Expert networks are platforms that link businesses to experts from various fields. By contracting an expert, a business is able to access high level advice on topics such as finance, investing, medicine, legal among many others. Whilst being a relatively expensive service, it nevertheless pays for itself because the uniquely tailored information obtained from a top-level knowledge partner will enable a business to be propelled forward very quickly.
Today’s leading expert network company, Gerson Lehramn Group (GLG), was founded in 1998 which was at the time when the deregulation of international financial markets led to an increase in investments. This meant more people entering the sector for the first time which led to the founders of the GLG providing a new type of service – a research report produced independently of investment banks that brought together the opinions of experts in the field. At the time, these reports took up to six weeks to write and they delivered a great deal of added value to the client readership. Over time, clients expressed the desire to communicate with the experts directly and this is how the current model of expert networks emerged.
The high price of a one-hour consultancy call charged by the expert network takes into account the time it takes to locate the expert, the time it takes the expert to undertake the research and prepare for the call, a percentage charged by the network that connects the expert with the client and the salary of the experts themselves which depends on their level of seniority in the field.
Companies involved in expert networks spend most of their time finding suitable experts for their clients and this is achieved by researching online, be it scouting LinkedIn or Xing, googling or networking at industry conferences. Whilst this is the most commonly used model of how expert networks work, in recent years, other business models have emerged:
- Machine-driven Expert Networks. Artificial Intelligence is mostly used to locate experts from the sea of profiles online although human vetting is still vital.
- Expert Q&A companies. These are websites such as Quora, Answers.com and AskWonder.com that allow users to ask experts non-urgent and non-confidential questions. Most of the information received via these Q&A companies is already out there on the internet but the benefit is that you will save time and the information will be compiled and explained to you.
- DIY marketplaces. Clients have access to a database of experts where they submit requests for information that experts can then bid on to provide.
- Crowd-funded expert calls. These allow businesses to save costs by sharing non-confidential calls with other interested parties.
With over 100 active expert networks available today, the market is becoming overcrowded, according to Inex One.
Having 100 expert networks do more or less the same thing drives client indifference, expert fatigue, employee churn and eroding profit margins, says Inex One CEO, Max Fridberg.
According to him, the market needs to develop. “By specializing, expert networks build a sustainable competitive moat, compounding value over time. When your employees become knowledge partners to clients and experts as part of the Expertise map, you raise barriers to stop competitors from entering it. Becoming really good at a topic, your operating costs (and employee churn costs) go down, enabling sustainable profits.”
Suggested read: How do Expert Networks Work?