FreePint: The Value Add from Company Aggregators

GBBChris Porter, who writes many of the company intelligence vendors profiles for FreePint, recently ran a research study where he conducted half his research using an unnamed subscription aggregator and half using the open web.  While he gave the edge to the aggregator, the margin was not as wide as he’d anticipated.  Porter commented that it’s “not time to cancel that subscription just yet – but worth keeping an eye on.”

Porter found that the free web was able to provide much of his project’s content, particularly for US publics.  However, the paid service made information discovery quicker and easier.

For private companies, he found that neither fully met his research needs so a combination of open web and aggregator service worked best.

Porter confessed that his subscription service lacked annual and interim reports which would have made his research easier.  These reports are available in some of the other aggregator services.

Porter was unhappy with the Reuters Significant Developments report.  “It was not picking up all the major developments I was looking for,” said Porter.  I have had a similar problem with the report as it is limited to material events.  But an event could be important for non-investors without impacting the stock price.  For example, a new VP of Marketing may own product positioning, a significant marketing budget,  and demand generation.  Likewise, the company may have announced a significant improvement to a struggling product line.  Such events may not move the stock price, but they are highly relevant to competitors, customers, partners, and vendors.

Where I have found the Significant Developments report useful is in looking at specific topics such as M&A or Litigation going back fifteen years for US publics and about ten years for international quoted companies.  Being able to quickly filter to a topic provides insights such as whether the pace of M&A activity has changed or whether the nature of the acquisitions has evolved.  It can also be quite useful for locating a historical event such as when a joint venture was launched.  Oftentimes, these are  difficult to discover as they are based upon vague information.

Aggregators bring together tools not available on the open web such as full family trees, prospecting lists, sales triggers, market research reports, executives with contact information, and SWOTs.  They also have advantages in downloading financials, researching European private company financials, locating earnings transcripts, identifying competitors, presenting analyst research, and downloading PDF profiles of companies or full-text news stories about companies.

As a competitive intelligence analyst and market researcher, I use both subscription services and the free web for company research.  I would never research a company without visiting its website.  If public, I will also visit the investor site for presentations, Corporate Social Responsibility reports, and other material they make available to their shareholders.  Likewise, I head straight to LinkedIn for researching individuals.  But if I want to understand the company structure, analyze its financials, or reach out to individuals at the firm, then aggregators can make a big difference.

Image: Global Business Browser from Avention.

First Research: Plain English Industry Primers

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I’ve long respected the First Research industry overviews assembled by Dun & Bradstreet.  While most industry research runs from complex to arcane, First Research reports serve as industry primers providing plain English overviews of an industry.  If you were to read the report for your own industry, you would probably find it useful only for new hire training.

And that is the beauty of the reports.  They are for novices lacking an understanding of an industry which makes them perfect for territory sales reps or relationship managers.  In fact, they were originally designed for relationship managers at banks before First Research realized that sales reps were equally in need of their research.  If your job requires you to interact with individuals across many industries, then First Research may be the perfect resource for “getting up to speed” on an industry.  They can also be valuable for job hunters looking for a basic set of questions to ask about an industry.

Content includes an Industry Overview containing the following sub-sections:

  • Competitive Landscape
  • Products & Operations
  • Technology
  • Sales & Marketing
  • Finance & Working Capital
  • Regulation
  • International Insights
  • Regional Highlights
  • Human Resources

along with these additional sections:

  • News and Social (FirstRain)
  • Quarterly Industry Update
  • Industry Forecast
  • Industry Growth Rating (High, medium or low)
  • Industry Indicators
  • Company Information
  • Critical Issues
  • Business Challenges
  • Business Trends
  • Industry Opportunities
  • Executive Insights and Questions
  • Financial Information
  • Call Prep Questions ƒ Websites & Acronyms

First Research contains several sections of Q&A content including Call Prep Questions and Executive Insights which are questions specific to C-level executives.  Sometimes in life, you need to “fake it until you make it” (i.e. develop expertise) and First Research is designed for this purpose.

Through an OEM deal with FirstRain, high-precision industry news is included in the service along with FirstRain topic tagging and visual tools.  FirstRain content includes Latest News, Top Business Tweets, Management Changes, Event Timeline, Industry Health Indicators, Analyst Commentary, and Recent Transactions.  FirstRain does not archive this content but provides six months of open web news links.

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FirstRain industry news is OEM’d within First Research reports providing six months of news, business tweets, an event timeline, analyst commentary, health indicators, transactions, and management changes.

First Research covers over 500 US and 35 Canadian industries spanning 1,000 NAICS codes.  While the reports are US-centric, they have recently begun adding international sections to the reports.  As a bonus, the product includes regional reports for US states, the District of Colombia, and Canadian provinces.  Country briefs are also available.

Other tools include a set of sales and marketing templates providing examples of how to use First Research content in various scenarios and an industry prospector tool for assisting with market development planning.

First Research reports are available as a standalone offering or integrated into the Hoover’s database, D&B360 CRM connectors, and the D&B Direct API.  A subset of the content is also being delivered via Data.com.  For library patrons, Dun & Bradstreet has partnered with Mergent to deliver the reports as a standalone offering or integrated into some of their products such as Mergent Intellect.

First Research should be viewed as industry insights for non-experts.  You won’t find depth on key trends or issues, but the service is easily accessible and walks the user through industry basics.  You generally don’t find industry news or Q&A sections in other industry services.

If you are looking for more advanced cross-industry research, you can step up to

  • MarketLine (global and regional research)
  • Euromonitor (global and regional research)
  • IBISWorld (US, Australian, Chinese, and global research)
  • Freedonia (US)
  • BMI (emerging markets)
  • EMD (emerging markets).

These services provide more complex reports while retaining readability.  While you won’t find as much handholding (e.g. Q&A sections), you will find broader industry trend and forecast content along with profiles of the top three or four competitors in the market.  As many are globally focused, they may be better sources for international market entry decisions.

You can find a full review of First Research at FreePint (Note: I am a contributor to FreePint, but the review was written by a different author)

FreePint: Information Services Reviews and Research

I was interviewed by FreePint, an information services publication, concerning my newly released book on Sales Intelligence (SI) vendors.  The Q&A covers changes to the SI space over the past few years, sales triggers, and my vendor selection criteria.

While based in the UK, FreePint provides a broad set of product reviews and research spanning the US, European, and Global information services markets.  I would recommend a subscription to purchasing departments that license multiple information services (e.g. news, financial markets, credit products, filings, etc.) as they can assist with product qualification and valuation.

FreePint is one of the few publications that seriously covers the SI space.  I have written several articles for them over the past few years and will be publishing an article on sales triggers next month.