This month marks 12 years since I started Phelps Research. A lot has changed since the days when Google was a startup and Boolean ruled the world of search. I love my job, and over the years I've had the pleasure of working with all types of clients, from serial entrepreneurs to CEOs of global companies. I've also learned some important lessons about the kind of information they value.
I quickly learned - at least when it comes to information - that more is definitely not better. No, the way to impress clients wasn't with those 80-page reports of which I was so proud in those early days. It didn't take long to determine that my clients weren't interested in having me gather more information than they could when they tried the latest and greatest all-purpose search engine. They wanted information that was better than what they were finding. I eventually also learned that 'better' has many facets.
Better information means that it comes from trusted sources. More definitely does not translate into authoritative, and my clients – with critical business decisions at stake – aren't comfortable with the ease with which one can publish on the web.
It also means that the information is focused, yet comprehensive. These busy executives don't have time to go to multiple sources or scan pages of search results for those relevant nuggets. They need specialized tools for quickly targeting the right amount of information in their topic of interest – the business of running a business.
For my clients, better information is packaged to facilitate decision-making. They want quick profiles for insights into industries and competitors. Executive summaries, tables, charts, and other formats make it easy to spot key issues and trends. My analysis of the findings and what they mean to my clients' goals and objectives add the kind of value that has kept them coming back for more.
Finally, better doesn't necessarily mean free, and free isn't always cost-effective. My clients are savvy enough to recognize that you get what you pay for, and the business information they crave is no different than any other product or service. When you use the best sources, collect only the relevant information, and deliver it in a useful format, it's worth paying for – as long as it doesn't break the budget.
All Information consumers - not just my clients - crave better, rather than more. Gone are the days when a content provider's or search engine's value lies solely in the number of sources they aggregate. One-stop-shopping is nice when you're trying to be comprehensive, but in an age of information overload, size really isn't a big selling point. Today's information environment requires tools that help us sort through the clutter and add meaning to what we find.
Nowadays, we don't have any shortage of information or options for delivery - but we've learned that there's more than just 'more.'
I can't wait to see what the next 12 years will bring for Phelps Research!