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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on February 2, 2000. All rights
Women in Business: Kristin Hedberg
Using the Internet to mine for marketing data is like
oil in uncharted waters, says Kristin Hedberg. With pioneering
efforts you can strike it rich.
Kristin Hedberg, 37, is the new president and chief operating officer
of Blinke (pronounced in one syllable), a wholly owned subsidiary of
Total Research Corp. at 5 Independence Way. You might think that
Blinke represents how fast E-commerce can change, in the blink of an
eye, and that’s part of it, but it also has a more particular meaning:
the link between business and E-commerce.
"What we have done is integrate the value of marketing research into
an E-business environment. When you think about it, it is kind of
obvious," says Hedberg, who has nine employees now. "In a traditional
brick and mortar business you have some of the same issues — customer
service, customer relationships, management, and brand equity."
Contrary to what some think, starting an E-business is not free. You
may not be paying rent or buying stamps, but there are plenty of costs
involved. Using the medium to hone your strategy can cut your costs.
"In the initial stages of launching E-businesses, what was overlooked
was the need to develop your approach with your customers based on
what they wanted and what they needed. What we bring to that is an
integrated effort," says Hedberg.
Successful E-businesses are set up to give customers and clients a
voice. The best ones, she says, are those who have a click through for
urgent complaints, a place that says "come here if you have a problem
and we will try to trouble shoot it right now." From complaints comes
information. "The nature of the medium itself collects a lot of
information — it does it just naturally," says Hedberg. "You can
capitalize on that. It is far simpler to make a complaint in an
E-business than in a department store."
Customer relationship management drives market research, she says.
"Whether you are supporting an E-business initiative, developing a
site, or troubleshooting, if you don’t consider that as a driver of
customer loyalty you are going to miss areas of marketing strength.
Not only do you want customers to come and purchase, but you want to
"Blinke holds vast potential to contribute to the repositioning of
Total Research," says David Brodsky, the chairman of Total Research.
"Our objective was to create a Web development company whose Internet
strategies can outperform those of the competition right from the
start, a goal we have achieved with Blinke."
"Blinke is another example of Total Research leveraging its expertise
in the marketing research field into other applications," says Al
Angrisani, president and CEO.
Comparing petroleum exploration to a new media venture comes easily to
Hedberg, because she comes from three generations of oil experts. Her
late grandfather, Hollis Hedberg, was professor emeritus of geology at
Princeton University, and her father (who
earned his geology doctorate from Princeton) was a top executive at
Exxon whose last job was being in charge of — what else? new
ventures. One of her four sisters carried on the tradition and is a
petroleum geologist. "With the marriage of marketing research and data
mining on the Internet, there is a similarity to discovering where oil
is and how best to get it out of the ground," says Hedberg. "You are
pulling out information and intelligence."
When geologists look for oil, what they have to work with is a map and
an expanse of land or ocean — plus what’s in their head. That’s also
the exciting part of E-business, says Hedberg. "You are creating
something from nothing, something for people to touch, feel, and
It can be stressful to always be in creative mode. She points out
that, as in traditional media, you start with a blank page, "and you
can never do the same thing twice." Yes, that can be stressful. "But I
really thrive on those kinds of conditions, the opportunities to
really create experiences."
As you would expect, the Hedbergs raised their four daughters in many
different places, including Libya, Spain, Singapore, Norway, and
different places in the United States. "You learn that there are
many cultures, ideas, and languages, and you start to look at things
from other people’s perspectives," says Hedberg, explaining why she
has an anthropologist’s detached view of society. "When you move to a
new country, the only way you will make it there is if you start to
learn and adapt to it. That really helps you to step into the shoes of
the people you are trying to market to."
Hedberg went to Louisiana State, Class of 1984, and has a masters of
science in communications design from Pratt Institute. After a stint
with an advertising agency in Louisiana she worked in New York for a
magazine group, then moved to Princeton for a job with MCG
Advertising. While going to Pratt she started freelancing and then
started her own business, moving into new media. "In 1991 I did my
thesis proposal, which I have now come to live," says Hedberg, "the
electronic distribution of magazines and advertising. The Web did not
exist then. It was, I like to think, visionary."
Pioneers don’t get much Barcalounge time, and Hedberg admits to having
both a wired personality and (with three computers in her home office)
a wired home: "In my end of the business, it is always pretty crazy
and fast paced. If you stop to think about it, it might get to you,
but if you have a real passion for what you do, that is not as
much sacrifice as it seems." That she is married is not an impediment
to her schedule or career: "I don’t think a full-time career in a
fast-paced business excludes the ability to have a full-time marriage.
Whether that doesn’t work or does work, it doesn’t even enter into
business. It enters into who and why you got married in the first
The ability to deliver decision making information faster, better, in
a more streamlined cost effective way will eventually change the
economy, she predicts. "When we can provide intelligence on customer
behavior, companies are in a better position to service their
customers on a one-to-one basis."
"To be born in this age and to be part of, and contribute to, a new
media revolution — not many people get that fortune," says Hedberg.
Pioneering, nevertheless, brings its own problems. There are
always those who hang back. If you are an Antarctic explorer or a
troop commander, your team has been self selected, but if you are
working in a business environment, those who hang back can be a
powerful and discouraging drag that impedes progress. What to do?
"In anything new," says Hedberg, "the people who have a passion for it
have a responsibility to make the vision familiar and accessible. We
are building environments that we expect and hope that people will
become familiar with, and there is an educational process that takes
place. You are asking people to change the way they shop and the way
they do business. It is new, and you have to make the case for
— Barbara Fox
08540. Kristin Hedberg, president and chief operating officer.
609-520-9100; fax, 609-987-1378. Home page:
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