Since the mid 1980's, I have been repeatedly involved with ventures that sought to do one thing: help companies organize and manage how they appeared in directories. The objective of gaining control of one's appearance in directories was to insure accuracy (are the correct address and phone numbers being presented?) and to maximize exposure (is our entire product line being fully represented?) of a company's often large and complex product offerings. These ventures usually saw their market as larger companies that had the most complexity and at the same time had the strongest desire to be "easy to do business with."
The strength and weakness of these ventures was they existed in the days when directories were print-based. Imagine the task of trying to manage the contact and product information for DuPont across thousands of print directories! It was important but thankless work, and it was tough to make a lot of money because the work was inherently labor-intensive.
Why the trip down memory lane? Because I recently ran across a company called Universal Business Listing that is an updated version of these old paper-based services. Universal Business Listing has two big advantages over the old model: its service is automated, and there is now a reason for smaller businesses to worry about how they appear online.
For a modest annual fee, Universal Business Listing both expands and manages a company's online presence. You provide accurate information about your business. Universal Business Listing starts by submitting it to infoGROUP and Acxiom, the "feeder databases" for so many online directories. It also helps you get listed and stay current in directory assistance databases, local business databases, social media sites and even in GPS navigation software.
Where Universal Business Listing is weak is with vertical business directories, and this presents an opportunity for data publishers who continually struggle to keep their data current. Also, a service such as Universal Business Listing could be an interesting add-on service for buying guide publishers seeking to enhance their value proposition to their advertisers, a topic -- by the way -- that we'll focus on at our DataContent 2010 conference this fall in Philadelphia.
For the record, InfoCommerce Group has no interest in, or business relationship with, Universal Business Listing.