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Make Information Come to You!

| On 08, Sep 2009

Jack Hipple

Accurate, timely, and low cost information can be a critical component of innovation and market research. Think about the following things that all of you have experienced or seen in the past few years. First “I Report” on CNN News. People all over the country are empowered, with no money (!) to become reporters for the CNN television network and get their photos seen on the air. What an ego rush! Your name (briefly) and your picture are seen by millions of people around the world for a short period of time. You can tell all your kids and relatives. How much money did CNN save in not needing as many reporters out in the filed? How much better was the reporting by having actual local pictures taken on the spot?


Second, airline reservations. If you make one nowadays, you receive an advance check in notice via EM. If you do not react to this, your reservation is not canceled, but I suspect that your seat goes into the “oversold” pool and helps the airline decide how much to overbook the plane to possibly make some more money.


Third, www.despair.com, the hilarious inverted Successories imitator, has just started sending out their proposed lithographs WITHOUT a caption. Thousands of people, with a simple $500 incentive, send suggestions in. The list is narrowed to 5 and then a run off election is held, all electronically. The final result and winner’s name is shared with their entire mailing list! What an ego boost to see your caption on an item that will sell for hundreds of times more money with no additional benefit to you. How much market research money has been saved?


Fourth, retail surveys after purchase. I did one of these after a purchase at a local Target store. The incentive was the opportunity to receive a $5,000 gift certificate (only one per month is given out). As I went through the survey, which was quite extensive, they were learning all kinds of useful things, not just about that particular shopping trip, but about my preferences, how and where (else!) I shopped, and much more. Now $5,000 is a lot of money, but I’m guessing that’s less than ½ the cost of the salary of an experienced, full time market researcher in their Minneapolis headquarters. What a bargain!


What’s the lesson here? What do all these innovations have in common? They are doing the opposite of conventional behavior, i.e. sending out reporters to find people, guessing at the number of actual fliers, spending their own money dreaming up ideas with only our limited brains, trying to guess and spend a lot of money on market research. They also have a common root in trying to get better information. So what’s the lesson? The next time you need information think about how you can get it to come to you as opposed to spending your money chasing it down.