Data Products Can Build Your Business in Varied Ways

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AlexWirth“Part of what has made us so successful is that we worked hard to ask, ‘what are the challenges you’re facing?'” said Alex Wirth, co-founder of Quorum—a startup that wants to be the go-to for any state or federal legislative staff person. “Instead of just let’s build stuff for the sake of it. You learn what the problems are for people by going out and talking to 30 people in the industry.”

Quorum is one of the four winners of InfoCommerce Group’s 2015 Models of Excellence (MOE) program. For 13 years, MOE has answered one question: Who is resetting the standards for data excellence? The winners will speak at the upcoming Business Information & Media Summit (BIMS), Nov. 11-13, in Fort Lauderdale.

After speaking with these innovators, I noticed that providing data products can have positive results beyond just selling those products. Here are eight positive outcomes from Models of Excellence winners:

1. Data products allow for easier expansion. “The great thing is that having built this underlying infrastructure, it’s easy to add more information,” said Wirth. “It requires more work to write [web] scrapers and process and present algorithms. But it’s not like we’re copying/pasting or doing anything by hand; it’s all done automatically.”

Joseph Musacchio, founder and CEO of People Ticker, a company that offers salary information for positions all over the world, agrees. “Once you have the formula, you can accumulate the data,” he said. “For us then, it’s the combination of global growth and local touch that’s most important.” He calls it “glocalization.”

2. Data can bring in new sources of revenue. Trucker Path has a free app for truck drivers that highlights stops and rest areas, as well as general points of interest. It’s monetized through advertising. Advertisers can provide special offers and reach a not-easily reachable group. Users receive advertiser offers based on proximity.

3. It can improve your lead generation. Musacchio believes that the key to today’s business model is creating inbound calling for demos or needs. “It’s a viral world,” he said. With the data that People Ticker has assembled, customers come to them.

4. Having data products encourages you to talk to customers more. Musacchio loves crowdsourcing models. “People aren’t wrong,” he said. “What’s the show? Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? The studio audience is right 95% of the time. So we put out questions to the crowd: What’s the next big skill? What’s the next disruptive job? What jobs are going extinct? I think that’s fun.” The answers help them shape their database.

ParkingPanda_NickMiller5. Data can augment your publications. “We want to build knowledge,” said Nick Miller, CEO of Parking Panda, a startup that connects consumers with off-street parking options in cities, stadiums, airports and other venues. “We have blogs, minisites with partners [like National Geographic and Amtrak], and a strong news and tips section. These are opportunities for Parking Panda. Part of the way we fulfill our mission is to disseminate knowledge.”

6. Data allows you to make improvements quickly. Parking Panda’s reliance on and savvy use of data allow them to be nimble and make changes when needed. Miller said that, of course, when they have a new product or feature, “we want it to be in good shape when it’s released. But we’re a startup and we’re agile, so we can push out new features every day.

“The great thing [is that the data] allows us to use metrics to constantly drive improvements. We can watch numbers every day. If it works, we can push it out more; if it doesn’t, we can tweak it and figure out how it will work. We pretty quickly know how something will do, based on previous behaviors.”

7. Data can lead to disruption, often a good thing today. For People Ticker, the disruption comes because they are giving out prices or opening up the staffing industry “playbook” for the client, but Musacchio says they are validating rates and creating a better-working market. Miller said that while they are changing the parking equation, it became “increasingly important that we work with [garages] because unlike Uber we can’t really add more parking to the world.”

8. Data can make gamification easier and thus attract more customers. Parking Panda sometimes gives away free parking for a day, say to the first 10 customers of a zoo. Charles Myers of Trucker Path calls one of the company’s initiatives “online dating” for loading trucks. Quorum will be ripe for quizzes with all its information. And People Ticker wants to make customers’ searches more productive and thus more fun.


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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…