In a previous post, I wrote about my interview with Matt Gorniak, COO of G2 Crowd, which I described as a “startup [that] aims to tap the potential of crowdsourcing and data analytics to turn the market research industry upside-down.” I also noted that it’s widely referred to as “the Yelp for business software.” I’ve since learned that, oddly enough, there’s another startup that aims to tap the potential of crowdsourcing and data analytics to turn the market research industry upside-down, and that is, wouldn’t you know, also widely referred to as the Yelp for business software.
The other company is IT Central Station, which appears at first glance to be a New York-based version of the Chicago-based G2 Crowd, founded just five months earlier. (IT Central Station launched in September of last year, followed by G2 Crowd in February of this year.) When I took a look at IT Central Station, the similarities seemed startling—right down to their strategy to use LinkedIn as a login and vetting mechanism for reviewers.
So I emailed Gorniak and asked him what distinguishes G2 Crowd from IT Central Station. He was kind enough to respond, with the differences listed under three categories: Business model, vendor rating approach, and market traction and momentum. Once I had that in hand, I sent it to Russell Rothstein, CEO of IT Central Station, with the request that he respond to each of Gorniak’s claims. He graciously agreed. Here then, are Gorniak’s differentiators, along with Rothstein’s rebuttal:
G2 Crowd’s claim: G2 Crowd is focused on research curation and publishing of trusted and quality data. The goal is to help buyers make better decisions by using big data instead of opinions; to help vendors with a democratic platform where they can differentiate on customer satisfaction. G2 Crowd has already published and sold unique and compelling Grid research reports for CRM and marketing automation that directly aim to disrupt Gartner's Magic Quadrants. G2 Crowd's research has been licensed directly by software buyers and consultants as well as leading vendors such as HubSpot and Salesforce.com. IT Central Station is monetizing by selling leads to vendors which occurs when you click on the request quote or request demo button.
IT Central Station’s response: Our business model is twofold: We help buyers make better buying decisions and we help vendors find relevant, interested, opt-in buyers for their solutions. We currently offer premium services to vendors that enable them to optimize their exposure to buyers who visit our site. Our request quote and demo system is a 100 percent opt-in system in which buyers can request more information when they are ready to engage with the vendor. In 2014 we are offering premium services to the buyer community, but for now we offer all of our services for free to the buyer community.
Vendor Rating Approach
G2Crowd’s claim: G2 Crowd uses a unique, patent-pending algorithm to rate vendors in real time based on detailed user reviews as well as Big Data aggregated from online and social sources such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Google, and Alexa. G2 Crowd's reviews for categories such as CRM and marketing automation contain 50 to70 detailed questions to give deep insight into features and functions. IT Central Station appears to be following a pure consumer Yelp approach, relying on only a five-star review scale and three questions per review. No synthesis. Not enough, and not a scientific approach to help select enterprise-class software purchases.
IT Central Station’s response: IT Central Station is focused on high quality reviews and our site reflects our high quality community and content. Feel free to browse the reviews of Big Data or Cloud and you will see for yourself that the reviews include significant thought and analysis. The mean number of words in a review on IT Central Station is 912 words, so the vast majority of our reviews are highly detailed; valuable insights from real users and experts. The star rating is optional and many of our reviewers do not use a star rating, because they understand that in the enterprise market, the substance of the review is more important than the number of stars and its placement in a quadrant or grid. The statements from G2 Crowd that our reviews have "no synthesis," are "not enough" and are "not a scientific approach" are simply false and not based on reality. We do not lower ourselves to make such inaccurate and unsubstantiated fabrications about other review sites. We can share with you the names of enterprise technology buyers who will go on record to say that IT Central Station has helped them make a better buying decision.
Market Traction and Momentum
G2Crowd’s claim: G2 Crowd has far more customer reviews in the enterprise technology space than any other site, about 10 times more than IT Central Station today. G2 Crowd has approximately 6,600 reviews, vs. approximately 700 reviews on IT Central Station. G2 Crowd has far more Web traffic, with an Alexa.com Web traffic rank of 32,694 in the United States, vs. 359,437 for IT Central Station.
IT Central Station’s response: The Alexa statistics demonstrate the fact that IT Central Station is a higher quality site whose users are much more engaged. Bounce rate: 46 percent for G2 Crowd compared to 19 percent for IT Central Station, meaning our visitors like the content they find and visit other pages. Page views per visitor: 5 pages for G2 Crowd, compared to 23 pages for IT Central Station, meaning our visitors read dozens of reviews because the quality is high. User time on site: 4 minutes for G2 Crowd, compared to 42 minutes for IT Central Station, meaning our visitors spend a significant part of their day on our site. We focus on quality users and quality content. Regarding review counts, once again, the numbers presented by G2 Crowd are inaccurate. We have over 2,000 reviews of enterprise technology products. All of the products listed on our site are enterprise-class solutions, not consumer or SMB-only products. If you look at G2 Crowd's reviews, the vast majority of reviews are SMB or consumer apps. They have thousands of reviews/ratings of SnagIt, Bitly, Facebook Pages, Bing Ads, Evernote, Skype, Gmail, LinkedIn, Apple Calendar, even GoDaddy. On our site you will find reviews of products from Oracle, EMC, Cisco, SAP, VMware, Red Hat, Citrix, IBM, and their competitors. These are the types of products and vendors that enterprise tech buyers are researching for a business purchase. So if you look at enterprise-class products, IT Central Station is by far the No. 1 leader in terms of enterprise product review content, enterprise users, and user engagement.
Rothstein went on to summarize what he sees as the difference between IT Central Station and G2 Crowd:
The primary difference between IT Central Station and G2 Crowd is that IT Central Station is 100 percent focused on the enterprise market, whereas G2 Crowd tries to cover both enterprise and SMB. We believe there are significant differences between enterprise buyers and SMB buyers—different buying process, different ecosystem of advisors, different price points, different products, etc.
IT Central Station is designed for professionals in the enterprise market, as opposed to SMBs. That means we include only products and services that meet the particular demands of enterprises and are customer-proven within the enterprise market. I think it’s important to distinguish between enterprises and SMBs because some products that are great for SMBs are simply not appropriate for use in an enterprise. Our community is made up of decision makers and influencers from Fortune 1000, Global 2000 and medium-size enterprises, from CIOs and CMOs to other key stakeholders for purchasing enterprise tech.