Thomson Acquires Contact Networks
The fight to establish an influential presence in the rapidly emerging B2B social networking market just found itself a new participant in the Thomson Corp., a provider of electronic workflow solutions to business and professional customers. With its acquisition Tuesday of Boston-based Contact Networks, Thomson adds the enterprise relationship management (ERM) product ContactNet to its existing arsenal of business intelligence and relationship management services.
"Contact Networks positioned itself as the leader in this space by virtue of its unique product attributes, its strong team, and its proven ability to add value for its customers," said Mike Wilens, Thomson executive vice president and chief technology officer, in a release announcing the acquisition and positioning it as part of the "emerging trend of ERM/B2B social networking."
Wilbur Swan, vice president of marketing at Contact Networks, says the company has doubled its client base in the last year, and that its acquisition by Thomson will help extend expansion into the B2B social networking space. "They're obviously a global leader and very trusted brand," he explains. "We believe we're poised for explosive growth and joining forces with Thomson will enable that growth."
According to Swan, talks between Thomson and Contact Networks started approximately a year ago. "We were aware of each other in the market space and [Thomson executives] thought our business was a very interesting one from a thought-leadership perspective," he recalls, adding that Contact's headquarters and entire team will remain in Boston. "It's an ideal marriage from that perspective," he says. "We're very proud and excited about working [with Thomson] -- it'll be great to see how this all plays out over the next few years."
ContactNet is built specifically for corporate environments as a social networking application. The solution uncovers, aggregates, and prioritizes a firm's internal relationships with external business contacts by accessing data from address books, email logs, CRM applications, and other enterprise systems. According to Contact Networks, the result of this data extraction is a searchable database which can be used for new-business prospecting, referrals, talent recruitment, cross-selling, event invitations, and competitive intelligence.
According to the company, ContactNet is already used by more than 50 organizations, including law firms, financial institutions, and consulting firms. The software can be used in one of three ways:
- as a standalone application;
- as part of an integrated West Monitor Suite, which provides business-development and market intelligence to support law-firm organizations; or
- embedded into platforms including intranets, extranets, and CRM systems.
The Facebooks, MySpaces, and LinkedIns of the world have focused a spotlight onto social networking, and Swan says professional services firms are coming to Contact Networks to determine how they can tap into the growing trend to help foster expansion in the years to come. "The professional service firms that we're working with are trying to think about how social networking in general applies to their growth strategies," he explains. "What Contact Networks brings is the ability for these firms to benefit from the combined relationships of all their employees, and as such it's a very practical and high-return way for those firms to apply the social networking approach."
Contact Networks is not alone in this view. More professional services firms are going to have to join the social networking festivities if they want to fully maximize potential business, and using ContactNet is a viable way to do that, according to Mark Messing, director of marketing and business development for global law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges. "Professional services firms know that client relationships are an enormous business asset," he writes. "But it's often underappreciated that failing to leverage all the relationships within an organization can also be an enormous liability. ContactNet makes customer information more visible to the business development process -- and increases its value -- which is critical when you consider the millions of dollars in potential business that never materializes because of relationships that are unknown."
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