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.
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
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