Research.jpgAriba Discovery is a great resource to find leads and land new business, but you may not realize that it also gives you a quick, simple, and cost-free way to obtain valuable information about your target market—which you can then use to improve your competitive edge and win more business.


So what is the best approach? To get an idea, Supply Lines talked to Shirley Brzeski, director of ClearChoice Careers Ltd., who uses Ariba Discovery for market research and more. Below are four strategies you can use to get started.


Strategy #1: Track current and emerging market trends. Staying on top of shifting customer demands can be a big challenge, especially if you’re a smaller seller and lack funds for ongoing market analysis. Ariba Discovery can help you fill that gap. With over 200M USD in new business posted every month by hundreds of buying organizations—including 50 percent of the Global 2000—Ariba Discovery provides a great bird’s-eye view of purchasing patterns and market conditions. By regularly reviewing buyer postings in your industry over time, you can track what products, services, and qualifications prospective customers are seeking most often, and then use that information as a yardstick for what you deliver. For example, ClearChoice scrutinized multiple postings to ensure that its service model was meeting market demands. “It helped us confirm that our approach is on track with what our target audience wants,” Shirley says. You can the same approach to spot nascent trends in commodity areas you serve, and gather intelligence about macroeconomic conditions that directly affect your business.


Strategy #2: Get new ideas for niche markets. Though all postings you receive may not align exactly with what you sell, you can monitor those requests to assess whether you’re offering the optimal product/service mix, and even mine them for ideas about new niche markets you might serve. “I can tell at a glance when a posting is not a match for us, but by reading it I can also see what people are looking for,” Shirley says. “If buyers keep requesting something we don’t deliver, we use that to question whether our approach is the best one or if we should adjust some elements.” For example, after receiving postings requesting sign language interpreters, ClearChoice explored the possibility of adding that category of workers to its service mix, though closer study showed demand wasn’t high enough to warrant the change. “Getting an idea of what the project amounts are also helps you decide whether a new initiative is worthwhile,” Shirley points out.rp-023n-now-serving-breakfast-sandwich-300x382.jpg


Strategy #3: Check out the competition. More than 1 million sellers across numerous industries participate in Ariba Discovery, so odds are high that your competitors number among them. The good news? You can easily “switch hats” to parse information about other sellers and get a sense of what they’re doing. Simply go to and click the “I’m Buying” tab on the home page, then select categories you serve under “Preview Suppliers” (or click “All Categories” to see a complete list). From there you can review available sellers by commodity, industry, sales territory, customer ratings, annual revenue, special certifications, and more. You can also conduct advanced searches using detailed criteria such as keyword, sales territory, company name, and special certifications to see other sellers’ qualifications, and even look at their public profiles to find out how they present themselves (and perhaps glean innovative ideas to adapt for your business).


Strategy #4: Assess your market position. By comparing the postings you receive against the total field of leads sent, you can evaluate your win/loss rate to see where you stand—and determine whether your marketing approach needs some fine-tuning. For example, if 1,140 postings have been sent in your category during the past four months but you’ve gotten only 67, it’s a safe bet your competitors are doing something right that you’re not. To check the numbers, log into your Ariba Discovery account, click “Leads”  to see all postings matched to you in the past year, then select “click here to view all postings” to review opportunities you did not receive. If none of them seems appropriate for your business, you’ll know you’re on the right track—but if postings you qualify for never reached your inbox, it’s time to make some changes.


For ClearChoice, fewer-than-expected postings along with mismatched leads indicated that adjustments were in order. “Early on, we were getting some odd stuff that didn’t seem to relate to recruitment or training; it was way too specific for what we offer,” Shirley says. To fix the problem, she took a closer look at various areas of the company’s Ariba profile. First up was the company description. “When you have to describe what you do in just a couple of lines, it’s important to make every word count,” Shirley says. Even small tweaks can make a big difference, since buyers often conduct searches via keyword. By studying terminology used across multiple postings and responses, she arrived at the perfect mix. Commodity choice was another focal point for revision. “You want to make it as tight as possible, but not so tight you miss opportunities,” Shirley says, noting that less-inclusive category selections did the trick for her company. “Over time we’ve received better, more appropriate leads.” (For more tips on optimizing lead relevance and results, read “Unlock Your Potential to Reach More Customers.”)


This article originally appeared in the Supply Lines group.


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