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The Information Age has created its share of billionaires: Jeff Bezos ($130 B), Bill Gates ($90 B), Mark Zuckerberg ($71 B), Larry Ellison ($58.5B), Michael Dell ($22.7B,) to name a handful.

And why not. They created a historic revolution in global communication and a titanic shift in commerce.

I mean it wasn’t that long ago that the Pony Express, was carrying mail from St. Joseph Missouri to Sacramento (about 1,800 miles) at the blistering pace of 10 days from start to finish. A stunning achievement for the time.

Buffalo Billy Cody joined the Pony Express at age 15

Today, you click the “send icon”. The communication arrives in a matter of seconds.

Still, the accomplishments of the titans of the industrial revolution, which pre-dated the digital entrepreneurs by more than 100 years, were no less colossal for their time and – something that may surprise you – made fortunes that dwarf today’s tech giants. Even Jeff Bezos who now tops the Forbes list of the richest people on the planet with a net worth of $130 billion is a pauper compared to the industrial giants ($338 billion for John D. Rockefeller, $310 billion for Andrew Carnegie and $188 billion for Henry Ford – all in adjusted current dollars.

Not to diminish the eye-watering global impact of the digital age, the earlier generation of industrialists made their money the old-fashioned way, they built things. Try constructing a railroad over the Sierra Nevada mountains, or building an assembly line that would manufacture 15 million cars and turn a country that traveled by horseback into a nation of drivers – which, depending on your viewpoint, may or may not be a good thing.

Still, Ford was a manufacturing genius. He created an entire empire that had not existed previously. The information highway was created by programmers sitting at a desk writing code, the nation’s highways came into being largely as a result of a kid raised on a farm that had a passion for engines.


Henry Ford

“I will build a motor car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one – and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces.”


As brilliant a businessman as he was, Ford’s reliance on market research was…eh… less than passionate. In 1909, he said:

“Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”


A hundred and nine years later the company’s attitude regarding market research has changed drastically and the Ford Motor Company now generates $156 billion a year in revenue.

How drastically?

A recent industry article revealed Ford’s heavy reliance on surveys and Market research.

“Ford conducts market research online and in person, refining and creating new data-gathering processes that influence product development and marketing campaigns. The company engages consumers through moderated clinics and through one-on-one interviews before vehicles reach market.

“’ We’re heavily influenced by market research,’” said Gordon Platto, Ford chief designer…”’You go to market research with an open mind to understand what the customers are looking for.’”

The article goes on to make the point that “…different cultures demand different approaches,” and that, “Market research helps determine the appropriate message.” – Source

Knowing the attitudes, likes, dislikes and “buttons” of your unique public is critical to marketing and sales.  A couple of years ago, we conducted research and surveys for a Chinese electronics company that was introducing a new mobile phone brand to Mexico – Oppo.


The company had been very successful in China, but they had the wisdom to understand that what was important to users of mobile phones in China might very well – probably would be – different than mobile phone users in Mexico.

I am not at liberty to share the details of the survey, but can say that the results of the survey were uniquely… Mexican.

Knowing what your public thinks is valuable about what you sell is the essence of a good survey and that includes knowing exactly who your public is.

One example was a solar energy company that was sending out promotional fliers to homes in the zip codes around their office. This was continued until it was pointed out that roughly 30% of the residents in the area were renters who would be disinclined to spend thousands of dollars improving someone else’s house.

Seems obvious but it had to be pointed out and a homeowner’s list purchased.

Surveying your customers is usually quite simple. But when we conduct surveys of prospects, it is critical that we survey your real prospects.

We want decision makers.

When we conducted surveys for a company that sold telecom systems to correctional facilities (pay phones for inmate use), we surveyed the sheriffs and wardens who signed the purchase orders, of course – not the inmates who use the phones.

Sometimes you have to go an extra mile to survey the right public.

We surveyed 150 judges on the subject of bail bonds for an insurance company who provides the bonds.

We’ve surveyed the marketing directors of the 7 largest oil companies in the world for an advertising agency.

We took on a job to survey the CFOs of independent telecom companies for a provider of customer billing services. But it turned out the CFOs weren’t the decision makers for this product, the CEOs were. And CEOs were next to impossible to get to the phone for the survey.

What to do?

We went to an industry convention where we found and surveyed several CEOs.

We did the same for a survey of Orthopedic surgeons.

One unique survey that can identify and help you remove blocks to your sales line is what we call the “no close” survey. We survey the people who were interested, reached but didn’t buy.

Why didn’t they buy?

We first conducted these surveys for big advertising agencies in New York. Their campaigns often run into the millions. So, when they pitch a prospective client and it doesn’t close, they want to know why.

Did the sale go to another firm?

If so, who and why?

We would call the former prospective client, engage them in a meaningful conversation and find out why they didn’t go with our client.

We have done this now for a variety of clients.

Trust me, it’s not always price.??In one case, by interviewing the prospect, we found that our client’s presentation was based on this wild-eyed theory devised by a psychologist: the prospect was the “child”, the ad agency was the mother…and that is how they pitched the campaign – really. And they hired us to find out why they didn’t close the sale!??At first, I thought it was some kind of mistake. I called our client’s market research director (big New York ad agency). No, it wasn’t a mistake. Turns out he was a psychologist as well. And you wonder why some of the commercials you see on TV are so bizarre.

The point of all of this?

The world of marketing has changed since the days of Henry Ford. In highly competitive landscapes, surveys of your prospects can provide the key that unlocks your sales lines in a whole new way.

We’ve been conducting surveys for clients large and small for more than a quarter of a century. As you can see, we can usually get through to any public.??If you’d like to discuss what we may be able to do for your marketing and sales lines, feel free to drop me an email or give me a call.

“Working with Bruce was like working with the Roger Federer of Surveys.  The questions evoked exactly what our public was thinking.  Now with the button and positioning in place our promotions are like an arrow going through tissue paper rather than a fist into a brick wall.  Our copy and imagery say exactly what the clientele is thinking and therefore procures more leads.

You served up an ace Bruce. Thank you.” CEO



President & CEO?On Target Research