Spicework's Large User Community Serves as Important Business Asset
However, the company also takes advantage of this wealth of user data to plan new products and recruit new partners who can become part of the Spiceworks community and advertiser base. What Spiceworks has managed to accomplish is to open a door to an elusive market—IT professionals who are generally hard to reach. "They don't have time to talk to salesmen," Hallberg said. "They don't have time for long phone calls or to read a lot of emails." These IT workers are often overwhelmed by their responsibilities, and their departments are frequently understaffed and underfunded. Spiceworks can reach these people because they offer them something that nobody else can, which is high-quality software to help them manage their IT systems, for free. "IT pros need to be able to find out what products are good," Hallberg said. The community provides that information, and it provides access to vendors who have developed a level of trust in the community.Now that the company has become a trusted partner to a broad group of IT professionals across an unusually wide selection of industries, Hallberg's biggest challenge is to find new ways to serve that elusive audience without alienating them. This is an area where it would be easy to push just a little too hard and find that once-loyal users have suddenly moved on. Right now, Hallberg and his team are working to decide what new services Spiceworks can offer that will provide utility to its customers while also offering an opening into their needs and access to their partners. To some extent, Spiceworks is doing this by adding functionality to existing products. But here again, the company must tread carefully so that the added functionality does not also cut existing partners out of the deal. Ultimately, however, it's about the data, which can be about the types of management issues users face, the products they work with or how they go about solving problems. According to Hallberg, the data is aggregated so that no individual data is shared, but the company does share the aggregated data in a variety of ways. Spiceworks already produces a "State of IT" report every year using that data. Hallberg said that the company is also able to crowdsource details about such things as Windows 10 adoption or which Windows updates are really crucial. This kind of information is key to Spiceworks' partners, and it adds value to advertisers, Hallberg said. But because of the fine line that Spiceworks must walk between serving its community and possibly alienating it, the company must tread carefully.
Because of trust that develops within the community, Spiceworks and its partners have access to a group of people that need their help and expertise. The user community, in turn, has access to partners that have built a level of trust around the products and services they provide.