Mining the Web for a Competitive Edge

One of the greatest benefits of being wired as a business is the ability to gather competitive intelligence. But Cyveillance offers Web-based intelligence tools and resources to help others identify their brand identity, reputation and opportunities on the Web.

By H.L. McLatchie

Finding success in the online business world takes the old adage of "it's not what you know, but who you know" to new extremes. With active Web pages numbering in the billions, and millions more joining the fray on a daily basis, the line between what and who is becoming increasingly fuzzy.

It is a singular success when a company sets up an online presence and establishes a Web identity. Companies who are just finding their way online - even those that have been online a while - may find the explosive growth of the Internet and its endless bounty of information overwhelming and difficult to sift through. As a result, they could lose one of the great benefits of being plugged in: competitive intelligence.

That's where Cyveillance comes in. The Arlington, Virginia-based company bills itself as an e-business intelligence entity, offering Web-based intelligence tools and resources to help companies identify what their brand identity and reputation are on the Web.

Rather than hunting down websites that may be bad-mouthing, slandering or floating false information about its clients, Cyveillance instead uses whatever it culls from the Web as resources for gaining new opportunities, increasing return on investment (ROI) and adding strategic value.

Out of Site Intelligence

According to Wolfgang Tolle, chief technology officer and vice president of client services at Cyveillance, this "extra site" intelligence - a wide-ranging term that encompasses everything beyond the walls of the client website - is key to gaining a competitive edge in the online arena.

"A lot of companies know exactly what is going on in their own website, customer times on site, number of page hits and so on - that's valuable to their business," he says. "There are almost 7 million new Web pages every day - content is changing dynamically all the time - and many companies are not aware of what all that content means to their business."

According to Tolle, clients are often in the dark about what is happening to their brand on the Internet, what their image is and what their suppliers and licenses are doing online. "A lot of that information influences the bottom line," he says. "It generates revenue, market share and customer loyalty, and most companies have no clue."

In the business world, Tolle points out, there is a huge knowledge gap between what companies know is happening on the Web and how they are being impacted by what is happening on the Web. "We help them figure out how it's [the Web] affecting their bottom line," he says.

Cyveillance technology comes in a subscription-based ASP model that reaches across the various arenas of competitive intelligence, brand management, marketing intelligence, partner management and supplier management to help companies figure out what's happening online. What's more, that company also offers in-house experts to help clients figure out how to deal with and interpret all the information that Cyveillance's technology turns up.

Those experts help the clients identify trends and offer strategic analysis and suggestions about which course to pursue in terms of capitalizing on any newfound opportunities. The company currently does not get involved in implementing those strategies, but instead acts as an ongoing resource for the client.


Leveraging Untapped Opportunities

"We look at extra site intelligence as a way to open up opportunities for our clients," Tolle says. During the course of working with a particular client, for example, Cyveillance uncovered unlicensed usage of its music and was able to help that client begin registering those sites and drawing revenue from them versus just shutting the sites down.

"A lot of people think about the bad aspects of discovering information that's out there about your company," Tolle says. "But there are positives too - you can reach out to customers and generate new revenue."

According to Julie Kennon, public relations manager at Cyveillance, many customers come to the table with a negative perception of what extra site intelligence involves. "Most start out with a defensive mindset," she says. "Then they understand that leveraging those untapped opportunities is much more important."

Cyveillance's impressive client list cuts a wide swath across many industries; the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), DeBeers, Dow Jones, Home Depot, Nintendo and Toyota are just a few of the high-profile companies taking advantage of the company's technology.

"We attract a cross-section of industries," Tolle says. "Brand names, Fortune 500 and Global 2000 companies are using this technology." Although the technology alone is an invaluable asset, Kennon believes the whole package of technology and e-business analysis expertise is what keeps new clients coming in and existing clients in the fold.

"Many customers are so surprised by how much information is out there - that's the first thing we get," Tolle says. "On top of that, our analysis then goes into cleaning up the brands and identifying opportunities."

A Model of Success

The combination of service and solutions gives customers a proven return on investment. Why? Because they're not just getting data, they're also saving money and generating revenue. And that's where the real value lies.

Cyveillance's business model is a standard 12-month subscription service. Reports are generated monthly or bi-monthly so clients can track trends as they develop. Every three months, they also get a strategic analysis on how the Web is impacting their business along with a set of recommendations.

According to Kennon, a number of their clients integrate those detailed reports into their Internet strategy. "We're not just a plain information source," she says. "Every day brings new opportunities and new risks, and we play a key role in our clients' e-commerce strategy. We provide a strategic value to help them understand what the Web means to them."

That e-commerce strategy also extends to brick-and-mortar companies because their products are also impacted by what happens on the Web. Moreover, consumers often comparison shop and research potential purchases on the Web before doing the actual buying.

Next up for the company is a strategic expansion into Europe, which has already begun with the opening of a second London office. Tolle says the current technology is "great to do a broad sweep," but he'd like to develop it further so the analysis can drill down into specific questions that customers have.

"People are becoming more aware of the Web and seeing us as a comprehensive solution," he says. "As customers, the Internet and we [Cyveillance] evolve, we're able to respond very quickly and we'd like to take that even further."


H.L. McLatchie, a Texas-based freelance writer, has been writing about the Internet since 1995.