IQS goes after Google, now that takes some (patent)

Well, I’ve heard it suggested before from Mike Meiresonne (owner of IQS), but now I see he’s serious: Industrial Quick Search is suing Google over a patent infringement.

IQS’s business directories are pretty simple, showing paid advertisers in a list, essentially unchanged since the early 2000s (just like those Classmates pop-ups at the link above). The important thing is that when you roll over a company listing, you see a ‘preview ad’ on the side. This roll-over preview effect is what Meiresonne has a patent on.

The “Supplier Identification and Locator System and Method” patent governs the display of advertisements or directory listings when an Internet user hovers the computer mouse over a company name.

I know IQS’s rival ThomasNet copied this for a while, and Google was doing roll-over previews of websites in their organic search around 2009. As far as I can tell, neither is doing this right now. But a past violation of a patent is still a violation. At least IQS isn’t a patent troll, they actually use what they have a patent for.

“One of the interesting things about this invention is that you don’t need a Ph.D to understand it,” said Abbatt. “So many people can readily go online see what it does, and if you follow the text of the patent, you can see what we’re talking about.”

So while the directory business continues to be marginalized by the rest of the internet, it may be as good a time as any to take on the obvious winner for some chump change in the ‘Google rules, directories drool’ battle, as I nicknamed it eight years ago.

(Interestingly, I found this news in MLive, our local newspaper website, since IQS and B2Blog are in the same region. Googling about the suit, I find very little posted about it elsewhere. Either software lawsuits are too boring or commonplace to garner it being truly newsworthy.)

B2B marketing expert says directories are a waste

Chris Rand comes out NOT in favor of directories

First President Obama comes out publicly and says that he supports gay marriage, and now this …

Chris Rand of BMON: Still wasting time and money on directories?.

In the past, I might have said that its worth taking the time to find out which directories are worth being featured in, but its 2012 now, and I think I can safely say that NO directory is worth the effort.

Okay, he’s not the first to say it publicly, but his cred should make it clear that it is an educated, measured statement:

I have access to the website analytics from nearly a hundred companies, and I can tell you one thing without breaking any confidences: not a single one of them gets more than a tiny trickle of website visitors from directories. 

I’ll just throw in this one additional thought to add some nuance: directories have to bring more than just clicks and “visibility”.

Is this the beginning of a new paradigm, just like the acceptance of gay marriage?

The online directories update 2012: GlobalSpec

Alright, time to take a look at another major online industrial directory…

GlobalSpec came out of the internet bubble, and maintains a pretty strong marketing program that makes them look like the big boys in B2B online directories.

I’ll give them credit for sticking to their guns and requiring visitors to be logged in to view product information. Advertisers could get a report of everyone who looked at their pages on GlobalSpec. This was actually a problem, as marketers were getting ‘leads’ that were really just incidental web surfers. I think they’ve tuned their service and educated their advertisers to treat the site activity reports appropriately.

Of all the directories, they are maybe the only one to offer product-level content, which is most valuable in their sweet-spot of component selection. And their parametric search makes this data useful in most cases.

They’ve also successfully developed email campaign programs based on their requirement of registration. Whether they get paid advertisements or clicks back to their site, they win either way.

New stuff:

In the last couple years, GlobalSpec has been working on parlaying their audience info and segmented markets into online trade show events. I’m still not a fan of this type of event, but for those with a message to go out, this is a compelling opportunity to find an audience.

Just recently I got this promo email:

Looks like they are further refining their market segmentation and making their website work better. Mind blowing? Maybe not, but the site is slick enough to blow away the competition. While the biggest challenge of directories is getting visitors to click on category after category, and listing after listing, I think showing listings like this with pictures is very well done, and ensures click-thrus.

Sum up:

As this industry matures, GlobalSpec has continued to improve their product while sticking to its core mission and strategy. As a potential advertiser, your biggest question still should be about results, but they at least have their act together.

The online directories update 2012: ThomasNet

Back in January, I promised a review of major online directories for 2012. Well, based on my in-attention, it must be a pretty boring subject. I’ll have to make a separate post about why the subject is boring. Let’s get on with it:

I’ll start by using ThomasNet’s own words in their New Year email to let you know where their mind is at:

“In 2011, we were excited to bring you City Pages as part of our continuing mission to improve local sourcing. Include a city with your keyword and you’ll now be provided with a list of suppliers in or within 50 miles of that location, helping you discover new vendors where you need them most.

In addition, we released our ground breaking application for sourcing millions of parts, components, materials and more, which some of you had the opportunity to explore. To start the New Year off, we’d like to extend this same invitation to you. Take our Product Search Beta for a test drive now.

Looking ahead, we’ll be rolling out a new toolbar and an engineering job board in early 2012. Later, we’ll be introducing enhanced company profiles that will offer more robust supplier information in rich content format further aiding supplier evaluation and selection.”

My additional comments and info:

I will give credit to ThomasNet for not being shy about investing in improving their search tools, and it shows. Check out the links above to try them out.

From what I can tell, their sales structure and offers also continue to evolve, which from an advertiser’s view, is bewildering. I imagine just as many advertisers sign TN contracts without knowing what they are buying as did 20 years ago.

And TN continues to morph (or is it expand) into a website marketing/development service. It would be interesting to know how successful this has been.

They continue to crank out regular informational newsletters, but I’m unaware of any that with advertising content to their audience. There is the fire-hose of product-releases at , however.

The last question, and most important is effectiveness and audience.

Wow I haven’t used in a long time, but it had some interesting analysis of Like it is popular with India, Pakistan, and Nigeria (along with the US). And about half their visitors AREN’T in the directory side of things.

UPDATE: ThomasNet just announced they are offering email marketing services

The online directories: Where are they in 2012

One of the reasons I started this blog was to discuss the advent of online industrial directories like Industrial Quick Search and GlobalSpec, as well as consider the struggles of the goliath of paper directories, Thomas Publishing (now ThomasNet).

It’s been almost ten years, and I hardly blog about these companies any more. The paradigm shift of 2002 is the ‘new normal’ of 2012. In the next few blog posts, I am going to share updates about what these companies are doing, certainly with some punditry from  me.

Stay tuned!

Are B2B marketers so stupid they fall for this?

This is not the first time I’ve received a warning email from a trade show organizer warning exhibitors about “Expo-Guide” scamming for directory listings. But this email seemed rather complete, including possible grounds for canceling the contract, so it is shown below.

First my rant:

I know there is a fool born every minute, but how do these companies survive? Are B2B marketers that stupid? Or are we so egotistical and inbound-link hungry that we’ll pay to have our name plastered anywhere?

I can claim being duped by Yahoo Search PPC was a scam because Yahoo was hiding what they were doing … but the email I got from Expo-Guide was as obvious as it was deceptive. In that sense, I’d call it spam rather than a scam.

Regardless, I appreciate when the show organizers treat this as an encroachment on their customers, and warn us.

Email from the show organizers:

Dear exhibitors,

It has come to our attention that the company “Expo-Guide” is currently contacting Intersolar exhibitors. In its correspondence, “Expo-Guide” requests that you check your company details against those shown in an attached order form, and that you provide further information where your company details are incomplete. The company claims that this is necessary in order to update the existing details in the exhibitor catalog, so that potential customers can easily establish contact with your company.

Please note:
If you comply with this request, you will be concluding a three-year contract with “Expo-Guide” for the publication of your company details. This contract entails annual costs of Euro 1,181.00.

The Intersolar North America organizers, Solar Promotion International and Freiburg Management and Marketing GmbH hereby explicitly state that they have no commercial or contractual relationship with “Expo-Guide”. The company “Expo-Guide” was neither authorized nor in any other way prompted to contact our exhibitors for the purpose of updating information for an exhibitor catalog. If, in individual cases, any information does need to be updated, we would request that you contact Freiburg Management and Marketing GmbH or the responsible project manager directly.

If you have already signed the Expo-Guide order form and have thus concluded a contract with the company, please consider whether you wish to immediately contest the validity of your declaration on grounds of fraudulent misrepresentation. You can also terminate the contract in order to ensure that you will not be subject to a purchasing obligation in the future. In this context, we refer to the decision of the District Court of Cologne of July 4, 2007 (Ref. 9 S 44/07), pursuant to which the acceptance of an offer of entry into an online catalog can be contestable on grounds of fraudulent misrepresentation, even where the monthly costs for this service have been stated, if the presentation and wording of the offer are deceptive. We recommend that you seek legal advice.

Do not hesitate to contact us for further questions.

The rise of the marketplace … again?

The marketplace, a crossroads?
The marketplace, a crossroads?

No one will argue as of 2010 ThomasNet has survived the cross-over to a web-based directory service. No simple feat!

However, even though ThomasNet has thousands of advertisers and users, but it was never leveraged into a marketplace.

(Of course a lot of dot-com B2B marketplaces have come and gone, showing that this may have just been shrewd experience showing.)

I never noticed this lack of a marketplace service until I received an email yesterday announcing a partnership between ThomasNet and marketplace website Ketera.

Not knowing much about Ketera, I googled a bit and found a commentary at discussing the rise of marketplaces,, and here in 2010.

About ThomasNet’s new partnership they wrote:

Our cursory research suggests that there was material thought put into this relationship and approach. If it proves successful, it will be an example of a clear win/win for both Ketera buy-side and Thomas sell-side customers. … Still, given that Ketera has focused historically on indirect materials trading enablement, the direct materials flavor of the Thomas deal should help broaden its providers’ overall sourcing appeal if they can get additional manufacturers to sign on the buy-side dotted line.

So the pressure is on Ketera to make this work. Maybe ThomasNet is continuing to show their smarts by adding value to their advertisers with no cost or real risk. Isn’t that what “win/win” partnerships are about, usually?

How does Ketera work? They are a business directory, but you can also select companies to send anonymous RFPs (requests for proposals) in a competitive atmosphere, or even run a *ugh* reverse auction. Judging by the picture of a boat on their home page, I’d say they were trying to specialize in transportation services and other commodities where excess capacity can be bought and sold.

These ‘soft’ products are way different than the variety of hardware the average ThomasNet advertiser has to offer. Industrial hardware (and services) is very specification specific, and I have not seen an formal RFP yet that hasn’t made my eyes roll because it so poorly codifies the actual need. For one-off purchases like I sell, I don’t think it makes sense. seems to have found a sweet-spot of materials services (tool-and-die, fabrication) that can be bid more easily by RFP, and buyers have ongoing needs that make the marketplace attractive.

Ariba Discovery has a long way to go yet. It looks more like ThomasNet with an RFP button next to each listing. Their search results showed just 45 active public RFPs.

Ready for the Marketplace?

Or should I say, is the marketplace ready for your industry? Or is the online marketplace ready for primetime, even in 2010?

Is vertical search emerging? Or oozing?

An anonymous reader alerted me to a new white paper on the future of vertical search:

“The Emerging Opportunity in Vertical Search” (your pick: register-first or direct to the PDF) by SearchChannel & Slack Barshinger.

The paper starts with survey results, building up the case for vertical search, which SearchChannel sells software to enable. That’s right, you can start your own vertical site by just buying some software. The paper probably would serve as good content for a business plan so you could afford the software, too. What it ignores is actual usage of vertical search.

The paper cites another white paper ($395) by Outsell that showed a 32% ‘failure rate’ of vertical/industry searches on general search engines. Then we get a table of information that users want that they can’t get/find, in this order:

  1. Competitor info
  2. Market info
  3. Salaries
  4. Pricing
  5. Private company info
  6. Product info
  7. Training, 8. databases, and 9. industry reports

Well, no wonder 32% of searches fail! Even a vertical search site isn’t going to have the top 4-5 items here. Maybe providing this info would be the addictive crack that would make vertical search successful, but the paper doesn’t address this list.

The second section of the white paper is a site-by-site review of major vertical search sites. These are more summaries than reviews, and the list is by no means comprehensive or weighted by importance.

B2Blog’s take:
This is a great introduction to Vertical Search as a distinct segment, but it doesn’t make a compelling case for usage/growth of the segment, which is what it’s title promises. And it doesn’t address the roadblocks to success. The list I provided above is probably the most valuable content worth pondering.

My take: as (mostly mediocre) vertical search sites continue proliferate, users are only going to be jaded and continue to return to Google et. al. Until one comes along with ‘crack content’, that is.