Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Four Reasons for an Information Concierge

There is a role in modern sales and marketing that is just starting to form. I call it the “Information Concierge”, but I suspect a similar role is called many things in many different organizations. This role bridges the gap between potential buyers and the information we have that is of value to them.

In many ways, this is what many of us are doing in social media, discovering conversations that relate to the topics of interest to us, and helping the people in those conversations through sharing data, perspective, anecdotes, and frameworks.

This, in essence, is the role of a concierge – helping to connect those seeking information with the information itself. But, it’s not purely an altruistic pursuit, we do it in order to ensure that our data, our perspectives, our anecdotes, and our frameworks make their way into the conversation. We do this in a non-salesy way, but we do it in a way that works to guide prospects our way slowly over time.

So why not search?

We’re all aware of the power of Google and Bing to find information, and the trends in the market towards deeper searches with more words. It is the main driver of website traffic for many businesses, and many of us have put great effort into being found by the search engines, so it may seem a little counter-intuitive to need an “information concierge” role. After all, it seems like it is an inefficient, human-based way to solve a challenge that the search engines solve so much more efficiently.

The Need for an Information Concierge

I believe though, that there are four reasons that the information concierge role is necessary, and will continue to grow, even as search engines continue to improve:

Clarity: As buyers look for deeper and deeper content, the clarity with which they must craft their search query increases. If you are looking for “measuring email deliverability rates for dedicated sending IPs”, you may or may not find an article that discusses “monitoring email sender reputations and non-delivered email counts by sender address”, even though it may be precisely what you are looking for. The information concierge role, however, can put these two together easily, and guide a person who asks that question in a discussion to the right discussion.

Priority: We all know that the first page of results on Google, and only the first few results there, are what generates nearly all the clicks. If a great article does not find its way to that top list, it will not be discovered by searchers in most cases. The information concierge can prioritize differently, and ensure that the best article, or perspective, for the question at hand is the one that is presented.

Ease: Let’s be honest, it can be difficult to find the information you need sometimes, and just asking a question in an active forum can result in a very quick set of detailed and valuable responses. As we move away from attempting to sell to buyers and towards facilitating their buying processes, the easier we can make it on them, the better.

Perspective: Perhaps the most important reason is the occasional need to change a buyer’s perspective. If they are not aware of your solution category, are thinking about the problem in an outdated way, or are attaching too much weight to the wrong decision criteria, only an information concierge can detect this, and provide them with a carefully crafted and well presented case for changing that perspective.

Search is an incredibly powerful and highly relevant way in which buyers obtain their information, but it remains only one part of the picture. As we move forward, I would suspect we’ll see a much clearer formalization of the “Information Concierge” role.

Does anyone in your organization currently perform this role? What department are they part of?
Many of the topics on this blog are discussed in more detail in my book Digital Body Language
In my day job, I am with Eloqua, the marketing automation software used by the worlds best marketers
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Mike Sweeney said...

Love this concept Steve. Given the growth of content publishing and marketing, this function will become essential. In most of the groups we work with, the function is shared between marketing and sales.

Steven Woods said...

Thanks Mike, it will be interesting to see if that shared role moves one way or the other over time...

Kate May said...

I would love to have this job. With my experience in library & information science, and in strategic communications, it seems like a perfect fit - knowing how to find, organize and synthesize information combined with the ability to understand communicate effectively and strategically with a target audience. Love this idea!

KDW said...

From what I'm reading in this post you're also questioning relevance in search results because of lack of semantics. Or I'm I missing the point?

I think that "semantic search" will solve some of the issues you posted.

I see the point of adding "a person" in the chain. But how scalable would that be? Or is in your mind that person somebody who would temporarily fill in the void because today we are not yet able to rely on semantic interpretation by automation and social media technologies?

I am working with some technology from a German company that actually populates (rich)P-URLS using that person's (P) profile data to generate semantically relevant content.


Steven Woods said...

Great point, and yes, I think semantic search will help somewhat. However, it won't address any of the perspective or ease issues. If buyers are looking for something related but slightly different, or they are just commenting on problems, but not actively searching, they won't find your solutions without an information concierge.