​How Canada’s number one energy industry service directory evolves to stay on top

We sat down with JWN’s vice-president of sales and marketing, Donovan Volk, who has been responsible for the evolution of the Comprehensive Oilfield Service & Supply Database (COSSD) since 2015, to get an inside look at the strategy for the COSSD in the face of depressed oil prices and a struggling energy service sector.

Here are his responses to our Top 6 questions:

The COSSD has been Canada’s number one oilfield service directory for over 35 years. How does a legacy publication like the COSSD remain relevant in a world of Google and the Internet?

Reinvent yourself. The COSSD has evolved over the past 36 years from a basic directory listing in print form—like the old phone book—to become an online tool that also has digital-download options for mobile users.

Our current evolution of the COSSD has the solution moving toward a “data service” that will allow vendors and buyers to connect and share information in ways never before possible.

What new functionality is the COSSD introducing?

There are three major enhancements to cossd.com that will benefit service companies immediately.

The first is deeper company profiles that companies themselves can update online to provide prospective buyers more information about what they do and where they have been successful.

The expanded COSSD company profile includes service areas and past projects, both of which allow COSSD clients to provide more accurate and useful information about what areas of the province or Canada that they serve and specific examples of their experience and past success.

The two other major enhancements are the addition of news and information relevant to the service sector and access to reports and data to help service companies identify new opportunities.

Why are deeper company profiles important to buyers? Couldn’t they simply go to the vendor’s website?

Company profiles in most directory services are basic name-address-phone number-product listings. The purpose of the COSSD is to connect buyers and vendors and help them make better decisions about who to potentially use for a project or piece of work.

The expanded COSSD company profile will be dynamic in the sense that our listing companies, the vendors, can continually update their profile with their latest projects and the areas that they can serve.

Most of our competitors scrape other databases—including the COSSD—but they only do it once a year or every other year. The COSSD listing companies will provide vendors the type of information that helps them choose a company based on the most important differentiator: actual project experience.

You also mentioned the addition of news and information plus reports and data to the COSSD. Aren’t there several other sites where service companies can find industry info and data?

The difference with the COSSD is that our content is directly tailored to help oilfield service and supply companies thrive. Our news and information is developed to provide actionable insights to enable more informed and better strategic decisions for oilfield service providers.

COSSD pulls this content from across Glacier Media’s properties including the Daily Oil Bulletin, jwnenergy.com, Pipeline News North and Business in Vancouver. This information is complemented by special reports and data that is specifically beneficial to the service sector.

Why does your company still produce the COSSD as a printed book? When the world is dominated by the internet and Google, why spend the time and effort and money to print and distribute a physical book?

That’s a great question with a very simple answer: the book is still used by thousands of people in the service sector and by the buyers of those services.

Our data shows that 48 per cent of leads come from the printed COSSD book and 52 per cent come from a digital source, either the website cossd.com or mobile phone/tablet. Those actual results mirror what we know to be true about the demographic shift happening in the industry.

There are still a large number of more senior field operators who like the physical nature of the book. They write in it, they dog-ear pages, and they put papers and sticky notes on the areas most relevant to them. We distributed 40,000 books last year and expanded our racking program in remote areas to keep up with demand.

Over time, I expect the shift from print to digital to continue, but we will always meet the needs of our clients, and right now that involves a strong print presence.

What other changes are you planning for the COSSD in 2017-18?

We are planning an expansion into the northern United States this year to fill the gap in coverage of the Bakken for the service sector. Despite the uncertainty of NAFTA, the U.S. and Canadian markets continue to see overlap in terms of service companies who work on both sides of the border.

As well, our own research (found in JWN’s first Going Global report) shows that about 75 per cent of Canadian service companies are planning on doing business outside of Canada. That’s a direct indication that we need to expand the COSSD coverage beyond the borders of Canada and help companies do business in both jurisdictions.

Ongoing enhancements to cossd.com will see additional company profile information being added that will help COSSD users “search-compare-connect” with the vendors that meet their criteria.

I can’t tell you exactly what we’re planning, but it involves directly connecting buyers’ purchasing systems with the cossd.com database.

We’re not going to replace the purchasing system but rather enhance it with the ability to search and compare when looking for new or additional vendors in a particular area. It’s an exciting time, and we’re looking forward to a strong growth in 2018!

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JWN is Canada's most trusted provider of information, intelligence, and insight about Canada's energy industry.