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Vendor Void? the doctor Can Help!

This is an advertisement for the doctor‘s services. Regular programming will resume with tomorrow morning’s post.

In this morning’s post, I outlined a sequence of steps that solution vendors can take to return to business as usual and put this recession behind us. Based upon the large sampling of companies I’ve talked to over the last nine months, I know that many of you could use some help in at least one area. In this post I’m going to outline what I can do to help with respect to the points I discussed.

  • New Product Development
    I’m an enterprise software architect, an expert in optimization, modeling and analysis, and a PhD in computer science. I’m familiar with most of the solutions on the market. As a result, I can help you to:

    • understand the strengths and weaknesses of your architecture,
    • understand the strengths and weaknesses of your product,
    • understand where you are unique and,
    • understand what you can do next to offer the most value to your current and prospective customers.

    As I’ve pointed out previously, a downturn is an ideal time to focus on the strengths that will allow you to capture significant share when the economy recovers (and when your competitors are just waking up).

  • Marketing
    An easy way to gain product visibility is to advertise on the Sourcing Innovation web site, which happens to be:

    • the site most likely to be found by a supply management professional (your search traffic comes here),
    • the only blog in the space ranked on all five external traffic engines (SI is #1),
    • consistently ranked #1 on Ranking, Quantcast, and Compete,
    • “hit” an average of 4,500 to 5,000 times a day from over 1,500 unique IPs,

    SI offers you an unparalleled opportunity if you want to reach serious supply management professionals. And, SI has a very affordable open pricing model, so there is no guesswork as to cost/benefit.

  • Thought Leadership
    If you’ve got great ideas, but have a hard time putting them to paper in a manner that’s both clear and compelling, I offer both public label (through the Illuminations) and private label writing services.
  • Training & Curriculum
    In addition to my background in many different types of supply management technology and processes, I also happen to be an experienced professional trainer and former university professor. I can help you identify the right training program for your employees (and your customers), assist in developing custom training programs, or deliver train-the-trainer workshops, depending on your needs.
  • Process Improvement
    I can review your development processes, integration processes, and management processes and identify areas where you can go lean and mean. In addition, I can help to bridge the gap between business process execution and technology development, and help you understand how to improve your products and services to better support your clients.

I know that for some of you, a significant problem is a C-suite or an over-extended VC that’s running scared. Sometimes all that is required to break this cycle of fear is a category expert to back you up when you present a case for being aggressive now, as opposed to later. Even if you need help with something not on the above list, feel free to reach out and contact me. If I’m not the most appropriate individual to help you, I’ll happily connect you with someone who is. After all, once you get back on track, you might just realize that the right thing to do is innovate … which is what this site is all about.


Your Search Traffic is Headed to Sourcing Innovation

Sourcing Innovation gets thousands and thousands of hits per day. A significant amount of that traffic consists of thousands of new visitors directed to SI from search engines like Google — spend management professionals who are searching for real information, not just reading blogs for entertainment.

Why are these visitors coming to SI?

Is it because the doctor knows some magic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques? No.1.

Is it because Sourcing Innovation manipulates traffic with aggressive ad-word campaigns? No.5

Is it because Sourcing Innovation has a deep content archive consisting of almost 1,200 content rich entries and 866,000 words? Yes!

Simply put, when a supply management professional enters into a search engine one of the common spend management search phrases, Sourcing Innovation is where he’s directed.

SI not only has more search phrases in the top 10, 20, 30, 50 and 100 than any other leading supply management blog, but it also has more search phrases in the top 10, 20, 30, 50, and 100 than any leading supply management publication. That’s right; new buyers are more likely to find Sourcing Innovation than any other blog, and they’re also more likely to find Sourcing Innovation than Purchasing, Supply & Demand Chain Executive, or the Supply Chain Management Review.

But I don’t expect you to take my word for it. Here’s the method, and the results.

I started with a list of about 30 search phrases that cover the topics that are normally written about on Sourcing Innovation, Spend Matters, Supply Excellence, and e-Sourcing Forum (the top four blogs focused on supply management, as per third-party traffic estimation sites). I then used eight common methods of search phrase generation (including competition research, search phrase discovery, Google suggest, Yahoo! search assist, and Ask type-ahead search suggestions) until I had a corpus of 99 search phrases that I believe (1) accurately cover the range of topics that supply management blogs and publications discussed, and (2) reasonably cover the search terms that would be entered by a supply management professional. (see the Complete Corpus).

Then, on Friday March 13, I retrieved the search engine rankings for Sourcing Innovation and Spend Matters for each of these search phrases in Google (59%), MSN (6%), Yahoo (15%), and Ask (3%), which together represent 83% of the search engine market share. I verified that the other search engines did not differ materially from Google, so thenceforth I focused solely on Google. I then retrieved the Google search ranking for each of the terms in the Corpus for each of the top six supply management blogs and the top five supply management publications. In terms of the number of search phrases in the top 10, top 20, top 30, top 502, and top 1002, Sourcing Innovation was first in every category. The top blog only had 4 search phrases in the top 10 and 6 in the top 20 compared to Sourcing Innovation‘s 9 and 13. The top publication fared better, but not much better, with 6 phrases in the top 10 and 8 in the top 20. (Blog Rankings | Site Rankings)

So what does this mean? Let me summarize.

SI is the only supply management blog that is currently ranked by all of the “big five” traffic ranking sites (Alexa, Compete, Quantcast, Ranking, and Traffic Estimate). SI is the top ranking supply management blog on Quantcast and Ranking, and the next-to-top ranking supply management blog on Alexa, Compete, and Traffic Estimate3. Furthermore, Sourcing Innovation is nearly twice as likely to be found though a search engine than Supply Excellence and more than three times as likely to be found through a search engine than any other supply management blog.4 SI is also, on average, three times as likely to be found through a search engine than any of the traditional print publications.4

And that, my potential sponsors, is why your traffic is coming to Sourcing Innovation. So… why aren’t you here?

1 There are no magic search engine techniques. Any SEO company that gets you a top 20 ranking overnight uses “black hat” search engine optimization, which is a big no-no. If their shenanigans don’t get your site banned from the search engines altogether, which is a very real possibility, you can at least be assured that your ranking will disappear overnight the next time the search engines adjust their search algorithms to combat the latest black hat techniques.
2 Although very few surfers go beyond the third page, top 50 and top 100 rankings are relevant because a continued effort to add quality content around these search phrases will result in a progressively higher ranking over time.
3 Spend Matters wins on these ranking engines, though not by much on Compete. Note that Sourcing Innovation and Spend Matters tend to trade off the number one spot on Compete and, for better or worse, Traffic Estimate tends to parallel Alexa.
4 Assuming a random search term, which you have to assume because you never know a priori what a supply management professional is going to search for.
5 Sourcing Innovation does no advertising of any kind. It doesn’t need to. And now you know why!

Subscribe … and Take Your Knowledge to the Next Level

As a regular reader of Sourcing Innovation, you’re on a quest to continually expand your knowledge of sourcing, procurement, and supply chain vendors, technologies, and best practices as this helps you to be the best professional you can be. The best way to do that is to make sure you stay on top of the wealth of free information available to you. One way to do so is to check the blog daily and watch for new additions to the sidebar (under “Free Resources“) and the resource site. Another way is to Subscribe. You can receive Sourcing Innovation blog posts in your inbox as well as newsletters, special announcements, and direct links to the latest resources available to you.

In addition, you can also sign up for the Next Level Purchasing Free Purchasing Resources Program which gives you free access to the Managing Supplier Performance course, a new purchasing tips article in your in-box every two weeks, and first access to Next Level Purchasing white-papers, including the 2008 Purchasing & Supply Management Carer & Skills Report.

The last two articles have been quite insightful. In Cost Reduction Ideas (Beyond Sourcing), Charles Dominick, the President of Next Level Purchasing, with the help of Rob Patton of Paladin Associates, outlined four ideas for achieving cost reductions without switching suppliers, including:

  • Ask & You May Receive
    Sometimes your suppliers have cost saving ideas … all you have to do is ask them.
  • Aggregation
    Aggregate your need, especially for a commodity item, with other buyers.
  • Specification Rationalization
    Use industry standard components and standardize on as few as possible.
  • Leveraging the Supply Chain
    If you have multiple suppliers buying the same raw material, consider buying it for them if the combined volume nets a lower price.

In Supplier Partnerships: Your End of the Deal, Charles identified four common supplier goals that you can help your suppliers achieve. Helping your suppliers achieve their goals increases their commitment to your needs for cost reduction as a buyer — and I don’t think anyone can say they don’t need cost reductions in today’s market. The contributions you can make include:

  • Reduced Payment Cycle
    Right now, your suppliers are suffering from a credit crunch and most likely hurting way more than you are. Pay them in a reasonable time-frame, and go to the top of their favorite customer list.
  • Reduced Complexity
    Customized reports, unique packaging requirements, and other “special requirements” come at a cost to your supplier (and, ultimately, to you). Eliminating unnecessary services, especially those without value-add, will reduce your supplier’s costs … and yours.
  • Better Sales Forecasts
    This is actually a two-for-one. First of all, providing your supplier with better sales-forecasts will help it insure that it buys only what it needs to make your products. Buying more locks up cash in inventory that it can’t afford to lock up right now, and buying less means it will have to pay more on spot buys. Secondly, you can commit to multi-year deals, which increases your supplier’s confidence in future sales, and revenue–targets. This keeps your supplier on stable footing and keeps you on the preferred customer list.
  • Testimonials
    Suppliers need sales now more than ever. If you will step up and certify the quality and reliability of the supplier to the marketplace, that will increase the supplier’s business and stability. Not only will this make you a favorite customer, but it will decrease your risk that your supplier goes out of business when you need it most.

If you haven’t, I would consider signing up for Next Level Purchasing’s Free Purchasing Resources Program. In my view, there are not enough good quality free resources out there, and you should take advantage of the few there are. And besides, when you consider that the last mailing reached over 97,500 subscribers, you know that it must consistently deliver information that you can use.

Dead Company

Two weeks ago, I brought you Dumb Company, a starting list of things that companies who fail the CIRCUIT rating (Corporate Intelligence Rating Calibration Under Inflationary Times) tend to do. Today, I bring you Part III of the series, which will attempt to explain why your favorite vendor likely won’t be here next year at this time.

The harsh reality is that this year has seen a couple of big vendors, with credit lines severely diminished or cut off due to bank failures, lost lawsuits, and VC belt-tightening, go through a number of layoff rounds. Two of the larger vendors in the space, despite claims of “regrouping”, are in serious trouble and (could soon be) on the block … and they could soon be joined by up to a dozen small companies that, relatively speaking, took too much VC money, and sold too little product, in the last few years. Some have great products, and will be sorely missed if they don’t get a quick cash infusion and close their doors, but it’s a harsh reality when you don’t manage for frugal growth, don’t continually focus on innovation not just in your products but in your internal operations as well, and don’t bring in outside expert help when you need it.

Why is this happening? The reasons vary from company to company, but the following reasons are common.

Too much VC money, too soon, against an overly ambitious business plan

The days of your average company spending seven figures on yet another enterprise system are over. Especially if such system is unproven. The way to succeed is to plan for slow and steady growth; delay sales, marketing, and CXO hires until the product is (almost) ready for massive deployment; and take as little money as possible early on so that there’s equity left to get more money later if the market declines and throws a crimp into your five-year plan.

Poor Approach to Sales

Many companies believe that if you bring in a few big guns (knowing that 20% of the sales force is responsible for 80% of the revenue at enterprise software companies) or get enough feet out there, you’ll get sales. This isn’t automatically true for a number of reasons. (1) The big guns are used to selling proven systems with large organizations backing them up. (2) It’s not the size of your sales force that matters, it’s the quality. (3) If they’re not getting the right message through to the right people, they’re not going to sell a thing.  (And if you haven’t had one lately, a sales and marketing review by an expert in the space might be a good idea.)

Too Many Assumptions, Too Few Verifications

A lot of entrepreneurs come from big company backgrounds where they’ve worked in a job for a number of years and grew frustrated at the lack of a solution for a problem to which they’re sure they know the solution. What many don’t understand is that not every company has the same problems, or the same processes, or the same viewpoint as to what constitutes a solution and, believing they are the expert, they over-engineer the solution to the point where it only solves one problem for one company.

Belief that Innovation Bursts are Enough

Some companies believe that once they have a product that represents a new solution to an unsolved, or poorly solved problem, they don’t have to do anything else for at least a couple of years. They effectively stop New Product Development and divert all their efforts to Sales & Marketing. The problem is that anything that can be built can be copied and improved upon many times faster, and the way to gain, and keep, customers is through continual innovation.

Our Way is the Right Way

The entrepreneurial team comes up with a way to structure, and run, the business, usually on-the-fly and by the seat of their pants, and runs with it, no matter what. If the structure is ripe with inefficiencies, it can prevent scalability and lead to discontent, which can, in return, result in the loss of key personnel.

So what can you do if you don’t want to end up like your favorite vendor?
Remember that consultants are cheap and

  • Get a Sales Review
    Are your sales people getting the right message through to the right people? Are they aligned with marketing? Are they selling at the right price points?
  • Get a Technology RoadMap Review
    Are you solving the right problems? Is your solution advancing at the right rate? Do you have enough innovation to get, and keep, a customer’s attention?
  • Get an Operations Review
    Are you efficient? Are your people enabled? Are you ready for growth?

And if you don’t know who to call, call the doctor (or e-mail him at thedoctor <at> sourcinginnovation <dot> com). If he can’t help you, he’ll help you hook up with someone who can.

Sourcing Innovation Sponsorship Update

The new year is almost upon us, and with it comes new opportunities for Sourcing Innovation sponsorships, possibly the best opportunity you have to expose your brand to a wide, discerning audience of influencers and decision makers who read Sourcing Innovation on a regular, if not daily, basis.

If you’ve been paying attention, you know that:

  • Sourcing Innovation is one of the few independent blogs in the sourcing space, one of the very few blogs that posts daily, and, more importantly, one of the top two blogs, if it has not already taken over as the Top Blog. Consider some recent statistics from the external tracking engines (which are never truly accurate, but paint a picture in relative terms) for Spend Matters, Sourcing Innovation, ESourcing Forum, and Supply Excellence:

    Alexa (Rank) Compete (Visitors) Quantcst (Visitors) Ranking (Rank) Traffic Estimate (Hits)
    SM:    615,000 SI:  2,750 SI:  5,400 SI:  526,000 SM:  23,600
    SI:    914,000 SM:  2,690 ESF: 2,700 SM:  NA SI:  12,200
    SE:  1,658,000 SE:  1,950 SM:  NA SE:  NA SE:  NA
    ESF: 2,746,000 ESF: 1,000 SE:  NA ESF: NA ESF: NA

    NA = Not Available (typically due to not enough data, or hits, for the ranking engine to derive a relevant rating)

  • Sourcing Innovation receives thousands of unique page views every day, and an average day (in an average week) sees approximately 5,000 hits. The average visitor visits 1.5 pages a day, which means there are about 3,500 unique visitors on an average day. Most importantly, 60% of the visitors arrive directly from search engines, directories, and related sites, which means that Sourcing Innovation’s influence is far wider than “the same old crowd” showing up again and again. (Hits spike to 15,000 hits on a non-average day in a non-average week.)
  • Unlike “gossip” or “news” sites, Sourcing Innovation visitors are showing up for content — over 1000 quality posts that constitute one of the most useful aggregations of reference material in our space. Traffic to Sourcing Innovation is never driven artificially, for example with irrelevant content that has nothing to do with sourcing. Instead, people come to SI for a very simple reason: SI delivers key information that they need to do their jobs better and find solution providers who can help them.
  • Sourcing Innovation was one of the first blogs to discuss sustainability, green, risk management, the need for best-cost (and home-cost) country sourcing, and other hot-button issues, before they made the headlines — and SI will continue to stay ahead by addressing relevant issues while everyone else is catching up.

And you may not realize that:

  • Some companies have gotten more leads from a single post on Sourcing Innovation then they got from sponsored analyst white-papers, trade-show booths, and advertisements in “industry leading” publications combined. Because SI’s editor tries very hard to be fair, honest, and objective in the breadth of coverage, Sourcing Innovation remains credible where others fall short.
  • Sourcing Innovation Sponsors Get Results. I invite you to talk to those companies who have sponsored the blog, SI White-papers, and SI Illuminations. All have gotten exposure and results. And I’m sure they’d all be happy to tell you about it.
  • While the editor does his best to cover every company that is willing to engage in an open and honest dialogue on the blog, regardless of whether they are sponsors or not, sponsorship does convey huge advantages over simple coverage. Whereas most companies are lucky to get a couple of posts a year with so much to cover and so little time, your logo, especially as a lead sponsor, is seen on every page — every single day. As we all learn more about web advertising, we’re learning that the key is impressions, impressions, and more impressions — by the right audience. You want your brand to be in front of the people you need to reach, every day. Nothing is more important.

Starting in 2009, Sourcing Innovation will be offering

  • five lead sponsorship slots
    (five logos fit nicely on one page, with room to spare, and every visitor will see them)
  • associate sponsorship slots on the to-be-relaunched resource site
    (which has already acquired a number of functional and content improvements). This comes with text-link recognition on the blog sidebar, but no logo — only lead sponsors get logos in the coveted blog sidebar!
  • associate sponsorship slots on the soon to-be-launched buyer’s guide
    (more information will be forthcoming with the new year)
  • event and white-paper sponsorship opportunities on both the blog and the resource site

But the best value, at least in my view, is a lead sponsorship slot, of which two are now available. They are on a first-come, first-serve basis, so you don’t want to miss the boat; and, right now, the pricing that I locked in until the end-of-the-year is too good to miss! (I’ve been contacted by a number of companies over the last month about sponsorships for next year, and if you do what they do and wait and see, it might be too late!) So buy today, and, as a special bonus, the first two sponsors to commit to a year will get the rest of this year free.