Talkin’ ’bout a (B2B) Revolution

The convergence of communities, content, and communications across a variety of platforms and devices has given rise to a participatory culture in which each individual can co-create the content he or she consumes. The result is an avalanche of content available on websites, podcasts, videocasts, interactive forums, and blogs. The challenge is to develop the next generation of intelligence systems that will provide professionals-particularly forward-thinking executives that now see the web as a source of competitive intelligence and market feedback on their organizations and people-with time-sensitive analysis they need, when and how they need it.

However, it's not enough to extract relevant information and content from the daily deluge. We demand the content we need on our terms, aligned with our preferences, profiles, and (if we are on the move) real-time context. Prosumers, professionals, and executives require this and more. They need content tailored to their functions, work groups, and business tasks such as gathering competitive intelligence, managing risk, managing political events, and identifying and tracking the trends that matter.

Connect the dots, and there is a clear business imperative for content owners to move from mass production to mass customization. This, in turn, creates a new and huge requirement for intelligence systems that are proactive, real-time operational, and forward-looking that mash up with the content we create in every format from any source, including blogs, user communities, newspapers, newswires, magazines, trade journals, think tanks, corporations, government agencies, and academic institutions.

It is at this intersection that we find Llesiant, Inc., a provider of technology for tagging, organizing, filtering, and delivering intelligence for business and government. Llesiant's platform includes an automatic content indexing service; a taxonomy of business, law, and government; a patent-pending taxonomical search engine; and a custom publishing tool that supports multiple formats and syndicates more than 40,000 local information sources. It recognized a radical shift in B2B publishing and reacted with a suite of services to prepare companies for the coming revolution in publishing it calls "Business Intelligence 2.0."

As Lou Celi, Llesiant president and COO, is keen to point out, the internet revolution-which has been largely centered on the consumer market-has arrived full-force in the B2B community. "Until now," according to Celi, "most executives have relied on their favorite external business publications and destinations, fumbling through a barrage of information on the web." But this approach will quickly fall out of favor as executives face information overload. "Executives won't be able to search and use supermarket services like Lexis. Instead they will demand services that give them access to the information they need to make the decisions they must."

B2B companies will also have to do the same for their customers. Indeed, the most exciting observation that came out of my conversation with Celi, former SVP and publisher at The Economist Intelligence Unit Ltd., was the emergence of a game-changing megatrend: The convergence of B2B marketing and publishing and the potential impact on B2B firms.

An obvious outcome is the pressure it puts on B2B companies to publish more and better content. But this information must go far beyond product descriptions, case studies, and white papers. It must grow to include podcasts, webcasts, blogs, and communities as a way for B2B firms to connect with their target audiences and reinforce their image as innovators.

Put another way, succeeding in the coming B2B information revolution is all about thought leadership or, more specifically, the capabilities to create and aggregate content that will allow a B2B company to be seen as a thought leader. The logic is as follows: If a company is seen as a thought leader, then the other marketing benefits will follow.

Llesiant is poised to make the most of this trend. It recently partnered with Knowledge@Wharton, the online business journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, in an alliance to provide microsites and web-based on-demand intelligence. These miniwebsites on critical issues, industries, or functions are widely viewed to offer the most effective way for a B2B firm to communicate its position as a thought leader.

Executives require information that will give them the inside track on the latest ideas, innovations, and best practices. B2B companies-turned-publishers that generate nuggets of thought leadership (regardless of format) and deliver them tailored to the specific requirements of their customers will be the leaders-not the laggards-in the coming B2B information revolution.