The long tail of data sales

In doing some client-related research last week, I approached eMarketer to find out if they had relevant data sets for me and about their pricing structure. Predictably, their business model continues to be based on the large enterprise model, not unlike the blockbuster model that drives the movie and book industries. The all-you-can-eat buffet pricing structure at eMarketer serves their mental model, but it serves neither their potential customers' needs nor eMarketer's business needs.

In their undated Harvard Business Review article, Rethinking Marketing, Roland T. Rust, Christine Moorman, and Gaurav Bhalla commented on the fact that many firms are still managed, as if we were still in the 1960s world of mass markets, mass media, and impersonal transactions. The inertia and/or unwillingness of many to stop the cycle of insanity and to accept the new reality is nothing less than stunning. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's witnessed the disastrous results wrought by this affliction.

The authors points out the distinction between a traditional company and what they refer to as a customer-cultivating company: the former is organized to push products and brands, while the other seeks to serve customers and customer segments. For a data company such as eMarketer to so completely miss this point is disappointing, though perhaps predictable.

As a customer needing Canadian data, eMarketer is of limited use to me, but when its data sets are of relevance to me, does it make no financial sense to provide on-demand self-serve access to their online databases? We may have been liberated from the tyranny of buying entire music albums for the pleasure of one song, but clearly, we're still at the frontier of this brave new world.

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