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What Are Expert Networks and How Do They Work?

Stream | April 11, 2022

Information may be more accessible than ever, but it hasn’t replaced the value of high-level insights from true experts. In fact, demand for expert network services is growing rapidly as the industry expands beyond its more traditional niches in investment and consulting.

Companies across industries are increasingly seeing the value of these insights and leveraging them to refine their services and gain competitive advantages.

In this article, we’ll cover what you need to know about expert networks, how they work, and specific ways to apply their insights.

Quick Takeaways

  • Expert networks are groups of subject matter experts (SMEs) used by companies to access expertise in areas where internal teams cannot provide it.
  • Experts represent a wide range of industries and backgrounds. They are typically executive-level professionals with deep experience and knowledge.
  • Expert calls are 30-60 minute phone conversations with experts typically conducted by research analysts.
  • Expert call libraries are centralized, searchable databases where firms can access call recordings and transcripts on-demand.
  • Common ways that companies use expert insights include due diligence, client services, market research, and compliance.

What are expert networks?

Expert networks are groups of subject matter experts (SMEs) used by third-party companies seeking high-level expertise in areas where their internal teams are unqualified to provide it. This could be something as common as savvy digital marketing or as perilous and complex as multi-stage M&As. as Expert networks are used in a wide range of scenarios but most commonly by investment firms seeking deeper knowledge about potential investments as well as consulting firms looking to provide specialized expertise to clients.

Typically, the flow of communication works like this: expert network firms build their networks to include a wide range of SMEs. When consulting or investment firms are in need of an expert consult, they reach out to the firm, which connects them to the right expert. The investment or consulting firm pays the expert network firm, which then compensates the expert.

Because the use of expert networks is so common in these industries, it’s also not a secret. In a recent survey conducted by expert network firm Guidepoint, respondents indicated that their clients were well aware of their use of expert networks. Respondents also expect that the use of expert networks will continue to become more important as clients request more projects that require specialized expertise.

Expert network firms generally offer two pricing models for companies to access their resources. Subscription-based models work for firms who use expert networks frequently. They pay for a certain number of requests, often during a specific time period (ex: yearly). Transaction-based models are pay-per-use. This model is becoming less common as firms realize the necessity of integrating expert insights more deeply into their business models.

Who are the experts?

Because the two sectors that most heavily rely on expert networks — investment and consulting — work directly with companies in such a wide range of industries, experts in those networks represent an equally wide range of experience, backgrounds, and areas of expertise. Experts are generally executive-level professionals who have extensive experience with the topic, company, or industry at hand.

In decades past, the recruitment of experts relied heavily on building and maintaining industry connections. The internet and the resulting worldwide digital connectivity of the 21st century has radically transformed this process. Today, firms rely heavily on junior employees to do the bulk of their research, scouring online databases and networks like LinkedIn for experts who fit client requests.

The speed and scope at which experts can now be found have shifted recruitment from a long game of outreach and cultivation to a more on-demand approach that also leads to more specialized expertise and services for end clients.

You can see below how the model has changed over time, since the expert network infancy years of the 1950s:

How are expert calls conducted?

Expert calls are the most common way firms access expert insights. Guidepoint’s survey respondents indicated that it’s overwhelmingly their preferred method — more than 75% said they use calls frequently.

Expert calls are typically about 30-60 minutes long and are conducted by an analyst with the right background and knowledge to ask the right questions and work with the expert to get the information the client needs. They are typically recorded and transcripted so the end client can access the insights directly whenever they want.

Expert call transcript libraries are also becoming an increasingly popular source of expert insight for firms who want access to it on a regular basis. Transcript libraries are centralized databases with thousands of transcripts and recordings of expert calls. Users can use customized search terms like expert name, company name, industry, topic and more to find multiple expert insight calls all relevant to their current need.

Many firms access expert networks for insights about specific projects and scenarios their company is handling, and in those cases they would want to connect with an expert directly. But expert call transcript libraries are becoming a hugely valuable resource in cases where firms seek more general insights and/or want to become more familiar with a particular company or industry over time.

For example: a private equity firm looking for target companies in the clothing retail industry may spend time in an expert call transcript library reading as many calls as they can to familiarize themselves with trends, important players, and potential opportunities to pursue.

How are expert networks used?

We know that firms seek out expert networks to access knowledge they don’t have internally, but what are the specific ways they leverage those insights? It really depends on the industry, but here are some common ways:

  • Due diligence: Incorporating expert insight sources into due diligence processes to gain a better understanding of potential investments, deals, or other opportunities.
  • Client services: Obtaining specialized knowledge and expertise not present in-house in order to provide optimal services to clients.
  • Market research: Working to better understand a particular company or industry.
  • Compliance: Navigating the rules and regulations of a highly technical or regulated industry to ensure compliance standards are met.

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