Building Data & Intelligence Products: the new frontier in B2B media

The pinnacle of the B2B product pyramid is now data-driven intelligence products, which transform flat data into interactive insight that supports key business decisions, and can command prices in excess of £10,000pa.

No wonder most B2B media organisations, having climbed up the ladder of subscriptions, enterprise subscriptions and premium memberships, want to uncover data-driven opportunities, which can help them grow subscription revenues and become thought leaders in a specialist field.

See my previous article on how the B2B media paid content pyramid is constructed.

Merit Group and FEB Digital ran an event on 2 October hosted by PPA, on building successful data products, which explored the nuts and bolts of the process from identifying the opportunity to build to launch to refinement and tuning, with plenty of real world examples and demonstrations of the latest data collection techniques. Vaughan Evans of FEB focussed on the practicalities of managing an NPD process for data and intelligence products, while Con Conlon of Merit Group demonstrated some impressive automated online data tools.

If you missed it, and are considering developing a data product, here are the highlights:

Choosing the right opportunity

Business is moving ever faster so customers are time poor and have to make informed decisions quickly. Executives are trying to influence decision makers, or build a case for an investment decision, so they are looking for quick, reliable, trustworthy and efficient information sources.

Once you have spotted the opportunity, take the time to check whether you have a unique edge, such as proprietary data or expert analysis, and validate your ideas with customers. Don’t neglect the emotional dimension – if your product can inspire trust, confidence, a sense of privilege – or relief or empowerment – then you have a strong basis to invest.

Observe, meet and learn from customers

The most successful data and intelligence products have been those that established an early partnership with their prospective customers, taking them along the product development journey. Understanding their current behaviour, data sources, approaches to analysis and frustrations before you start to even build a prototype is invaluable.

Look hard at the analytics on current properties and find the unusual peaks of interest and traffic. Follow the money in an industry and look at the growth areas where data is usually less available and competition less established.

Build a robust, valuable proposition

Ensure you can erect some barriers based on your organisation’s strengths – maybe brand reputation and a loyal audience, or proprietary data or partnerships or exclusive licences. Then add a layer of insight and analysis that only true experts can deliver. Consider enriching data manually, and refreshing frequently to raise the entry barriers further.

Enrich proprietary content with collated, public data

It is now quite easy to build online tools that can collate data from public sources, from websites and online stores to PDFs. Adding this global data-set to your own in-house data and analysis gives customers comprehensive coverage. Many large media and information businesses are capturing real-time, global data-sets from public sources using custom-built online tools, and then enhancing the data to provide real value for their customers.

Con Conlon of Merit Group shared examples from the automotive, retail fashion and political sectors of the tools that can capture and collate publicly available information.

Price confidently, and consider bundling

Most data and intelligence products are subscription driven, requiring a regular commitment to underpin the costs of data collection and interface development. But many add a consultancy option to provide deeper, bespoke analysis on a project by project basis. If you have existing print, digital and events properties, consider evolving a membership style proposition that blends online and offline content and access to a privileged club.

Get your organisation in shape

Before launch, get a robust customer service function in place, and get all the new hires and training set up. Check that journalists are briefed to create insight and analysis pieces, and that sales teams and account managers are ready to run demos and help new users get the most from the product.

Always be optimising

Ideal to have a process to facilitate continuous updates – analysing how customers are using the product, how well it is helping them make better decisions, and solicit regular feedback.

So overall there was some very practical advice on developing the new generation of data-driven intelligence products. It does require a new set of skills and a more customer-focussed development path, but the rewards are substantial.

If you have any experiences to share in developing data and intelligence products, I’d be very interested to hear more.

About the author

Carolyn Morgan has over twenty years experience launching, growing, buying and selling specialist media businesses across print, digital and live events.  Carolyn now advises publishers large and small on their digital strategy and writes and speaks on the topic of digital publishing strategy for media sector publishers and events.