Monday, March 31, 2014

ContentBlogger is moving!

After eleven years at shore.com, ContentBlogger is moving along with the operations of Shore Communications Inc. to a new domain - shorecominc.com. Yes, I got a decent price for shore.com. Yes, I'll miss it. But folks, you've known me for a looong time, now. You know where I live.

Please move your RSS feed to contentblogger.shorecominc.com, and you'll continue to get our great content, same as ever. See you there!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

OneSource Rebrands as Avention, Launches Advanced Business Insights for The Signal Economy

I had a Latin teacher in high school who had been teaching there since before the flood, adored by all and yet known for being particularly grumpy. Sometimes when we were particularly unresponsive to his lessons, he would burst out in frustration, "Ah, it's like trying to talk to a field of corn!"

I'd be lying if I didn't admit that this is what it feels like sometimes to be a strategic marketing consultant trying to convince B2B publishers to innovate.

But in the instance of new services emerging from Avention - the newly launched rebranding of OneSource Information Services - the corn has learned a thing or two and produced a glorious crop of innovative services built for The Signal Economy that are tailored to deliver maximum value from business information to business researchers and sales and marketing professionals.

OneSource Information Services had two major problems: a name that resembled a lot of other corporate names and a product line that featured high-quality business information with useful interfaces for sales, marketing and management teams but not necessarily the highest value proposition. In other words, it was turning a buck, but getting lost in the crowd - not the best thing to happen to a premium business information service in the middle of a tight economy. Having the brand bounce around between various owners for the better part of a decade didn't help either, as underinvestment and premium services don't really go hand in hand.

But when a new group of owners took over OneSource late in 2012, two things came to OneSource that were badly needed: a new product vision and cash to invest in it. Normally in B2B information services, this is where the story turns sad - acquisitions fatten the repository of information, but the services remain largely the same old search-and-retrieve platforms that have been dominating the industry for more than twenty years. In the instance of OneSource, they already had a very comprehensive content collection, so better performance had to come from the services themselves.

The result is Avention, a company that sports not just a new name but a new set of services that promise to bring to business information the type of productivity and tailored effectiveness that has been sorely lacking from many B2B information suppliers. Avention is leveraging the OneSource database in a much more efficient way, adding not just enhanced and simplified search based on business concepts and improved news trigger management - necessary "catch-up" work to some degree, perhaps - but also a whole new way to organizing fundamental information companies in relation to business goals and getting it attuned to real-time changes in your target businesses' status and your own shifts in tactics and strategies.

What really got me jazzed by a recent demo of the new Avention platform that will replace previous OneSource products is how companies picked for tracking can be ranked and prioritized based on "business signals" - an analysis of a long list of potential business conditions that indicate the importance of their current status in relation to your own company's defined priorities. While there is detailed information available from these signals, the brilliance of the Avention interface is the ability to sum up these signals into one overarching raking number called a "Ideal Profile Score" that's tailored to your specific focus.

Think of, say, a credit score as a summed-up number that people reference sometimes in business decisions. Well, that's a one-size-fits-all metric and unless you've weighted it along with other key factors you don't necessarily have an easier time deciding how to approach a company. Same with typical searches or categorizations of businesses - you get a specific pot of "relevant" companies but you don't really have a way of raking them according to what will actually produce the best results for your efforts. with Aventis Business Signals, the Ideal Profile Score can be used to rank companies based on numerous complex factors using simple slider controls into a dashboard number that can be used to sort, filter and prioritize companies rapidly based on a number of complex factors. A sales or department manager can set up these signal factors so that a sales team or other teams don't have to think through the details of what's important in choosing prospects - they just have to follow the net result of the analysis. That's a bull's-eye example of how the concept of signal should work in information services - a simple signification of complex factors through predictive analysis that enables decisive action.

Business signals can be also be evaluated individually based on a long list of data elements available in
the large and highly curated Avention collection of business information, and adjusted to a specific goal or campaign's specific priorities. Again, you get analytics that can accelerate decision making - not just a quantification of triggering events. These are the sorts of decision making tools that we've seen pieces of in various business information services before, to be sure, but I have never seen a collection of business targeting decision tools as sophisticated and actionable as those collected into the new Avention platform. Although I haven't been hands-on with the product yet, in the live demos that I've seen it appears to be a very thoughtfully designed interface, with good use of screen space and much more actionable in its overall design than typical business information retrieval services.

This is not to disparage the very good work that's gone into other B2B information products, many produced by companies that I have advised - only to underscore that we're entering a new era for business information that requires not just information retrieval and organization but enabling people to take targeted, signals-based action more effectively. We've seen the same thing happen before in financial information services as large financial institutions needed to translate information "overload" into decisive actions in securities markets in increasingly short time frames - eventually to the point that automated trading was the only way to leverage the power of these real-time financial analytics. And on the consumer side, analysis of data flowing into customer response centers from phone calls, emails and social media are enabling organizations to create personally targeted marketing responses almost as quickly. Why should business information services used for sales, marketing and strategic decision making be stuck in the "list of companies and documents" era of decision making when The Signal Economy is already driving so many other aspects of business information use?

Most importantly from Avention's perspective, perhaps, all of this innovative work on its products jacks up its potential ROI proposition dramatically. Yes, you can get a lot of the information sources in Aventis from any number of places, perhaps. Yes, you can go through the usual drill of checking off those sources in a spreadsheet and doing the math of how much content you're getting for your subscription investment. But when the platform actually helps you do things with that information in a significantly more productive way and it uses high-quality curated sources, then you can pretty much toss those spreadsheets out the window - at least until competitive features come along from other suppliers. Just how much more productivity comes from this signals-based platform will be measured in the months ahead, but based on my understanding of the product so far and my years of experience in advising business information companies, I expect the payoff for both Avention and its clients to be significant. The Signal Economy era is finally here for sales and marketing professionals in a big way. Enjoy.