This interview originally appeared in BusinessPundit.com.
What are some cash-flow options available other than traditional banks?
What is the biggest business blunder management is making regarding social media?
Should our website be ‘mobile compatible’?
If you’re a business owner or manager, questions like these probably cross your mind on a daily basis. How do you find answers for them? Ask someone on your team? Consult an article? Hunt it down in a forum?
Most importantly, do you usually find what you were looking for?
The people behind Bizmore know that finding intelligent answers to business questions can be a challenge. So they created a searchable Q&A website covering even the thorniest of business-related questions. Users generate questions, and their peers—many of whom are CEOs or experts in their fields—offer informed, germane answers.
Bizmore’s commitment to its niche (the audience is comprised of owners and managers of small- to medium-sized businesses) keeps topics relevant. They supplement their Q&A content with staff-written features, giving readers a complete interactive resource. And unlike other answers sites, you don’t risk running into juvenile or spammy content.
Vistage International, an executive coaching and networking group, launched the site in July. Former CNET executive and veteran tech writer Alice Hill founded the site; Jeff Davis, who edited Business 2.0 magazine for nearly a decade, is Bizmore’s Editor in Chief.
Business Pundit recently caught up with Hill and Davis to discuss Bizmore’s history, uses, and implications.
DK: What inspired you to come up with the idea for Bizmore?
Hill: The idea came from our parent company, Vistage. Vistage is a leadership organization that’s been around since the 1950’s. It brings together a community of peer groups, mentors and experts to talk about their business and get answers from peers. That’s how you really grow your business and solve important challenges. We thought it would be great to bring this same experience to an online location, so people can tap into the same peer experience from anywhere, at anytime.
The small business (SMB) audience is such a huge part of our economy–they constitute 70% of all U.S. jobs and more than 50% of the GDP. And small businesses are underserved, so we thought: Can we create something online that has that same in-person, really intimate power of a leadership organization, but gives people a way to connect online and get answers and advice from other peers and experts?
That seemed like an exciting thing to do, an untapped audience and a lot of people with a lot of questions. It seemed like using a Q&A platform would be a great way to do something different than the usual expert articles and blogs that are out there right now.
DK: What do you mean by untapped audience?
Hill: Right now, if you are a manager or owner of a business, it’s really hard for you to get personal advice without having to hire a consultant, a lawyer, an accountant, or another expert. You can read articles and do research, but it’s really hard to have that conversation back and forth, especially online.
Online, you can comment, blog, have someone write back, or write an article, but there’s no back-and-forth. That’s why we thought that building a Q&A site would enable you to ask a question, then have experts, peers, and other people from the around the world answer, to help you look at the different perspectives that different voices bring to the issue.
DK: What’s the main thing that differentiates you from a LinkedIn group or a blog written by an expert?
Hill: As far as blogs go, Jeff likes to say we’re taking the comments in a blog and turn them upside down. You start your discussion with a question, with a person that has the issue, whereas a blog is more writers thinking up topics for the day.
If you’re a writer, you’re hoping that you’re picking something timely, or something that resonates. But it’s different when the user says that I don’t understand what’s going on, says I have a specific issue and there’s one that I need help with. It’s user-driven, but then the answers can be articles, experts, peers, all jumping in to help the user. It’s many to one, instead of one to many.
We’re not the same animal as LinkedIn. It’s hard on LinkedIn to just get advice, experts, and content in one place. LinkedIn is more about your career, your profile, and your contacts, but they’re not focused as an advice platform for a specific audience.
Davis: This is a very different world here. Our content is about recognizing that businesspeople are a bunch of experts. Our community is based on recognizing that high-level managers and executives of businesses know things about running businesses that are very hard for traditional business journalists to replicate.
We hand the microphone over to people inside of companies who do one thing really well. We get them to explain one method or management tactic that works for them that others can learn from.
There’s a lot of practical management and business advice that’s being put into practice inside of successful companies small, medium, and large. All we’re really trying to do is get inside of those companies and get them to share their wisdom.
DK: Can you tell us more about your experts?
Davis: We’re not the first website to offer up business experts. What’s different is that we handpick and share who our experts are, and they’re chosen purely with editorial objectives in mind.
It’s an independent editorial platform. There’s no issue or question that is out of bounds for these guys. As long it’s a relevant, compelling issue or topic, we’re going to try to find experts with the very best wisdom to share on that topic.
Our experts agreed to answer a handful of questions each week on our site. In exchange for that original content, we display their biography and some links to their books, white papers, and anything else that’s relevant to their topic. It’s a way for them to display their brands on the site, while we give users access to their great wisdom.
Our experts have been very enthusiastic. Many of them have come from a world of promotion where people call them up and ask them stuff, people write articles. You’d be surprised how few of them are interested in doing that the old way.
Instead of a blog, a call, or an article, I just offered the experts a chance to engage with an eyes-on business audience of senior managers, executives, and business leaders. I gave them a chance to directly contact those people.
These experts have jumped at the opportunity to have this kind of exchange. They’re tired of having one-way conversations with an audience. They’re willing to try out a new Q&A platform to get a more direct personal engagement with people they’re tried to reach.
DK: How do you envision Bizmore in its most successful form?
Hill: We want to attract as focused an audience as possible. We want to make sure there’s no solicitation on the site. We want to keep the quality high as we grow as big as possible.
There’s also a huge international audience, outside the US, who are trying to figure out how to get business inside the US. Especially with the recession, there are also so many American companies who are trying to figure out how to diversify inside the US. The Internet is a phenomenal way to reach people internationally that is hard to do in other models.
We’ll also build out the features in the site over time. We’re talking about adding a marketplace so that people can promote their companies in a way that’s not soliciting, but gets the word out about their companies, job boards, and business-related things.
I think that at the core, we just want to have the best, most relevant living archive of business advice. The audience will constantly improve on it. We’re hoping that as more and more questions get added, the site becomes more useful to every person who jumps on.
Explore Bizmore for yourself. Read Q&As anonymously, or sign up for a free membership to gain full access to the site. You’ll join 15,000 Vistage CEOs, twelve distinguished industry experts, and a host of other users.