By GREGORY ZELLER //
From blogs to press releases to 24-hour news cycles, the flow of information is constant. Data isn’t big – it’s incalculably huge, and it’s everywhere, and for many professional marketers, separating the wheat from the chaff is the difference maker.
Few understand this concept like Ellen Williams, a veteran communicator whose startup B2B R&D Inc. aims to help marketers and others stay abreast of industry news and critical trends. Launched in May by Williams and cofounder Craig Yaris, the startup is a digital assistant of sorts, alerting subscribers when something interesting requires their attention.
“When I was with Constant Contact, one recurring theme was a lack of time,” Williams told Innovate LI. “Clients just didn’t have enough time to stay on top of everything they needed to know and still run their businesses.”
Williams’ four years with the Massachusetts-based online marketing company – she was regional development director for New York and Connecticut – came in the middle of a 26-year communications career that put her face-to-face with many one- and two-person enterprises.
From freelance bookkeeping for artists to accounting-software reviews for various magazines to a stint with New York consultancy The Systems Shop, Williams’ work was always geared toward breaking news and hot trends – information her clients seemed to be missing.
“At Constant Contact, I’d send people in our reseller channels links and say, ‘Have you seen this?’ or ‘Hey, this is new,’” she noted. “One of them said, ‘This is great … you’re like my R&D department.’”
That’s when the lightbulb shined for the once and future entrepreneur, and alongside Yaris – an independent marketer in the Constant Contact reseller channel who shares Williams’ views about marketing and business management – she created B2B R&D, based in Garden City.
Their vision: help professional marketers “look like rock stars to their clients,” according to Williams, by feeding them a constant flow of data and information “in a fraction of the time it would take them to compile it all on their own.”
To do it, the partners spend “hours and hours reading everything out there,” she said. They pore over The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal daily; they spend hours on the CNN and BBC websites; they consume regular updates from eMarketer, Econsultancy and Marketing Land; they track various newswires and digital press-release platforms.
When they find something interesting, they write a summary – like Williams, Yaris has years of writing experience – and file it in an ever-growing proprietary database. They’ve also created blogs to highlight particular points of interest and built social media accounts to quickly connect with their audience; most importantly, they operate a weekly, subscriber-only e-blast service, alerting paying customers to new information germane to their interests.
Monitoring the B2B R&D database is Re-Search, a proprietary, programmable search engine that helps subscribers find exactly what they need. That weekly email lets subscribers know what’s been added to the database; Re-Search helps them find it, along with other keyword-driven data that might have escaped their attention.
“They can go back and read about what’s happening in their area of expertise, and then log into the database and get even more information,” Williams said. “The database will have our summary of the new information, plus links back to wherever we originally found it.”
Following a $1 first-month trial, the company offers two subscription packages: a $19 monthly rate and a $189 annual rate. Most early subscribers are going for the monthly package, but Williams said she expect that to change once users are “sold on the idea.”
“Once they realize this is something they’re going to use all the time, they won’t want to deal with signing up every month,” she noted. “It was actually feedback from one of the (monthly) subscribers that led to the annual-subscription option.”
That’s one example of B2B R&D being “nimble,” as the CEO put it. Another is the new “content ID” field users see when they log in, one of several keyword and category fields they can fill out to refine their Re-Search.
In addition to the company’s blogs, social media accounts and original-content summaries – which always include links back to the original source – the partners also host weekly “Blabs,” online, topical video conversations that invite viewers to join in. While providing usable content to subscribers, these myriad channels also serve to market B2B R&D, Williams noted.
“It’s all digital marketing and in-person networking,” she said. “We’re out there talking to people and utilizing various media in every way we can to bring more awareness.”
What was slow growth over the second half of 2015 should pick up this year, the CEO said, now that the company has “solidified our deliverables and how we deliver them.” Early response has been encouraging: In addition to a growing subscriber list, the partners are attracting between five and 15 participants to each Blab, right in the “sweet spot” for a relative newcomer, Williams noted.
B2B R&D is also developing a new service through which subscribers can produce white papers and branded reports based on information gathered through Re-Search, with Williams and Yaris mining the data and actually writing the reports.
As the database grows and Re-Search is constantly refined, indications are B2B R&D – which has relied heavily so far on small to midsized businesses – will soon start landing bigger fish.
“As word spreads and more people understand what we have to offer, we’re starting to attract larger businesses,” Williams said. “We’ve started some conversations with larger organizations about potential partnerships.
“They’re finding our content, our experience and our approach useful,” she added. “I think success comes when our subscribers are able to get a better handle on what’s going on out there … when they’re bringing in more qualified leads and generating more business, and their clients are making more money as a result.”
B2B R&D Inc.
What’s It? Targeted digital research for the marketing set
Brought To You By: Marketing and communications veterans Ellen Williams and Craig Yaris
All In: “A few hundred bucks” for website development, according to Williams, plus many gallons of sweat equity
Status: What would you like to know?