Reminders of Our Roots

A recent assignment for NetMarketing reminded me again of how so many people outside Internet commerce actually “get it.”

That is, people whose lives aren’t devoted to Internet commerce understand intuitively what the Internet is for, how it works best, and how to get value from it. If you just listen to them, you can profit.

The story was a case study of how e-Dialog helped a business site get off the ground, but it was the site itself, of Cambridge, MA, that held the most profound lessons for me.

The idea of the site is simple. Lots of companies have technology that they can’t use but that other companies may be able to use. If a trusted intermediary can broker deals among these companies, he or she ought to do well on commissions.

So e-Dialog produced an email campaign targeting companies with technologies on the shelf, along with special landing pages and tags to measure the response.

That’s when the users started driving the site, said Director of Marketing Leise Roberts.

First, it turned out that technology exchanges weren’t as straightforward as yet2 thought. Chemical companies weren’t just coming up with chemical ideas. One of the site’s first success stories turned out to be an airplane company whose spare technology worked well in a financial institution.

Second, it turned out the people who most need technology exchanges don’t hang around Web sites. Personalized email turned out to be the killer app.

After yet2 took its email in-house for customer-care (rather than marketing) purposes, it tagged the messages with everything its database knew about the recipients, including what they’d shown interest in when they did go to the site.

The site’s service, it turned out, was coming from the database and being delivered in email, not just through the Web. Each user’s searches and site behavior were matched to the company’s database of ideas, and likely ideas were inserted into the outgoing messages. Roberts said she was “two or three levels down the decision tree” before the messages even went out.

Best of all, the results changed the way companies looked at research and improved time to market. Instead of throwing out ideas from labs that didn’t fit with corporate goals, these ideas could now be offered to others. Instead of looking inside for new ideas, companies could now look for them outside as well.

For scientists and engineers, this means you can be recognized for and make money from advances that don’t end up fitting into your own employers’ strategies. If the creations are licensed to someone else, money is money. If you adapt an advance from a competitor (or someone in another industry altogether), money is still money.

It’s not just companies and engineers that are more efficient, however. It’s the whole economy. That’s the real power of the Internet, and the biggest benefits are yet to come.

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