Yes, I know I promised to savage anyone who used the term “uberize” to describe a disruptive business model, but having spent a fascinating day at the ARForum in London last week, it really struck me that uberization is pretty much what HfS has done to the traditional IT analyst industry, when you look at the results of what ~1000 consumers of IT research are saying:
While you can’t really do a direct apples-t0-apples comparison between the Uber and HfS business models, what we have in common is the fact we’ve both leveraged digital platforms to disrupt traditional, slow-moving industries – and with limited infrastructure and resources.
So why is HfS the “Uber” of the analyst industry?
1. We use digital technology, the web and social as our customer platform. At HfS, we do not need to hire armies of expensive, aggressive sales people to grow our customer base. We use our webplatform, a host of digital content and marketing apps, our blog and our social communities to bring the customers to us – at a fraction of the cost.
2. We don’t view “customers” as entities that have to give us money. Do Facebook, Twitter and LI fail to influence people because they are free? It’s the same with research – why does everyone have to pay money to be considered “influenced”. We get over a million visits to our stuff every year, well over 100,000 subscribers to our blogs and research and 15-20k pieces of research being downloaded each month. These are our customers. We just don’t believe in making everyone pay-to-play – we are of a size where we are proud to share what we do without slapping a huge paywall in front of the world. That’s why we are already the #3 firm in the industry in terms of reach and influence, after only 6 years in existence.
3. Freemium research, that is compelling and easy to access, is what gets read today. Most people tend to read only research when it’s slapped in front of them, that is digestible and compelling. Trying to navigate your way behind an expensively assembled firewall and search engine pretty much loses most people before they even think about trying to reset their password. I recall when I was last working for a “legacy” analyst firm that we were lucky to get more than 15 people downloading a report. Today we have in excess of 20,000 reading them. The difference is, simply, off the scale.
4. The revenue model is different from the incumbents. We don’t believe most people really want to pay for libraries of reports any more. They will, however, pay for benchmark and pricing data, competitive analyses and access to awesome analysts, who are fun to talk with and easy to get hold of. We also mix access to our massive global community (both physical and electronic) with the research access. Our buyer clients can come to our industry-leading quarterly summits, while vendor clients can have sponsorship privileges. We believe peer networking and sharing the dynamics of thousands of the global community as a critical part of the Research 2.0 process.
5. The customer experience is just so much better. I love the fact that, with Uber, both the drivers and customers get to rate each other. It’s a bit like that with HfS – we love our clients and we want them to love us. We do not put in 1-800 numbers to set up faceless analyst discussions, and we certainly do not stick analysts on competing postage-stamp P&Ls where they cover extremely narrow areas. In fact, talk to HfS and you’ll likely get a meeting with 4-5 of our analysts within a few days as so many areas are overlapping, if you really need to talk to us urgently. We also make time to hang out with our clients, at our office or theirs. We do this because we enjoy it, not because we just want to get through the ol’ 9-5 treadmill. It’s like getting into an Uber, where the driver is genuinely grateful to be of service, as opposed to some self-entitled miserable worker who’s just going through the motions.
6. The incumbents can’t/won’t cannibalize their revenues. No-one likes having to drop their prices, while improving their services and customer experience at the same time. It costs money and upsets investors with short-term mindsets. There is also an arrogance when your firm has been printing money for years, and suddenly you have to work for it again. Entitled people just do not want to work harder/smarter and with a better attitude. It’s the same for many of these overpriced creaking old taxis that smell like a dog died in the trunk – they simply have lost the ability and appetite to up their game.
The Bottom-line: It’s all about being non-traditional, using digital tech and creating a workable revenue model
Hopefully, after reading this, people will start to use the term “HfS-ize” instead of uberize =)
But, seriously, surviving in a market that refuses to change, such as the traditional IT analyst industry, is all about leveraging digital tech and the web to have a much, much more competitive model in terms of cost, reach and customer accessibility. However, you can use all the cool tech in the world, but it’s useless without the human factor to drive it and make the magic work. That’s where having a team of motivated, passionate – and genuinely nice people, makes this business successful.
While technology and a great business model is what makes the thing function, it’s really the people, the socially intelligent attitude and culture which make up our secret sauce.
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