B2B (business-to-business) directories have long served as guides to suppliers, but now they're starting to look more like social networks with user-generated content and ratings from customers. It becomes part of a bigger effort to combine tactical with shared information.
During the past few years it has become easier to pull data from sites across the web, turning information into a commodity. It means businesses must differentiate themselves through customer service, excellent ratings, as well as demonstrate strong ethics. It's about data transparency and working with marquee suppliers and clients, build clout, or rather Klout, which measures a person's influence across the web. Odds are good that we will soon see a similar tool for businesses, which will need to build loyalty and trust to increase their satisfaction score.
Some companies have begun to build these tools into business directories, helping procurement experts make better decisions when building approved vendor and raw material lists. Yahoo Small Business, upstart business directory FindTheCompany, and others have begun to tweak their respective models to help businesses supporting other businesses get more social by boosting ratings and recommendations.
Yahoo Small Business LocalWorks offers a rating system that gives clients a snapshot of what others think about the business. FindTheCompany provides a free online research tool providing opinions about companies.
Social business ratings
Businesses make data available in public records through an API (application programming interface). But before handing over millions of dollars for short- or long-term projects, read the customer comments. Courting and conversations offer some insights, but candid recommendations and reviews provide more. FindTheCompany began offering what Alex Rosenberg, director of new products, calls "objective" by pulling in sentiment from experts across the web with ratings and reviews on its site.
Dubbed as a Kayak for business, FindTheCompany offers lists of technology suppliers; customer relationships; financial value of contracts; effective and completion dates for projects; and main government contracts and suppliers. Tools rate the company, as well as each product based on data from across the web and comments left on the site.
The site filters and sorts through 1,000 categories by sales volume, income statements, balance sheets, cash flow, company type, initial public offerings, number of employees, executive compensation, H-1B Visas, and more.
Click on "H-1B Visa," and you learn that the US government certified 1,350 out of 1,409 Google applications. The average salary for the job positions Google applied to hire foreign workers was $129,311, about 104.4 percent higher than the average for all H-1B Visas. The majority of these employees develop software at an average annual salary of $123,261.
In the near future, a database will categorize lists of manufacturing suppliers, bill of raw materials, names of offshore manufacturers and suppliers, and more. Rosenberg said it will help procurement experts visualize and understand supply-chain roadmaps of companies they may want to work with.
In the meantime, data from more than a dozen sources, from public records to Dunn & Bradstreet, becomes available making information searchable to anyone looking for information on the 32 million US-based companies.
Mineable data goes beyond what's available on sites like Manta, which focuses on small and midsized businesses, or Cruchbase for startups. Hopefully, FindTheCompany CEO Kevin O'Connor will keep building on global services.
Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp, known for their social, sharing, and commenting features, will change the way businesses do business with other businesses in directories. For procurement specialists, recommendations should merely scrape the surface when it comes to researching prospective partners.
What data or tools would you like to see? Tell us below.