 entries contacted once a quarter and the remainder annually, to ensure accuracy - vital to maintaining datasite's credibility as a sales and marketing tool.
The record for each individual entry contains detailed information on an organisation's IT hardware and software employed, budgets, existing systems and contact information, divided into five separate tabs: Site Details, Software Services, Networking, Systems, Contact and Datsheet.
Lists basic information for a company, including address, SIC description, industry sector, turnover, total staff, IT staff, number of developers, IT spend and the contact name for the head of IT.
Lists the types of software used in an organisation, such as accounting and finance or data management software, and product names, for example Java, as well as details of the software services used, such as intranet.
Lists the type of networks employed by a company and which network operating systems are in place.
Lists the number of PCs, laptops, palmtops etc. used, including the names of models and operating systems running on them.
Contains the names and contact details of key decision makers and purchasers, for example managing director, head of IT and up to 14 further functions including IT recruitment and training and telecoms. In total, datasite has over 50,000 named contacts, 7,000 direct website links and 4,500 active email addresses across the directory.
Contains the full company record, amalgamating the other tabs into one page.
However, despite the depth and range of information available, customers should be aware that not every field for every record is complete, as organisations are often unwilling to disclose potentially sensitive information about budget size or turnover. But overall, the more detailed and, arguably more important, information covering specific systems and services and basic contact data can be found in every record.
To locate this information within the database, datasite has two search tools: Quick Search for retrieving basic results quickly and easily; and Advanced Search to create more accurate, targeted results.
Quick Search has minimal functionality, using intuitive pull down menus and mouse clicks to identify results. The basic index includes company name, geographic region and industry sector, which follows the SIC code structure. In addition, Quick Search includes more detailed indices of software, operating systems, mainframes and midrange servers, comms, local area networks and wide area networks.
Each of these breaks down further, listing specific products. For example, software contains an entry for Netscape Messenger and Extranet and Token Ring are included under the local area networks heading. The results are then shown in an alphabetical list, with hyperlinks to each record.
The advantage of this simple search function is that end users can find individual companies and records easily without being forced to use complicated Boolean search techniques. Because of this ease of use, minimal training is required, if any, which is another benefit of datasite.
The Advanced Search function enables users to be much more specific in building complex searches by industry sector, job function, software or hardware installed, number of IT staff, IT spend, and company turnover, with a 'pick list' attached to each field. There is also a Saved Search function for up to 10 searches, and results can be exported as mailing lists for targeted mail shots.
This functionality, combined with the depth of information within datasite, should be invaluable to IT suppliers and sales teams. It provides crucial competitor intelligence, identifies current product usage and whether or not such usage stems from organic or external suppliers. Armed with this information, sales and marketing teams will be well placed to fine-tune strategies in order to accurately organise territory planning.
Datasite is priced from £250 for a six-month subscription, which includes up to 4,000 credits to be used against mailing lists, although online viewing of records is free. Additional credits can then be purchased either in bulk or on a pay-as-you-go basis as the existing allowance is used up, making this a very reasonably priced database of marketing information.
Positive differentiation from competitor firms often fails due to an inability to access something as simple as the correct contact details for key decision makers. Datasite offers an immediate and practical solution to that problem.
With industry headlines of 'budgets slashed' and 'IT department downsized', datasite must be an invaluable tool for the IT sector. Access to corporate budget data to assess the viability of a successful sales pitch prior to the initial contact achieves credibility and saves time and money. As a business tool, this should not be underestimated.
Helen Whyte is managing consultant with Tri-Consult.
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