Spiceworks used its 2019 SpiceWorld event to discuss its recent acquisition by Ziff-Davis B2B and introduce a console along with artificial intelligence tools it said would help its tech vendor customers create more relevant and engaging marketing campaigns to IT decision makers who are ready to make purchases.
Austin-based SpiceWorld is nominally an event for the technology community to dive deeper into issues around IT infrastructure, networking and security. However the conference also serves as an opportunity to connect with the B2B brands who see its digital community as a platform to reach buyers.
In the opening keynote session, for instance, Spiceworks execs admitted that up until now, vendors have only been able to market to its audience by working through its sales reps. A newly-launched Spiceworks Control Center will change that by giving brands a dashboard and controls to manage their presence on Spiceworks and update product pages, along with analytics and intelligence.
“They haven’t had a place they could call home (on Spiceworks),” Elizabeth Ronco, executive director of product management at Spiceworks, told B2B News Network.
Some of the capabilities within the Control Center will include Account Intelligence, which Spiceworks launched in beta on Tuesday and will formally roll out in early 2020. Ronco described it as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering that weaves in intent data based on telemetry across the Spiceworks platform of how-to content, product reviews, IP scanner and support resources. As a result, Spiceworks Account Intelligence will be able to provide a prioritized list of businesses currently in-market for their products and services, competitive insights and when they’re likely to make a purchase based on where they are in the buying cycle.
The AI, in this case, is based on deep behavioural context learning, which Ronco said breaks down what Spiceworks is noticing about the behavior of IT decision-makers, then classifying and scoring it based on affinity to purchase. In some cases, a Spiceworks community member might be exploring a particular technology based on something they’re looking for in terms of product design, or something they haven’t used before. In other cases, they may be experiencing a performance issue with their current product.
“That can be a very different conversation to go into,” she said. “Especially if they have your current technology and they’re having performance issues, you want to address that so they don’t go anywhere. If you’re a competitor, though, that’s an opportunity to go in and show why you’re better.”
Beyond tech vendors, Ronco said Spiceworks will be conducting a road show to demonstrate its Command Center and capabilities like Account Intelligence to agencies. Recognizing that most brands and agencies are already working with CRM and marketing automation, she said integrations will be a big priority for Spiceworks over the next year.
Spiceworks also announced a slew of AI-based insights offerings, including a forthcoming plan for “market maps” that will compare technology vendors based on brand adoption and user satisfaction. A service provider matching tool will connect technology professionals with IT service providers in Spiceworks based on their organization’s location, project needs, and technology environment. Finally, Spiceworks said it would continue to expand its product categories to 50 by the end of this year.
The acquisition by Ziff-Davis B2B, meanwhile, brings significantly more editorial content and related services to Spiceworks users, said Spiceworks co-founder Jay Hallberg, who will now serve as chairman. The biggest concerns from IT decision makers so far, he said, were that Spiceworks members might get more phone calls from vendors, that more of their data might be handed over to third parties or that Spiceworks will begin charging for using its digital resources.
None of these are true, Hallberg said, adding that the company will stay true to its culture built on humility, listening and solving problems. So far, most of its IT audience have taken the acquisition in stride.
“‘Cautious optimism’ is one of the terms that has come up,” he said.
In another SpiceWorld session, Ziff-Davis B2B executive vice-president and general manager Jim Riesenbach said the company is going to be careful about protecting the relationship Spiceworks has had with its community.
“We see our worldwide presence as being a very big part of the growth potential,” he said, noting that Spiceworks has already been well established in North America versus Europe and elsewhere. “We’re not looking to fold (Spiceworks) in and put it down the curve somehow. What we’re looking to do is more of what’s made this business great over the years and give it more ability to grow.”
Tom Rosseau, Spiceworks’ vice-president of global marketing and revenue enablement, said the organization will also be launching a data marketplace next month for intent and brand affinity data in partnership with Liveramp.
SpiceWorld 2019 continues through Wednesday.