On business, intelligence and spy games

Until today, I used to think that “business intelligence” is yet another biz buzzword aimed to glorify all those pie charts, diagrams that go only up and never down and all those other games that “them suits” play.

That was until today. Exhibit one – picture on the left. Me being ignorant of the obvious fact hidden in the plain sight: in the phrase “business intelligence” the key word is “intelligence”, as is in “intelligent” and also as in those paperback spy novels you can buy at any airport for under $10 apiece.

Today, I tried to do what seemed to be a very simple if tedious task – put together a rough list of California-based companies that may be interested in my services as a photographer. Wikipedia gave me a rough list broken down by the industry and being naive and ignorant (see the illustration), I thought it was going to be a smooth sailing. Soon, I found that it was far more absorbing and challenging job than most online games and not unlike gathering the spy data in those novels.

Consider the following: in most cases, there is no single source of information you can turn to to get this type of data. Plus, people are not exactly eager to share that stuff either. For example, let’s say we are after a company “A”, which manufactures say pewter trinkets, which appeal to me both aesthetically and photographically. Naturally, I want to find out who is in charge of marketing and creative decisions in company “A” and contact them. Easy, right?

First, I jump into the Agency Access database, only to learn that company “A” is not listed. Knowing that the company is large enough to hit the Agency radar, I proceed to Google the company name. That usually turns up boatloads of shopping links plus a few references to LinkedIn, an expensive equivalent of Facebook of the business world. Quick search in LinkedIn reveals that yes, the company in question does have a creative director and a few marketing people but their names are hidden. Still, at this point I already know what I’m hunting for. And the hunt it is. Jumping between LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, blogs, stolen bicycle reports and TwitterPics allows me to cross reference and zero in on people who are otherwise completely hidden. I feel almost like playing spy games: a freelance graphics designer who posted some blog say, four years ago, leads me to the name of then art director, which by now left the company but a couple of years ago, he posted a picture of another guy, who now is the person in question. Now, I know the name and need to turn it into a contact. Yet another round of Google, LinkedIn, Facebook etc. Then another. Trying to cross reference with a different person. Hit. We have a contact. I feel victorious. Move onto the next one.

A few years ago, I overheard one rather well known guy saying “I love all that marketing stuff!”. He was really enthusiastic. Back then, I could not fathom how anyone could like that stuff. Now, I’m getting the taste of it. It’s just like one big spy game!



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