“’As long as you do not fully understand the behavior of your customers, you will not be able to develop any new products,’ said Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. Those who develop digital products based on a gut feeling and not on a comprehensive pool of data are flying blindly and can only fail.”
—SIPA member Dietmar Schantin of the Institute for Media Strategies writing on the INMA site. Data was one of his five takeaways from a high-profile media workshop he held earlier this year
Who is resetting the standards for data excellence? That’s the question that SIIA’s Business Information & Media Summit’s (BIMS) Models of Excellence answer every year. This year’s winners—Franklin Trust Ratings, Savio and LexisNexis Risk Solutions—all use data in an innovative way to give their customers more tools and processes to excel in today’s fast-moving and personalized times.
Russell Perkins of InfoCommerce Group selects the Models of Excellence and then sets up the BIMS session where they speak. There will, in fact, be a whole data track at BIMS.
I’ve been fortunate to speak recently with executives from the three companies. While the information can get complicated at times—“The enormity and granularity of data in health care is stunning,” John Morrow of Franklin Trust Ratings told me—it does become clear that those steeped in data are getting a head start these days.
Take LexisNexis Risk Solutions’ Active Insights. It’s designed to help their customers—insurance agents—reach out to their customers when a “life event” happens.
“It started to give us insights into consumers’ lives,” said Vic Bayus, VP, product management for LexisNexis Risk Solutions.
Those events include getting married, moving, putting a house up for sale, vehicle changes, new drivers in the family, etc.—anything that can trigger new insurance. For instance, there’s a 10-times likelihood of a home insurer change after a sale.
“What was the correlation between the event and the propensity to shop or move to another policy?” Bayus asked. “Then we could go out to our customers and show them this data. That way we could demonstrate that when there’s a [certain type of event], there’s a sudden increase in the volume of shopping.”
I wondered if that seemed Big-Brotherish, calling just when a big event happens. But Bayus said that in the pilot test they did, in no cases did a policy holder ask, “’How did you know?’ It’s really a relationship-building tool,” he said. “The pilot gave us the chance to prove the value for [the insurers] and learn just the right outreach”—and what data would be most relevant.”
They also worked with the agents on the best way to reach out. “’Oh, you’re putting your house up for sale? Let’s do an account review then.’” Bayus said “So we’re using the information as a lead—‘hey, there’s an issue here.’ And then we can deliver customer care.”
This also helped the retention rate of the insurance carriers, which had been 10-15%—and LexisNexis’ as well. “In the insurance field, we spend a lot of money trying to acquire new customers—advertising, marketing…,” said Bayus. “So retention becomes huge…”
It was that kind of value that Bayus wanted to bring to his insurers. The idea would be for them to contact their customers when a big life event takes place, to “get in early,” Bayus said, and be a trusted advisor. ‘I’m here, here’s value, we can help you out.’”
Most importantly, LexisNexis was talking to its customers—who in turn were talking to their customers.
Franklin Trust Ratings also wants to serve its customers, by pushing high-valued datasets to their desktops. It accomplishes this through a robust user interface that brings point-and-click simplicity to data.
“John’s at 50,000 feet but his product is at 5,000,” said Perkins, complimenting Morrow and his health care information company for its incredible amount of information and easy accessibility.
“It’s important in building a new business intelligence company that we can advance the cause of our users in making it easier to access content, and allow them to do things that only big ratings agencies could do in the past,” Morrow said.
With that as his impetus, Morrow started Franklin last year. Franklin has aggregated and integrated over 40 health care provider performance datasets (120MM records) produced by the federal government, allowing users to conduct “what if” analyses quickly and easily across over 900 operating, financial, quality, safety, utilization measures for every U.S. market.
“I’ve founded other companies,” Morrow said. “But this gave me the opportunity to start from a blank slate. The federal government is releasing more and more data on hospitals and health care; the Freedom of Information Act is no longer needed. The industry is in massive transition.”
What’s most amazing is that Franklin Trust can do what they do with a small staff. “There are 12 of us, plus or minus contractors, so we’re kind of a boutique shop,” Morrow said. “We have less than a hundred customers, but they represent some of the most forward-thinking systems in the country. We’re a virtual company, but we stay as close to one another as Skype allows us to be. We’ve gotten some good word of mouth. We try to share a lot of content with the media.”
He added that they’re now much wiser than they once were. “There’s now advance cognitive intuition. Information speaks to answers. It all goes to democratize healthcare information, allowing the consumer more access. All the content is in comparative and contextual form.”
Morrow said it is wasting time these days for customers to aggregate and validate data. Franklin Trust can do that for them. They’ve taken a B2B platform and migrated and simplified it. This brings relative insights forward and allows the customer “to get to brighter points of light. You don’t need expert analyst or to collect, normalize, put in field codes, and long lists of data normalization. We’ve eliminated the need to do that.
“Data leads you to answers,” Morrow continued. “Data are answers. It shouldn’t require evaluation and decision making. We’re getting people to the answers without requiring triangulation.”
Savio is an online marketplace where marketing research buyers and research experts connect, transact and communicate. In simplest terms, Savio is a talent marketplace where buyers can discover qualified sellers and transact business, all on a single platform.
Leonard Murphy, executive editor and producer for GreenBook Marketing Media, says there’s a secret sauce behind that. “It was designed to be the connection point between human capital and technology—a service aspect that can still be delivered through the marketplace platform.”
Buyers of market research are their primary audience. “We’re giving you a different way to think about it,” Murphy said. “The GreenBook directory has been around 50 years. It used to be a relevant way to buy research, but the disconnect between those supplier organizations and tech companies is pretty significant.”
Savio was developed as a way for individuals to participate in the technology-driven research eco-system moreso than a way to find whole supplier partners.
“We started working on it in February of last year, then started active development late summer,” Murphy said. “It may sound fast but it didn’t feel that way. We did a lot of homework—looked at every other marketplace from Uber to Airbnb. We hired a consultancy to evaluate it and check the numbers, so when we brought it to life it could be as fully baked as can be.”
The response has been very welcoming, although change rarely comes easy—especially when you’re talking about approved vendor relationships with large suppliers. “It’s easier to go to them despite the desire to move in a different direction,” Murphy said. “We’re working on it. It’s a transition over to a new way of doing business.”
“One of the biggest challenges is supply and demand,” added Lukas Pospichal, managing director of GreenBook. “It’s the chicken-and-egg challenge we’re living in now. How do we manage expectations? How do we deliver the right experience on the promise of making life easier for buyers of market research? It’s still a somewhat unfinished product. But we treat Savio as a startup, within the company.”
Murphy said that a good part of their sights are set on emerging markets. “There’s greater demand to find talent in SE Asia or Sub Sahara Africa. They don’t have the research supplier coverage. Clients are looking for individual key contributors. We’re developing the processes to fine tune and pull in the right talent more in international markets than established ones. It’s proving to be more important than we thought could be.
“How a publisher can transform businesses—at least a good one—is inherently what drove this,” Murphy said. “The dynamics are changing within the industry… where we can find new permutations of what we’ve always done well to meet the changing business realities.”