The use of third-party data is just as valuable for B2B companies as their counterparts - perhaps even more so given the importance of establishing good working relationships and tailoring your pitch to their needs. While some might suggest that the practice of buying customer data is no longer a viable practice, this is far from the reality; the DMA's State of Data report found that over $10 billion was spent on third-party data in the US alone during 2017, and the UK isn't far behind.
So which resources can you turn to in order to get hold of quality B2B company information? In this article we'll explore two very viable options; Companies House and Global Database, and highlight the differences between the two. Which is most likely to drive actual growth for your B2B business?
Having a deep understanding of your prospects and customers is essential, now more than ever. Buyers expect offers to be tailored to their specific interests and challenges now, and without doing so you're unlikely to stand out from the crowd and engage them on a meaningful level. There is only so much you can derive from the limited information the company itself is likely to provide you with, and you don't want to run the risk of coming off as unprofessional and a hassle by contacting them too much to ask lots of questions about their business.
This is where third-party comes in. Using information about other companies that has been collected by other organisations saves valuable time, and also provides you with a much deeper and full understanding of each of your clients. According to the 2018 CMO Survey, almost 30% of companies are planning to increase their use of third party data over the next two years. Third-party data is here to stay - it's finding the right sources that is the key to getting the most out of it.
This chart from eMarketer shows just how important the use of third-party is when it comes to digital marketing in particular, with a quarter of businesses using this type of information extensively in order to create more successful campaigns.
Companies House is an executive agency working under the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. It incorporates and dissolves companies based in the UK, with the registered details then being made viewable to members of the public. The UK government notes in their 2017/2018 Statistical Release that there are currently around four million businesses currently registered with Companies House.
In accordance with the 2006 Companies Act, all types of companies are registered with Companies House, and these companies, including those that are subsidiaries or even inactive, are required to submit annual returns and a yearly financial statement. There are certain exceptions though, so not the database is by no means exhaustive.
In 2015 the new Companies House digital service was launched, providing basic company information to the public free of charge. The data offered on each business includes:
Date company was incorporated
Current and previous officers
Details on mortgage charges
Any previous names the company traded under before
Insolvency details where applicable
As you've probably gathered, the information offered via the Companies House digital service is pretty limited. It gives a good basic overview of each business, so is good for checking whether or not an organisation is registered properly in the UK, but doesn't provide too much value beyond that.
The Companies House directory does have a good record for data accuracy though, and there are also real-time updates available both online and via the service's API.
Business intelligence platform Global Database provides a wide range of company data for millions of organisations based in the UK. It offers regularly-updated business information and is used by market leaders across diverse industries, including big names such as Microsoft, Avaya, Maserati and KPMG.
Global Database offers UK company information completely free of charge, and with no registration required. This free data includes:
Data company incorporated
SIC code and registration number
Shareholder names, share types and quantities
Total assets and working capital
As well as the free data, the Global Database platform also offers a more in-depth solution, based on an annual subscription. This information really allows you to build a solid picture of each prospect company and gives you the opportunity for a much more data-driven approach to sales, marketing and business development.
This can't be underestimated given recent research from Forrester has predicted that insights-driven businesses will generate $1.2 trillion revenue in 2020, an increase from $333 billion in 2015.
This deeper data includes:
Direct dial phone numbers and fax numbers
Number of employees
Detailed financials, such as balance sheets and profit and loss accounts
Employee details such as names, job titles, nationality and seniority
Monthly web traffic and sources
Office locations as well as headquarters
Both platforms are easy to navigate with a clear interface and offer a simple search function, although Global Database also provides a range of filter tools for an alternative search option.
The Companies House starting page, offering a simple search option.
Global Database’s starting point offers filter tools as well as search by company name, perfect if you don’t have a specific organisation already in mind.
Data from Companies House is around 70% digitised, with the rest being offered in PDF format, including annual returns, details of new appointments or terminations, and incorporation details. Global Database on the other hand is completely digitised, so all of the company information is available in one place with instant access.
The only type of contact information that Companies House makes available is the company's address, so the service is essentially useless as a marketing tool in terms of setting up campaigns unless you're using direct mail.
Global Database provides direct phone numbers, email addresses, fax numbers, and the company website, as well as the company's address. This data makes it incredibly easy to put together efficient emailing or cold calling campaigns from scratch.
As we touched upon earlier, Global Database provides a wide array of filtering tools to make it incredibly easy to find your ideal prospects instead of just looking up a particular organisation.
For example, if you wanted to only see results for IT companies that are based in London that have a revenue of over £5 million, more than 1000 employees, and uses Amazon Cloud, you could do so in just a few clicks. You can then find the right contact at that organisation to allow you to pitch to the person with authority to buy, whether that's a CEO or Head of Purchasing.
Global Database’s business intelligence platform offers specific filter options so that you’re able to find companies that match your ideal buyer profiles or segment different groups for better targeted campaigns. Filter based on factors such as industry, location, number of employees, trading activity, and more.
Companies House only provides information about the directors and the secretary of the company. Global Database offers information on employees at all levels, including heads of specific departments and non-managers.
The data provided by Companies House about individuals is also limited to their name, date of birth, role and date of appointment. Global Database includes data such as seniority level, email address, nationality and also provides links to a quick search function via social media.
Companies House provides limited data on individuals, and only senior officers are included.
Global Database offers a much broader range of employee information in the directory.
If you're looking for a quick way to put together a list of prospect companies or individuals via Companies House, well.. you can't. The digital service doesn't have that function; you'd have to do it manually, provided you know the names of every company or officer you want to add to your mailing list.
Thankfully, Global Database does offer this useful feature. Once you've filtered the database using the numerous options provided, you're able to download your resulting list, ready for use in your next marketing campaign or enriching your current customer data.
Global Database has an easy ‘Build a List’ feature to put together targeted mailing lists.
From the results page you simply click the ‘Download’ button, and your list is ready to go.
Build your comprehensive, always up-to-date contact lists, using multiple filters on the Global Database platform. Get acquainted with the full range of possibilities it opens for your business via an online demo.
Both Companies House and Global Database offer this feature, enabling you to receive email alerts for any changes to specific company records of your choosing. Of course, the limited amount of data held about each company in the Companies House directory means fewer options to keep up to date with them - it will be for things like change of address or the appointment of a new director. Global Database has a broader scope of data available, so as well as these changes you could also receive alerts for other things such as job changes and credit score updates.
The "Follow" option on the Companies House website provides you with limited updates for a specific company.
Global Database provides you with the choice to download a company record or follow the record to receive timely email alerts.
Companies House doesn't allow you to export historic data for companies in bulk. Instead, you'd have to export each of the documents held in PDF format one by one and then copy this information into an XL file. Clearly, this could easily become a time-consuming and frustrating process.
Global Database makes this much easier by allowing you to download and export data in bulk, and we also provide 20 years historic data so you can get a really deep understanding of the way a company has grown (or not) over time. We also offer these exports at no extra cost and with no limits - you can grab the data as you need it, however much that is.
Companies House does not allow you to view detailed insights such as the company's group structure, office locations or digital insights. In comparison, Global Database includes these details, so you can see for example which technologies they're using, their Alexa rank, which keywords they're ranking for and how many office locations they have aside from their registered company address.
This information is needed when it comes to building a detailed profile of a company, and it’s also great for logistical reasons; maybe you’re looking for companies that are based within a certain radius to you, in which case you might find that they have a branch located nearby, even if their trading address is in a totally different city.
Although Companies House can be useful if you already know the company you want to target, it only provides basic information. All of the details offered by Companies House can be found on the Global Database platform, along with deeper, much more in-depth insights to allow you to access everything you need in one place, and build a complete picture of each prospect.
The Companies House digital service isn't great as a marketing tool - the fact that you can't filter the records or build lists means it's hard to get the data you need, and of course there are no contact details other than company addresses. Global Database is a well-rounded sales and marketing tool, allowing you to build highly-targeted lists and export as much data as you require.
It's also worth noting that Companies House is basically just making the data that they receive public. This means that they are unable to correct mistakes without going through the process of receiving a signed document from the person who submitted the data. Therefore they are essentially reliant on business owners contacting them to make alterations.
As Companies House themselves highlight, around 47% of searches on the database are for company officers, yet just 53% of businesses inform them of updates to their officer details within the required time period.
This in-depth data offers varied uses across a number of different business functions, making it even better value. Here's some examples to give you an idea of the general scope of the potential available.
When you have a better grasp of who your customers are and what they require, you can tailor your approach based on this information. Personalisation is more than just a passing trend - it's become a vital aspect of any self-respecting marketing campaign. By learning more about your customers, you can offer them a better service.
For example, you can segment prospects based on their turnover, company size, location or industry, and then send out separate emails featuring content that is focused on those types of businesses. As the image taken from the Data Driven Marketing report shows, the vast majority of businesses use personalisation as part of their email campaigns.
Having more detailed data to hand is also essential for account-based marketing. In order to target a single business, or 'account', you need to know what challenges they're facing. Are they struggling with decreasing revenue? Not getting a decent amount of web traffic? You can use the data provided to target them with ads or other content that will offer them with a solution.
There are a few ways that having access to comprehensive company data can give you better sales results...
Qualifying & Prioritising Leads
Firstly, you can use the information to qualify leads based on several different factors, such as:
Number of employees or offices - How big is the organisation? Are they growing?
Industry - Are they based in the sector you wish to target? Will they have a requirement for your products?
Location - This is particularly important if you have a physical product or service to sell - how will you reach them logistically?
Revenue - Do they have the budget required for your product or service?
Technology used - How up to date is their current stack? Can you offer them a complementary product or service?
In-depth data is also important for better negotiations. When you know your prospect's likely budget, as well as their most pressing concerns, you can tailor your approach to make sure it's as appealing as possible, as well as ensuring you have the upper hand by not pricing too low if they can afford to go higher.
As the chart here from the 2018 State of Inbound report shows, phone and email remain the most effective ways to reach leads. Global Database provides accurate, regularly updated contact data. This includes thousands of direct phone numbers, giving you the ability to avoid gatekeepers and get right to the decision makers. Whether you're running an email or cold calling campaign, you're likely to see better results with higher quality contact details
Using the in-depth data provided by Global Database will enable you to drive your business forward. It can help to identify new products or services that are needed in your industry, as well as spotting new markets to enter. For example, you might find there aren't many businesses doing what you are in a certain niche, or geographical location, but determine that those businesses in that market are enjoying great revenue - why not try and grab a slice of the action?
Using a more data-driven approach will also help to give you more realistic sales forecasts. By looking at what kind of numbers other businesses in your niche are turning over, depending on factors such as time of year, you'll be able to adapt your strategy accordingly and ensure you're not over or under buying.
Global Database also allows you to easily headhunt new employees, whatever industry you're in. Finding the ideal new hire can be both expensive and time consuming, and as the image below from Robert Half shows, can have very negative consequences. Using the data in our online platform makes the process much simpler.
We offer information on staff at every level, not just the senior executives. You can very easily narrow your search based on specific factors including job title, location, industry and seniority level. You can also search by name, then look at the individual's background to determine if they'll be a suitable fit for your business.
If you're determining how much a certain business is before a deal, having only basic information about them isn't going to cut it. To carry out a sufficient background check, you need access to details such as financial records, credit scores, mortgages and charges and shareholder details. Global Database provides a quick solution for all of this data, enabling you to look up multiple businesses in a matter of minutes with a simple search of company name.
If you're planning an investment the deep data held in our directory is also ideal; you can find the perfect businesses that will fit your current portfolio and budget by searching via revenue, industry, location, number of employees and trading activity. You can then view important details such as shareholder and director information and financial records.
Keeping updated on what your competitors are doing is often very important. It not only helps you to spot who your biggest rivals are, but can also help to drive more informed decisions for your company. Competitor research is valuable for the following reasons:
Find gaps in the market - See how many businesses are currently in your niche, or a new one you're considering entering. You could also search by location, important if you're a local business. Find opportunities to launch new products or services where customers needs aren't being met at the moment.
Exploit their weaknesses - Check the company's financials or credit score to see how they're currently performing. Have they opened or closed more office locations? Taken on new staff? This will help establish if they're growing or not. You could also look at how technologically advanced they are, and how much web traffic they're getting, then use your findings to improve your campaigns.
Use them as an example - If they've made a big change, like entering a new market or launching a new product, how has it affected their financials? Use this information to decide if you'll follow their lead or not.
As well as offering the data contained in the Companies House database, our business intelligence platform also collects data from a range of other reputable resources. This includes:
Chambers of Commerce
Phone and web research
Partnerships with data providers
Much of this data is cross-referenced across multiple sources, helping us to ensure it is as accurate and complete as possible. Our web crawling technology also adds and updates records every day in real-time.
While no respectable data provider would claim to offer information that is 100% correct thanks to the rapid nature of business changes, Global Database takes its commitment to data quality incredibly seriously. We strive to provide the freshest, most accurate B2B data on the market by consistently running a series of checks and updates across all of our directories.
Along with our patented web crawling technology, we also employ a team of over 100 in-house staff members, to manually collect, organise and verify our data every day. Any changes are sent to you via email, so you're always as up to date as possible. We add new companies all the time, so this also means you'll be able to add new leads to your CRM before your rivals.
Each email address we hold is validated on a 30 day basis, to ensure they're current and correct. Because of this, we have a successful delivery rate of 85% - 95%, an impressive feat that none of our competitors can boast of. Your email campaigns will enjoy better results with emails that reach your prospects.
Having a deep understanding of both your customers and your prospects is essential in today's B2B world. Without having a complete understanding of your target audience you risk losing potential sales to your competitors. Gaining sufficient company data allows you to market better, pitch better, and ultimately grow your business at a faster rate.
Companies House may be a good place to start if you're looking for very simple business data, or just checking whether a company is actually registered in the UK. However, in order to build a full overview of your prospects, a more in-depth solution such as that which Global Database provides is needed. Our platform also offers features such as filter tools and easy list building, making it very efficient to set up new marketing campaigns or add data to your CRM.