Some Free Advice for Search VendorsOver the last few years there has been a very significant increase in the awareness of the value of search. It may not yet have translated into an equally significant increase in sales of search products, whether proprietary or open source, but this could be the best year yet for search if vendors heed some advice.

Many organizations have been totally unaware of the power of a good search application, especially if they were using Microsoft Search Server for SharePoint 2010. With SharePoint 2013 they are discovering what they have been missing for the last decade and also beginning to realize that even SharePoint 2013 is not the answer to all their search requirements.

The good times are about to start for search vendors and search integrators. I’d really like to see a thriving search industry as it enables me to tell my clients that they have a number of options they could consider. Sadly the search industry seems to excel at obfuscation and a total lack of understanding about how organizations go about finding search solutions.

I am vendor-neutral in my advice so with regret I am not able to advise search vendors on marketing and sales strategies. Instead here is some free advice to the entire industry.

Understand Your Potential Customers

Most companies have little experience of buying search applications. Faced with the opportunity to “check out entity extraction, business rules, relevancy workbench, integrated search UI and more,” I wonder how many senior IT managers will understand what entity extraction is all about, the value of a relevancy workbench and the benefits of an integrated search user interface. Far too many search vendors are selling their solutions based on functionality and not on initially getting across the business benefits of search in a way that supports the investment case.

Sort Out Your Website

I’m not going to name names, because the list would be too long, but the lack of focus and clarity on vendor websites is terrible. The concept of personas is alien to the industry with the result that home pages are a mixture of search buzzwords and technical jargon. The search market is international but at least one major search vendor gives contact telephone numbers without a country code, or any indication of support outside of the US.