I saw a statistic the other day in the February edition of the splendid The Charleston Report (http://charlestonco.com/), which started me thinking , and I didn’t stop until I reached a recent note on business directories from  InfoCommerce , and then read Chuck Richard’s note for Outsell on competition in B2B markets(https://clients.outsellinc.com/insights/index.php?p=11120) . As a result of all this I took action on my thinking and I am now pondering the results . If I am right , then a huge chunk of the business information market is at risk , so lets pray I am wrong , which would be less unusual and more entertaining for my kind readers .

In the first instance TCR quoted the NY Times to the effect that between ages 8 and 18 , US students spend 7.5 hours in front of a screen every day ( smartphone , TV ,computer etc ) plus 90 minutes texting and 30 minutes talking on their cellphones . What struck me first of all was how quickly voice contact was falling away , and text moving down beside it . If you want someone you increasingly get to them via Facebook , it seems to me .  And then I thought that I am increasingly using LinkedIn as my directory , and finding the person I want to speak to there – and even sometimes look at the company profiles .

So I followed the Infocommerce advice when they published a recent piece on this (http://www.infocommercegroup.com/blogs/index.htm). I went to Microsoft and downloaded Contacts for Outlook , and I downloaded the LinkedIn connector that links to this . As a result , when I set out a moment ago to write to my old associate and friend Joachim Bartels on a subject close to our hearts  ( the Business Information Industry Association of Asia Pacific ) , I found the Linked In content linked into Outlook , together with a note of everything I have written to Joachim in recent times , and all the things that he has sent me ( plus a photo of the man himself , all energy  and vinegar , and ready to leap from the screen to chastise me for not responding more quickly ).

This could well be the beginning of a new wave of innovation . If we get used to storing our “personal” directories in one place , and then affiliating to them massive searchable environments  of other names who we could add to that directory , and then adding their companies and their web references , then we are surely building primary directories of the sort we once went to Experian or D&B or Acxiom for , so this trend must surely compel business information data suppliers to move up the value chain and link themselves to these contextual channels . Indeed , for a ZoomInfo type of player that may be the only way to find a route to Market .  And then I saw Chuck reminding us that in fact this whole field is alive with start-ups , and challenges to conventional business directory players , so I then saw that my sense of established players being challenged by the social media interface was even greater than I thought .

But why is it a challenge ? Well , I am just a US college kid at heart , and my screen pattern is not unlike theirs . So save me a few minutes when finding a contact or searching for an email address , or automatically update me when things change , or give me the collateral content when I am framing a request or writing a reply , and I will bless you for the productivity gain. And this gain is taking place inside my personal workflow , and is very well suited to my mobile content requirements .

I will also be able to do more things on one password and I will be happy to allow LinkedIn to become an effective overlay to my screen-based world if it will do these things intelligently . I only need one LinkedIn and cannot manage a multiplicity of social sites , so I have always rejected invitations to join others , business or social . But if it lets me down then I am glad to know there is a choice  .

Footnote : Business directories will never be the same again . Actually , nothing is the same again , yet certain things go on regardless . Spamming is one . The same edition of TCR told me that  ” according to a 2008 study by researchers at the University of California , Berkeley , and UC, San Diego , spammers get a response just once for every 12.5 million emails they send – a response rate of 0.000008% .” Goodness , thats lower than a classified on a Murdoch website – and spammers still make profits , or they would stop .


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1 Comment so far

  1. Phil Cotter on March 18, 2010 11:54

    LinkedIn and Zoominfo are the latest to adminster death by a thousand cuts to the old B2B marketing business model. If you just want a name and contact details these guys do the job as well, if not better than the traditional directory and BI providers, just look at the demise of Infogroup.

    But increasingly businesses want more insight than this. The ability to apply analytics to the personal and company information to derive insights into the propensity for an individual or company to take specific actions in the future, (be it to default on credit, buy a product or consume government services) and to be able to use this to drive the way organisations interact with their cuistomers and prospective customers is where real value is created. This requires the ability to aggregate, standardise and interrogate complex data sets often from seemingly unrelated sources and to be able to deliver the intelligence extracted in a high volume, always on production environment.

    This is what the likes of Experian,DnB and Equifax are good at and far from being dinosaurs on the verge of extinction, they are focusing their attentions on helping their customers to sort the wheat from the chaff and make sense from the ever expanding information universe.