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Data.com Is Just a Big Nothing

So last year Salesforce bought Jigsaw, a cloud-based crowd-sourced data tracking service. Now they are trying to put a pretty face to the whole thing with this week’s announcement of Data.com.

Data.com has two parents, Salesforce and Dun & Bradstreet. The union will result in combining the information in Jigsaw with the information in the D&B archives, which tracks mostly large businesses across the world. The idea is to take the contacts found in Jigsaw, marry them to the D&B corporate info, and produce a killer data collection that can be accessed inside Salesforce’s CRM tools.

Well, if ever there was an unholy union, this is it, folks. Let’s start with the Jigsaw contribution. If you go to the announcement link above, you will eventually get to a signup form to either get a free 30-day trial of Salesforce, or more information about Jigsaw. The free trial allows you to add a Jigsaw tab to your CRM sample account, but to really get under the hood you need to set up a paid account with the Jigsaw option to take advantage of its features (see warning screen below)

Clicking on that “learn more” box at the bottom of this screen takes you to a prospecting form that has Data.com branding, with no indication of pricing. Eventually, by clicking around elsewhere, you find out that the minimum entry fee is $100 a month. Per user. On top of what you pay for your general Salesforce account. Ouch.

Second, the data in Jigsaw isn’t accurate, although it is impressive. It lists my own freelance company as a $30 million business with 50 employees. Yeah, maybe in my dreams.

Third, where’s the value-add? D&B and Salesforce are pitching this idea as a marriage between two classes of data: Salesforce contacts and D&B business. (For “Salesforce contacts,” read “Jigsaw.”) But Jigsaw data already associates contacts with their companies, and already contains (by Salesforce’s own estimate) over 4 million crowd-sourced corporate profiles. Of course, this calls into question the authenticity of those profiles versus D&B’s professional research.

A February 2011 white paper from Nucleus Research looked into that very question, and made this observation:

Sales and marketing organizations have traditionally purchased lists from business contact database vendors to support their lead generation and qualification efforts. However, anyone who has purchased a marketing list knows that the cost of a
good list can be significant, and even expensive lists often contain incorrect or outdated information. Jigsaw takes a different approach from traditional list providers: the list is shared by multiple users and is updated by them as they use and validate or correct the contact data.

Nucleus compared the validity of Jigsaw’s data with that of D&B – which, by the way, was already partnering with Salesforce as early as last September with its D&B360 service. The analysts’ conclusion: “Depending on their vertical and the profile of contact sought, Jigsaw customers found the accuracy of contact information was 10 to 40 percent better than traditional data sources such as Hoovers or D&B.”

Jigsaw already has the better corporate data, apparently, so joining it with D&B (or more accurately, trying to do so a second time with Data.com) is a bit like marrying a bride to a couple. Evidently D&B wants every business that it covers to pay D&B for the privilege to be listed. It is sort of like one of those Who’s Who in Some Obscure Business directory. Or the Yellow Pages. I happen to have a D&B “DUNS number” which identifies my business. I got it several years ago, I can’t remember how it came to be but certainly wasn’t because any money changed hands between us. A while back I saw that my D&B information still had my business in New York, and when I tried to update it online or by calling someone at D&B, I hit a brick wall. I didn’t want to work so hard to fix their data, so I quit.

Yet D&B is the “exclusive provider of company information for Data.com” according to the announcements and sources that I spoke to, meaning that they are the sole source of any and all company data. Jigsaw will provide contact info about people at the company. D&B says it will take some time to integrate their data into Jigsaw, which will start by the end of the year.

Now, granted, if you are prospecting for clients that work for a large business that D&B has as a client, chances are good your data is going to be better. But is it worth the cost? And do you really want to trust the quality of data if they have trouble tracking the lion’s share of businesses that have less than 25 employees? Is this the “best business data in the cloud,” as the announcement portends? I don’t think so.

NB: Scott Fulton contributed some reporting to this story.

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