Everyone knows most blind dates aren’t really blind—you do a little research beforehand. The same is true in the world of business, where Raleigh’s Vertical IQ does the social media stalking for you… or, rather, the “industry intelligence” prep work.
When Vertical IQ’s users, such as a banker seeking a new client, log in to the platform, they see simple options. They can type in whatever kind of industry the person they’re meeting with fits into, and they’ll find news, articles, statistics and—thanks to a newly expanded database of 3,100 U.S. counties—information about the local economy for that particular business.
David Buffaloe, Chief Marketing Officer, says Vertical IQ is in the readiness business, specifically for sales professionals.
“As they get ready for a meeting, a call, a presentation, whatever it may be to someone they’re selling to or a current customer,” Buffaloe said, “our goal is to make them ready by understanding the challenges, and the trends, and the issues and all the things going on in that particular prospect or customer’s industry. That way they can really dive in and have a better conversation with that business owner.”
Vertical IQ gets all this information from its team of researchers. The company’s 20 employees—many have MBAs and/or specific industry expertise—pull information they think customers will want to have. Vertical IQ also licenses data, though about 80% is proprietary content.
Integration is key for CEO Bobby Martin. The company’s API allows users to access Vertical IQ content on other software platforms such as Salesforce, as well as via a mobile app.
Martin’s personal experience gave him the idea for the company. When he was a banker in Wilmington, he found out that it was better to talk about the client’s business, not whatever he was trying to sell. He started making “cheat sheets” with information that prepared him for the meetings, and they became so popular he uploaded them to his company’s intranet.
Vertical IQ is what Martin calls the “2.0 version” of a previous industry intelligence company that he launched in 1999, which Dun & Bradstreet ultimately acquired in 2007. Then in 2011, Martin—along with about seven people who had also worked for the previous company—launched Vertical IQ. That group includes four out of five people from the current Vertical IQ leadership team: Martin, Buffaloe, Bill Walker and Susan Bell.
Martin and Buffaloe’s relationship goes back even further. They’ve known each other since third grade and later played soccer together at Sanderson High School in Raleigh.
The B2B company quickly adjusted its focus when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Martin said he shifted 80-90% of the team’s work to researching the coronavirus’s impact on various industries, which they compiled in a free site.
Vertical IQ has not taken any outside capital, but relied on the founders for “a little cash and a lot of sweat equity,” Martin said.
Martin said that although the company’s target market has not changed over the years, they’ve kept innovating while maintaining the product’s simplicity. The company has seen consistent revenue growth as it has grown in size, but Martin said Vertical IQ is at least somewhat a lifestyle business.
“Culturally, we have nice, solid growth, but we run it more like a lifestyle business in the sense of how we treat and respect each other,” Martin said. “We don’t kill ourselves. Life’s too short.”