We’ve released a new version of FirstRain today which has a number of new features to provide our users even more depth on their companies and markets – even more quickly. You can read about all the features on today’s blog post on firstrain.com.
One of the very new, beta capabilities is Industry search and analytics. This is intended for marketing and sales people and analysts who need to quickly review an industry and what’s hot and changing in that industry — for example a salesperson coming up to speed on an industry because they have a new prospect, or analyst who wants an RSS feed of the important changes impacting the companies in an industry.
The industry brief generates top news, recent events, corporate governance indicators, industry health indicators, management turnover, top moving stocks, analyst comments etc. for the industry – all in one place – or sent to you through an RSS feed.
But more than that – it also shows you a market map for the industry – which are the top companies? What are the hot topics? What are the top business lines? All very useful to stay on top of an industry that is impacting your business. It’s up to the minute, automated and generated from the web.
Here are some images from the Internet Information Providers industry:
Guest post: Michael Prospero, Director of Research at FirstRain
As an analyst, one of the things I struggled with was the vast amount of information coming at me each day. A large part of my job was to read anything from or about my companies, competitor companies, industry bellwethers, thought leaders and of course the overall economy.
I set up Google alerts, but depending on the companies/stocks I entered I got a lot of junk both old and irrelevant. Also, there still isn’t a way to set up the types of sources you would like to read (e.g., no press releases or wire news) — the number of sources alerts covered is relatively small. The stated information from Google is that it watches more than 4,500 English-language news sites. and the number of alerts can become annoying if you have large portfolios of companies you’re tracking.
Additionally, I would have my stock ticker service up on my screen with the stock prices of my portfolios and this would provide an icon if there was news on a stock I had set up on the screen. A large part of my day was spent reading financial publications, checking news from the alerts on my companies, talking to customers and companies. When I had time in between those tasks, I spent my time working investment ideas.
As you read, you come up with ideas (idea generation), which leads you to search for other stories to either support or invalidate your theory. To find those stories, you would of course use Google search. Obviously, Google is very good at finding content, but because it’s most every source on the internet, you have to really hunt for something interesting and timely.
Oftentimes, you will find an article that is exactly what you were looking for in your search only to realize that it’s from 2006. Google search is comprehensive, but it’s tedious and extremely time consuming to dig through the clutter of totally irrelevant as well as non-business relevant content.
It’s been nearly three years since I was an analyst now and the one thing that has drastically changed is the number of blogs (and overall number sources on the internet) and their authoritativeness. In the beginning, the number of blogs was sparse and at best the authors of them were questionable. Now, we have blogs from extremely knowledgeable, connected, intelligent people and micro-blogging (e.g., Twitter) is yet the next step in the evolution of news.
So this leads to why I am at FirstRain: I believe if a system could have gathered all of the news that was business relevant, categorize it by company and topically, and allow me to personalize its delivery along with other preferences, it would have helped my process enormously. I could have spent more time on the phone and more time working on idea generation. Time spent on new ideas rather than time spent covering your butt is the way to create alpha.
A nice post from Selling Power on FirstRain – written by Gerhard Gschwandtner:
How Major-Account Managers Stay on Top of the Growing Tsunami of Information
The role of a major-account manager is significantly different from the roles of other salespeople, since these elite sales executives manage only very few but substantially larger accounts. Their role is more strategic, and their company’s fortunes often depend on their success. …
One of the most difficult jobs in managing major accounts is to keep up with the massive amount of information within the account. Imagine being in charge of selling your company’s services to IBM, Oracle, or Microsoft. How will you be able scan and monitor the rapidly changing corporate landscape?
Read more here…
Time is the enemy for strategic sales teams.
You make money when you truly understand your customer’s business. And that means understanding your customer’s customer. What is driving their business, what are the trends that they lie awake at night about? When is the right time to call — and who?
But the time it takes to do this for large global accounts, or for a set of accounts across diverse market segments, is quite simply prohibitive and so sales people don’t do it.
I’ve worked with global teams covering accounts like IBM, BP, Toshiba, Cisco — it’s incredibly important that each member of the team understands what is happening to the market and end customers of each local division or business line that they are responsible for managing and that they bring that knowledge and understanding into the account strategy and coordinated campaigns.
Another example is one where we are currently working with a senior sales rep (at a very large software company) who has target accounts across a diverse set of industries — and his effectiveness is directly impacted by how quickly he can come up to speed on his customer’s businesses.
I was with a strategic sales manager at a large telecomm customer of ours on the East Coast last week discussing this very issue. He reinforced to me how important it is that his team can be relevant when they gets on the phone with their prospect or customer. It changes the whole dynamic of the conversation and makes the discussion about the customer’s business challenges and how you can help – not about what product you are hawking.
When you integrate a solution to this problem sales people can tie their productivity gains, and the deeper campaigns they can create, directly to revenue — and it is one of the popular ways our users leverage FirstRain.
My team is showing FirstRain at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston on June 28 and I’ll also be talking about the methodology to put this kind of power into the hands of a sales team on a webinar on Thursday June17 at 11am PDT – join us!
We have a history of taking on whacky athletic challenges at FirstRain – both to get and stay fit and also to play together as a team.
Yesterday was no exception, although we were a small team this time. Three of us competed in the Splash and Dash in the Stevens Creek Reservoir in Cupertino CA. It was supposed to be a 1.2 mile swim and 3 mile run.
Well, it turned out a little different than we had expected. First off the water was really cold – which meant we were gasping for the first leg as we got accustomed to the temperature. And then the swim was not 1.2 miles – it was closer to 1.6-1.7 miles. We only knew this because it took me so much longer than last time I did it and so we asked around some of the more experienced competitors who estimated the distance for us based on their swim times.
It’s no wonder that at the end we didn’t run. We’d had enough. But we enjoyed it, we didn’t come last, and we are signed up for two more races this year!
Here we are before the race (we didn’t look as good afterwards!)
We’re running two webinars in 2 weeks – one for marketing on June 15th and one for sales on June 17th. Each one is focused on how our successful “rainmaker” customers use FirstRain to sell more to their leading customers.
If you know more about your major accounts than anyone else, and if it takes you just a few minutes a day to have that knowledge, you can provide better service to your customer. You understand their business better than your competitor does. You spot opportunities to help them, and you are prepared for every conversation.
Our webinars will show techniques to use FirstRain to do this. Join us here.
We’re holding two educational webinars in June on how to use strategic intelligence to accelerate revenue – both for marketing or for sales – and Pete Krainik posed a few questions to me for the CMO Club website last week. This is just a preview – if you’d like to join us for a live discussion on June 15th you can register here. And if you are a CMO you can join an interesting community of your peers at http://www.thecmoclub.com/.
Pete: What’s really available on the web today to help CMOs understand their market? Isn’t it just a lot of noise?
Penny: That’s a great question because I think many people do wonder if the web can help with strategic issues. It’s well understood how to look for PR coverage in the web, but the reality today is that the web is also the most current, up-to-date view of companies and markets – it’s more current than databases of company and market data because they just cannot stay up to date – and if you can detect the patterns in it the web holds a rich wealth of critical information about how companies and markets are changing.
Pete: What types of questions can be answered real time?
Penny: Some examples of the questions that can be answered real time from the web are:
– What are the new developments around a hot industry topic – and what companies are being impacted?
– What are the visible management changes at a company, whether or not they are announced?
– Who’s competing with who? (real time, not out of date relationships)
– What’s impacting my customers customer’s business – and how can it impact my strategy, my sales team and my revenue?
– What’s the context of a competitors announcement – and how is the broad market of influencers and bloggers reacting to it?
This type of strategic intelligence is absolutely present in the web, but the high levels of junk and duplication make it almost impossible to find quickly without a research engine designed to find and report on company, industry, hot topic and management information. But as a CMO you know you want your strategic marketing team and sales teams to have it, and not have to spend time looking for it.
Pete: What are the most frequently requested reports today?
Penny: The most common report is configured by CMOs for their specific intelligence space. You select the companies, related competitors, related industry topics and business topics that impact your market and a rich report on the latest developments is emailed to you, or you can subscribe in an RSS reader and see it on your phone, or push it into your internal company portals. In addition, FirstRain staff will always help CMOs do this if you need help and can add hot industry topics into the application if you are looking for a new narrow area of coverage.
The second type of report is a Company Brief. This is an auto-generated contextual report about a company – and includes the ecosystem (business lines, competitors, hot topics) around the company, recent management changes, lists of detected management and their bios, recent events for the company – and also for it’s competitors and it’s industry. Because this brief extracts material changes and events, rather than a stream of unfiltered news, it is a very efficient way to quickly see the market events that are impacting a company and it’s business. We see both marketing and sales people use it to prepare themselves, or their management, for customer meetings and calls.
Pete: So why can’t I do this with consumer tools like Google and Bing?
Penny: Google and Bing are truly excellent at extracting structure and getting you to the right answer for typical consumer questions – like shopping, travel, movie times or local store information. Even Yahoo Finance is good at getting you recent news from the most popular news sites. But what none of these tools do is provide you with similarly well structured answers for companies, industries and hot topics. These are concepts that are hard to capture in keywords, and where the most interesting information may not even mention a company name, but the right tool can detect that it a web article or blog post is about a topic impacting a company.
In addition to finding and filtering web information to generate useful intelligence, the other critical functionality for marketing is reporting suitable for strategic readers (like marketing, sales and executives). Time is money and the right reports, producing just the critical intelligence that is impacting a product line or market take users directly to critical strategic intelligence in seconds.
Pete: What is one piece of advice you would give CMOs in the club as they look to the web to help them understand their markets?
Penny: Focus on the efficiency of how your marketing and sales team use the web. The costs of the time it takes to use consumer tools are enormous but they are hidden and with the tools like Google (which is where everyone goes first today) the web is a huge time sink and distraction to your team. You need the strategic intelligence the web provides, but you need to get at it efficiently so I recommend you focus on the timeliness, quality and relevancy of the intelligence you pull out – and how long it takes your employees to retrieve it into their decision process.
Click here to register for upcoming CMO CLUB Roundtable Webinar with Penny on “How Do Top Marketing Teams Use Up-to-the-Minute Intelligence to Accelerate Revenue”: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/827670465
Click here for more information on FirstRain: http://www.firstrain.com/Marketing.php