Hoover's (www.hoovers.com), the well-known online resource for reliable company and industry information, has launched a new platform that is designed to appeal to both its subscribers and its advertising partners. Users now experience an improved site design and benefit from enhanced functionality, but they also have access to nearly twice as many companies and people worldwide-now more than 65 million enterprises and 85 million professional contacts globally. The new platform architecture also allows Hoover's to introduce a new advertising platform that offers a wider range of ad sizes with an increased level of targeting and placement.
The launch of Hoover's new platform follows some 7 months of development plus a months-long preview period, during which customers tested the site's functionality and provided feedback that further guided the development. According to Peter Poulin, executive vice president of marketing, the goal was to help users overcome cognitive overload by providing tools that make data actionable in the context of their daily workflow. The new platform provides additional workflow tools to facilitate the sales cycle, expands insight for more targeted high-yield prospecting, and offers more ways to connect with decision makers and influencers.
"Hoover's recognizes that customers are seeking value beyond data. While quality data is certainly a foundational element of any Sales 2.0 tool, our customers are finding increased value in the tools they use to access and act upon data," says Hyune Hand, Hoover's president. "With this launch, we're building upon our best-in-class business information with the right workflow and integration tools required to deliver a more personal and relevant customer experience."
By observing and talking to customers, Hoover's developers clearly recognized that one size doesn't fit all. Tools and workflow are unique depending on what someone does within the enterprise. So Hoover's developed a more flexible and modular architecture that could accelerate its product development and quickly accommodate new technologies. (Poulin says the company plans to develop targeted products to serve different customer segments.) Then, it developed a new look and feel with new colors and layout, better navigation, and easier access to tools and personalization features.
Possibly the first thing users will notice is how different and improved a company record looks. The new page layout makes it easy to scan relevant data. There are timesaving navigation tabs for simple organization-interestingly, the tabs are at the bottom of the page. Poulin says this was by far the preferred position by its testers. A new Notes and Tags feature lets users organize and track target companies. There are customizable financial charts and graphs. Users can set up custom sales alerts that trigger real-time, event-driven information about prospective and existing customers sourced from news feeds and company websites. The alerts are delivered through email or a linked CRM system.
Additional actionable information includes in-depth First Research Industry Profiles and a "Build A List" tool, with more data points and fields for better targeting and qualifying. The List tool uses Hoover's ConnectMail, powered by Jigsaw, to download from among millions of Jigsaw email addresses for targeted campaigns. Much of Hoover's database growth comes through its partnership with business directory service Jigsaw Data Corp. (www.jigsaw.com) that was announced in November and has been in beta testing since then. Jigsaw is a user-generated database built and maintained by its B2B members, which, of course, means that its accuracy is only as good as the users who choose to participate and keep it up-to-date. (Members add business contacts to get the business contacts they want.)
Chuck Richard, VP and lead analyst at information industry analyst firm Outsell, Inc. says that, in his opinion, Hoover's new platform accomplishes three key objectives:
- Nearly doubles the number of companies and executives available from Hoover's, which addresses the emerging competition in the market from high-volume providers, such as user-supplied contacts firms (NetProspex, Jigsaw, and LinkedIn, for example) and firms incorporating extensive web-mining and categorization technology (Generate, now part of Dow Jones Co. and Executives and ZoomInfo)
- Integrates sales and marketings' new business development and lead generation activities into daily workflow, with the improved list-building tools and integration of Jigsaw contact and email information and LinkedIn networking
- Creates a very flexible and unified platform on which Hoover's can be very agile in launching additional features and services and can reduce their internal costs by eliminating previous manual internal processes to draw from separate internal databases
Customers seem to be enthusiastic about the changes. "With Hoover's, it's not only easy to find the information I need, but I am also able to filter out information I don't want just as easily," says Theresa Craven, business development manager for CEVA Logistics. "The in-depth First Research industry reports are also fantastic, and have helped tremendously when we're targeting a new or niche market."
"I love that you are adding email contact information through your alliance with Jigsaw," says Diane Mammon, VP marketing for a New York technology firm. "Hoover's is an invaluable tool for us and it's wonderful to see your commitment to adding value, soliciting customer feedback, and keeping your product fresh and innovative."
While Hoover's claims that its data on enterprises and people are "worldwide," the coverage is clearly heavily weighted to U.S. companies. Colleen Carlisi, marketing and sales assistant at QUMAS, says, "[M]y only disappointment is that there's not a lot of information on European companies. We target U.S. as well as European companies and while the information on the U.S. sites is extremely detailed, there isn't much in the way of info on European organizations (no company description, very few contacts, no financial info, or number of employees)."
Carlisi really does like the new platform, however, and says she can find things a lot easier. "The layout was a lot cleaner, the profiles were clearly written and the contacts were up to date-which is what we use the site the most for. ... The one thing that really impressed me was that I kept asking (every time Hoover's solicited feedback) for access to more contacts as well as their email addresses without having to use the internal site to email a contact. I was really pleased when Hoover's listed and added this feature to its site."
Hoover's has offered a free site at Hoovers.com. I asked if the free site would also take on the new look and feel and some functionality of the new platform. A company representative says it doesn't have an answer on that yet. "We are still evaluating the cohesiveness between Hoover's free and paid sites." The free site will provide access to the full 65 million companies and 85 million people, but the depth of information will be abbreviated. And as for subscription prices for the new platform (for individuals and enterprises), the company says, "We have no plans for price changes to our customer subscriptions."
Hoover's also has had deals to feed its content to some other online information providers. I asked whether these arrangements would change. According to a company representative, LexisNexis and Factiva will still get Hoover's feeds but will not get the full 65 million company and 85 million people records. "Our data feeds range from the very basic 44,000 company records to 500,000 companies, with any combination of industry and/or people data. There are basic data sets they can subscribe to, but none of them will offer the full set of expanded coverage."
With the launch of the new platform, Hoover's clearly intends to increase its share of the B2B advertising market. The new modular and flexible platform is able to offer advertisers six different Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) sizes and significantly enhanced functionality and contextual placement in relationship to the pages' content.
And acknowledging another reality of modern, busy professionals whose business is increasingly taking place on the road rather than at a desk, Hoover's also announced its new Hoover's Near Here app. With the Hoover's Near Here app, users are able to find companies based on their current location or any other location in the U.S. and Canada. Easily viewable on a map or in a list, users can refine search results to meet their specific requirements by applying several criteria, including multiple ranges of revenue and number of employees at a particular location, multiple industries, or a simple keyword search, and they can save those filters for future searches. The search area is adjusted by moving the map or changing the search address.
The Hoover's Near Here app is $29.99, but it is available for $19.99 for a limited time from the App Store on iPhone and iPod touch or at www.itunes.com/appstore. For more information and a demo video, visit www.hooversmobile.com.