GlobalSpec: Firing Up the Vertical Search Market


ADOTAS EXCLUSIVE — GlobalSpec is a leading vertical search, information services and e-publishing company that serves the engineering, manufacturing and related scientific and technical market segments. ADOTAS sat down with Angela Hribar, the chief sales and marketing officer of GlobalSpec, to discuss the company’s philosophy and how it is growing its business — especially in the vertical search department.

ADOTAS: How did the idea for GlobalSpec come to fruition?

HRIBAR: GlobalSpec was born out of the frustration of our founders when they were at GE. They believed that if they could build a database and put a search engine on top of it, that they could solve a two week business problem in two minutes and that’s how GlobalSpec was created. The end result: their vision has revolutionized the industrial product discovery process at the specification level, while developing a business model of providing B-to-B, real-time sales leads that can be contacted.

ADOTAS: Who is your audience and how do you interact with them?

HRIBAR: Our audience consists of our users, our suppliers and the agencies that represent them. Our users are engineering, technical and industrial professionals from all over the world, and these individuals represent a demographic that I think your agencies are particularly interested in because they have significant buying power. As a matter of fact, 93% are involved in the purchasing of components, equipment and services with 40% influencing more than $100,000 in spend. And our suppliers represent anyone who wants to be in front of this audience. For them it’s all about contextual advertising opportunities. And we provide them with branding and exposure, impressions and of course — highly qualified traffic and contactable leads.

ADOTAS: What practices or companies have inspired the way GlobalSpec has approached the vertical search space?

HRIBAR: Our inspiration always has, and always will be based on the needs of our users. And by staying current to what they want and value, we’re able to adapt our business to meet and anticipate their needs. And we leverage this closeness that we have with our advertisers to benefit our suppliers as well.

ADOTAS: How did what others were doing, or not doing, motivate you to create GlobalSpec?

HRIBAR: GlobalSpec was created on three principles. First, define the content needs of the B-to-B user; next to organize that data in a context that meets their expectations; and finally, to include access to behind-the-scenes information that’s not readily available to the general public. From our perspective, this is the essence of vertical search. It’s speed and efficiency that allows users to readily access information that’s relevant to them, without having to spend days or weeks to find it.

ADOTAS: How have you seen the market change, and the demand for your services evolve from the beginning?

HRIBAR: The market has certainly become far more Internet-savvy since we got started. Users are now fully online. And as a matter of fact, our recent survey shows that more than 90% of industrial professionals use the Internet to find components. And this audience is now spending more than eight hours a week online. On the other hand, industrial suppliers are badly lagging the user market. Our research here shows that 2/3 of industrial marketers are spending less than only 1/3 of their dollars online, despite the trends of our user audience.

ADOTAS: How would you say that GlobalSpec really differentiates itself from its competitors?

HRIBAR: From the user perspective, we differentiate ourselves in two ways: vertical search and putting the user in control. Vertical search is all about the content and the context of the information we provide. For example, an engineer is searching for pumps on our site will only get results for manufacturers and service providers related to industrial pumps, not women’s shoes. And the results will meet the specs they’re looking for in a context that’s relevant and familiar to them. We also believe in putting the users in control. We deliver opt-in, real-time breaking news about products developments, technical advancements and things like current events. We do that via GlobalSpec Alerts and 58 newsletter publications, providing information on-demand to our users. We also believe that engineers are people too, and with this in mind, we provide our users with a social network called CR4. This network includes forums and blogs, peer-to-peer discussion boards and other communication tools. All of this provides us with points of distinction and differentiation for our suppliers. We provide them and the agencies, your customers that represent them, the opportunity to reach the right audience, at the right time, with the right medium, and give them branding and exposure, impressions and contactable customers. At GlobalSpec, we like to say it’s the difference between a customer and a click. And we do that via traffic to our Web site and to theirs.

ADOTAS: Who would you say your closest competitors are and what sets you apart?

HRIBAR: Anywhere someone goes to find information, or promote their business is a form of competition for us. But the benefits of those other investments are diminishing as more users are looking for information in the unique form that we provide. And what sets us apart from other advertising vehicles is the quality of the information and the experience that we offer both the user and that supplier, and the results of course that we provide both.

ADOTAS: What additions are being made at GlobalSpec that will truly innovate the vertical search market?

HRIBAR: Some of the exciting things that we’re doing here include our fastest growing aspect of our business, which is the e-newsletter business. In just over two years, we have 58 titles that cover the industrial space with over 8.5 million subscriptions, the highest in the industry — and we’re just getting started. Another key area that’s very exciting and innovating for us is social networking, the site that I mentioned earlier and this is a fast-growing aspect of our business. It’s a place where our users exchange ideas with other experts in their field, where they ask questions and problem solve in a peer-to-peer, truly professional environment.

ADOTAS: At the end of the day, what imprint do you feel GlobalSpec has made and will continue to make on the engineering market?

HRIBAR: We feel we’ve made a big imprint in being able to take a two-week process down to two minutes; we’ve made a significant impact on the quality of work life for our users. And by providing them with such great advancements we’ve accelerated the pace and improved the efficiencies of the overall product cycle development for the entire industry. And on the suppliers side we’ve created a B-to-B platform that allows them to keep pace with that user expectation and demand, and gives them the opportunity to flourish in a highly competitive marketplace.

ADOTAS: What challenges have you seen as a company in growing and promoting your services?

HRIBAR: Our greatest challenge is definitely on the suppliers’ side. Many companies have been too slow in making the online transition that the user community has been making in droves. But we have seen progressive marketers thinking differently this year. They’re definitely shifting their budget to where they know the market is, knowing that they stand the most to gain from online marketing.

ADOTAS: What would you like to say to the industry professionals watching this about vertical search in engineering?

HRIBAR: If you’re not getting some experience with vertical search through GlobalSpec, you’re putting yourselves and your customers at a disadvantage now and well into the future. I’m not saying that GlobalSpec should be 100% of the media buy, or your media buy, but it should be the essential foundation of the media mix for anyone who’s in this space.


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