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Swapping Contacts

Podcast with President of ZoomInfo, Sam Zales

Sam ZalesSam Zales

Sam Zales, President of ZoomInfo Responds to My Linkedin Questions--"No way no how, am not pimping my Rolodex!"

It all started innocently enough. I received a press release from ZoomInfo with a request I record an interview to promote their new FreshContacts offer:

WALTHAM, MA--(Marketwire - December 8, 2009) - Helping put America back to work, ZoomInfo, the world's most comprehensive source of business information on people and companies, today announced a new resource for job hunters. Available immediately, FreshContacts provides free access to job seekers looking to identify, research and connect with innovative companies and their hiring managers. Providing actionable intelligence on prospective employers, FreshContacts can drastically shorten the time it takes for many job seekers to find employment... Read the complete press release.

So here's the deal. To get access to ZoomInfo's database, you must allow ZoomInfo access to your Outlook contacts, via an application you download from ZoomInfo's web site. Now, here's their pitch: "You may be wondering why ZoomInfo has agreed to give away a 2 month subscription for FREE. Well, it's a simple win-win situation: you get the value of the ZoomInfo database of 45 million professionals at 5 million companies, and in exchange, you allow your contact records to improve the size and quality of the database, which in turn helps everyone else who is using it! " I found one of their bullit points to be particularly disturbing: "Contributions to the database are totally anonymous - they are not traceable back to you." Okay.

I've found Linkedin Questions to be a goldmine. This is a free focus group, all you marketing people! So I published the following question, "What do you think of ZoomInfo's FreshContacts initiative? ... I'm recording a podcast interview with Sam Zales the president of ZoomInfo tomorrow."

ZoomInfo recently opened their database (for a limited time), to anyone willing to share their Outlook contact list - this is accomplished through a plug-in you download. Here's a link to the press release

  • What should I ask Sam?
  • Would you be willing to swap your Outlook contacts for 2 free month's access to ZoomInfo's database?
  • Do you have privacy concerns related to this offer?
  • Thanks for your suggestions.

Questions for Sam Zales

(thanks to all the Linkedin contributors, see a list of responses below)
  • Sam, let's start by addressing the primary concern most people have: harvesting my personal contacts from my Outlook database. David van Toor put it this way: "The people who gave me their business cards did so (I believe) on the implicit contract that I would use the information on it for my purposes only, and not for the sale (however executed) to other companies." Your response?
  • Can you describe for us exactly how this application, "FreshContacts Swapper" works?
  • Is this plug-in authorized by Microsoft?
  • Why have you decided to extend this offer? What's in it for you? What's in it for those who participate?
  • How will access to ZoomInfo help job seekers?
  • According to your press release, you've had a beta program -- what has the feedback been with your beta testers?
  • Another reaction from the Linkedin responses -- the reason you are doing this is ZoomInfo's information is inaccurate and outdated -- to the point of being useless. How do you respond to this?
  • Why use ZoomInfo when a simple Google search will often times provide me with more accurate data?
  • What haven't we discussed that's important for listeners to know?

Responses to Linkedin Question

Rita Ashley wrote:

IMHO this is the worst possible insult to my contacts. They expect privacy from friends and business associates. Sharing their contact information without permission is the worst sort of betrayal. In fact, LI frequently warns against accepting invites from folks you don't know to avoid this very problem of contact info in the hands of people we did not chose to include.

If this is a trend, I will start using my free account email contact in the future and never give anyone but the most trusted people my 'real' email address.

Giving away our contacts is the very best way to alienate all your connections. Of course if we all used Macs.....Thanks for asking.

Greg Uhrlen wrote:

From the corporate perspective, I think this is a no-go. No corporate recruiting exec or even biz dev/sales person that I know of would do this. This is only going to be something that search firms would take on. This is a very unethical thing because when people do not "opt in", its a breach of privacy and totally unethical to take someone's contact information and give it to a commercial organization. There are serious legal implications to a corporation if this is done, not to mention moral implications about the sanctity of trust between individuals. - Jeremy Eskenazi

I am amazed any professional would admit to utilizing this feature and allow their name to be shown in print. Would someone want their mobile phone number handed over to a marketer so that their friend or colleague could see a marketer's phone book?

Also, the information harvested by ZoomInfo will be tainted in many cases and of no real use to their paying customers regardless of any editing or filtering ZoomInfo may perform. In short, this is another way to spam innocent individuals.

Jason Alba wrote:

I'd suggest that this is something better left to JigSaw.... Zoom has been trying to identify or rebrand themselves (from my perspective) for a while, and figure out what their value prop is, and become relevant... imo this is just going to scare people off.

Karen Armon wrote:

I share the same point of view as those who have already responded. I cannot share my contacts with an "unidentified" source without their permission.

I wouldn't exploit my contacts that way for anything. It's the best way to shrink the number of people that regard you with any sort of respect.

And incidentally, company directories or a large contact list have sold for thousands of dollars in past years. ZoomInfo's proposal is absurd.

I've used ZoomInfo. The biggest issue with their service is that 70% of all of the contact information that you get is out of date. With that being said, ZoomInfo isn't worth anything to me.

Debby Aframi wrote:

They're trying to rectify this issue, which is admirable, but I can't imagine that they would get many takers.

Loreto Chiovitti wrote:

Interesting .....

From the press release: "In this unprecedented offer of a one-to-millions contact trade, job hunters can benefit from unlimited access to ZoomInfo's database regardless of the number of contacts and/or information they contribute via FreshContacts. "
Therefore, if I have an outlook profile with only myself as a contact, or worse yet, a bogus email; I get full access to their database!

Now I can send all of them an offer for a Rollexx, or tell them all I need their bank account information do I can get my money out of a third world country. Oh better yet - they won the internet lottery!

Has ZoomInfo lost their mind ?

How desperate are they to get new data?

How will the protect and respect the privacy of the data they already have?

*** Attention to all those already listed in ZoomInfo's databases ***

Be prepared to receive a whole new source of SPAM!

Debra Feldman wrote:

There is a darn good reason why they want to gather all this info at no cost to them. They want to continue to acumulate a large database of valuable info like names, addresses, emails, and private cell phone numbers. This way they can sell this current info to telemarketing companies, direct marketing companies, debt collection companies etc.

Do not sell out your contacts info and cause them to be endlessly harassed. There is only one word for this practice: SLEAZY!

Ask him: What is he thinking asking us to betray our families, friends and colleagues like this for? May I please have his private email, personal cell and home phone numbers too? Isn't there enough spam and harassing telemarketing calls in this world without him adding to them? - RI Sales & Marketing Manager

I think one of the major concerns is that my contacts are not mine to broadcast without the express permission of each individual who has generously shared their information with me, with the expectation that it was for my exclusive use. It could land up in the hands of the wrong person and if this is traced back to me, then I jeopardize my relationship. I also risk having my contacts no longer trust my personal judgment and business acumen. Without the express permission of each and every contact in my personal database, I would definitely not publicize their individual information or share it with anyone ever.

Chip Terry wrote:

All on behalf of ZoomInfo we want to thank you for your feedback. We really do appreciate the comments and welcome the input.

With this announcement, ZoomInfo is enabling job hunters with the same information that recruiters and corporations have had at their fingertips for years. By reducing the barrier of access to information on people and companies we hope to empower job seekers with the insight they need to find and research career opportunities. The concept of a contact trade is not new, but we are improving on it by offering a one to a million trade, providing access to intelligence on 45 million people at 5.5 million companies. Of course we recognize that this exchange is not for everyone. With that in mind, I want to clarify a few things...

1) We give end users control over their profiles. If you want to opt out of the ZoomInfo database, search your name on and "claim" your profile. From there it is really easy. Alternatively you can also call us at 866-904-9666.

2) We collect business information only: We are not collecting cell phone numbers, personal email addresses (gMail, Hotmail....), your mailing address at home. In other words, we are interested only in professional information, not your personal information.

3) Job seekers value the information they get. In the first few weeks of beta we have had over 4,000 folks download and besides a couple of minor bugs (now fixed), they have been extremely pleased. We could have gone the route of charging for this information, but felt that charging for it would not fit with our desire to help out folks in transition.

4) Our current product is valuable and loved by our clients: We have over 3,000 clients-including 9 to the top 10 recruiting firms. No one has 100% accurate data, but we are growing because we collect useful data that helps creative business professionals do their jobs a little bit better.

Note: Chip Terry is VP and GM of Enterprise Solutions at ZoomInfo

Peter Clayton

About Peter Clayton

Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.


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