market' and come to the conclusion that the key players in it either over complicate their offering, screw up their pricing model or have no idea where they are trying to add real value to potential customers' businesses.
In fact, even finding and agreeing a definition of this market is confusing since most attempts at definition simply state categories of data that should be considered 'business information' as opposed to, say, 'technical and medical' and 'educational and training' content. Check out this Wiki definition for 'Business Information', then let me know by comment below if you find a more frustratingly weak entry!
As an eBusiness leader at GE, I had a budget for business information worth of tens of thousand pounds and wasn't inclined to spend any of it unless one of my team could quantify in some way its likely affect on my revenue numbers. So for me, 'business information' is easily defined. It is data or content provided by a Third Party that can impact the revenue prospects of the end User or Customer who purchases or receives it.
At this point is important to distinguish between Users and Customers. I covet 'customers' because these are entities in my world (companies, organisations, governments, departments, agencies, charities, partnerships, sole traders, contractors, consultants, retail consumers) who actually pay for business information rather than peruse and consume 'free stuff'. Free riders are mere 'Users' and may have value if you have enough of them visiting your business information portal and can leverage some advertising money out of their presence or incorporate them into some sort of 'FREEmium' model. However, the days of surviving in this market by just accumulating eyeballs are long gone. Perhaps, the best example of this Freemium model in the UK company credit reports market is: companycheck.co.uk. This site not only has its comparative pricing pitched just right for its product set to flip Users into Customers but it is also optimally designed to entice and encapture. This is not an easy thing to do and has only been achieved through years of experience of trial and error by those behind the property.
Still, getting and holding onto Customers is the real prize in the business information
market not least because as a VC I once pitched said, corporate customers 'do not do Freemium'. Which brings us nicely to the 'Infoworking Bullseye' illustrated above. Infoworkers are the profitable customer segment that enlightened business information providers should be targeting today. They are where the growth is, and from where profitable growth will come in this space for years to come. They are rightly in the centre of the simple segmentation model introduced here.
Since I have invented and refined the term 'infoworkers' over the past three years
with the help of anyone who will listen, I suppose the term deserves some explanation. For me, 'Infoworking' is the process of building value adding or business relations amongst individuals OR organizations which not only search for, use and subscribe to business information as a part of their profit seeking activities but are also prepared to share additional data, knowledge and opinion with others about the value of that information to the outcome of such activities.
The fact that Infoworkers interact, share and subscribe means that they have skin in the game in the same way that passionate Facebook users optimise their presence. They are not only valuable paying customers in their own right but also enhance
existing information and generate additional data points that amplifies a business information providers' current product set. If a provider can create a critical mass of infoworkers - it ultimately creates a completely new information product set which, depending on the T+Cs governing the User/Customer community becomes a proprietary asset for the business.
As you can see from the illustration above, this is a cut above the existing retail (Business to Consumer or 'B2C') and corporate (Business to Business or 'B2B') markets (depicted by the two outside circles) that almost all business information providers are presently competing in. Of course, as I write, even in these markets as they stand there are some interesting scenarios developing such as:
++ Will creditsafe’s new US offering kick D&B's butt in its core US market? (I certainly wouldn't bet against them. D&B are a Supertanker waiting to be torpedoed in their 'home market'.)
++ Will Duedil (with its new money from its Wonga backers) make a breakthrough in the retail company information market in the UK and beyond? (Not a chance, with its
current pricing model.)
++ For how long can Experian maintain its company information business by leveraging its impregnable position on the consumer side without devaluing its commercial data through commoditisation? (This dysfunctional Behemoth seems to get away with almost anything business model wise so nothing would surprise me).
++ When will all business information providers realise that in visualisation and data analysis terms: ‘It's All About Spatial Stupid!' (Some are…so watch out…its
Each and any of these scenarios may be worth a separate Blog entry, but the real prize is capturing the Infoworkers, where the business information provider interacts
with its customers, who in effect helps the provider to develop and extend its product. (In manufacturing circles they maybe known as ‘prosumers’ – B2C2B).
It interesting to see that a US based startup called InfoArmy has had a go at this in a twisted sort of way – by attempting to use crowdsourcing to power its business model. The problem with this approach (which according to this article by Joachim C of the BIIA they now seem to recognise) is that the people who generate the data should not be solely motivated by direct compensation for information production. Also, as Joachim points out, this model may have floundered because the "company does not have a historic master file on companies to be able to verify the data provided by the ‘army of researchers’" (which if true, is pretty lame given the amount of VC funding they had). However, the main reason why Infoarmy has stalled in my view is because, the best way to attract and do business with infoworkers is by delivering the data they receive as a by-product of another calling. That is, in order to create an Infoworker community, it is helpful to start with an attractive business information product(s) set as a foundation. If Infoarmy had started out as creditsafe, Graydon, Jordans, D&B or even the giant Experian they might had made a better fist of it.
Now anyone who knows these business information providers, will understand that culturally they have neither the Vision nor the Balls to deliver on such an innovative strategy. Which means that only TWO companies in my view are presently positioned globally to make the step up to infoworking because of the strengths of their respective online communities. These companies are: LinkedIn and Alibaba. LinkedIn has currently lost its way with its cluttered celebrity (er, sorry 'influencer') dominated approach to the provision of useful business information and Alibaba has lost Jack Ma to retirement – arguably the greatest leader of a business information provider that you have never heard of.
All of this means that the battle for precious Infoworkers is wide open. It’s still all to play for in the months to come. So if you have the capital, the drive and the ambition then give me a call because I have a plan that revolves around Purpose, Platforms and Partners. I am, right now, the 'Man with the 3P Infoworker Plan!'...
Please feel free to rip or mash this blog piece. All I ask is that you credit me with the 'Infoworker/Infoworking' idea if you use it since I have been on this for a while. I also run a one-day workshop or individual sessions entitled 'Making Money in the Business Information Market' which includes some of the above ideas as well as some further analysis of competitor and product dynamics. The workshop is £2000 which includes a day's preparation to understand your company's specific requirements.
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