Mamta Patel chaired the latest Substribe CEO think tank. Fifteen CEOs joined her, including Neil Bradford, CEO, General Index, who shared his story about creating a must-have data service. Neil also explored product development lessons learned during his career.
Lesson 1, the founder myth
“This is where the founder has a brilliant idea, hitting a topic that’s of interest to the market they serve. But, they continue to think they should influence product development. This is a myth that we have to dispel because it distorts how product dev should work.”
Lesson 2, listening to customers
“All my good ideas have come from customers. Something to watch out for is that as time goes by, you end up stopping listening to customers regularly, and just focus on generating more business and pushing the P&L. If you listen to sales, they’ll have their own agenda. If you listen to content, it may be deeply interesting but not commercial.”
Lesson 3, the fan club fallacy
“Every business like ours will have a fan club of 10 people. The danger is that you’ll build product for those fans and that customers 11-1000 are just not that into it. You have to listen to the right customers, including people who don’t buy from you.”
Lesson 4, new versus enhancing product
“Done badly, you pump too much into the core product and it confuses customers. On the flip side some companies have ludicrous amounts of side products and you have a dream that every client will buy it. You’re not Jeff Bezos”
How to create a data business:
Data structure and process flows
“We spent a huge amount of time building the data structures to get the database set up correctly from day 1 and then we built the process flows. We’ve taken a huge number of processes that humans were doing, and rather than those humans doing a whole bunch of tasks, we’ve been able to ingest data, check it, and then run the methodologies. All using tech.”
“We realised that in the existing way of doing things, people had lots of rules of thumb in their heads, running through the same thoughts time and time again. So we sat down to codify as many of those as possible.”
Exceptions based business
“You can’t legislate for every single eventuality, so we’ve built the service on an exceptions basis, meaning our experts look over the data if something unusual happens, and if nothing unusual happens, then we are publishing within seconds.”
“By creating more efficient internal processes, how might we shift the focus of our in house experts, so that they add more value to our customers?”
“In the absence of critical pricing data which is the top of the tree, having a useful summary of market data for customers is a good place to start, and it doesn’t have to be original primary data. This can help to create a data mindset for the journey ahead.”
“A lot of customers talk about benchmark data – not necessarily an index – more like spend data. This helps them to understand what they’re spending on salary, on marketing, on trend insights compared to others. We think the challenge is how to make that data more embedded in day to day operations for our customers, rather than once a year as a report is published.”
“When you are the incumbent, how far can you take your pricing and how do you spot the warning signs that customers are open to a disruptive challenger?”
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Massimo Bellino says
Very helpful, thank you. I am building a startup venture that will also provide ad-hoc market indeces. My question for Neil is whether they registered a patent to protect the methodology to calculate their indexes.
Andy Burden says
hi Massimo, great to hear from you. I’ve sent you a DM. Hope the start up life is still going well!