Total Research’s New Mine for Data

Hedberg, from an Oil Family

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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on February 2, 2000. All rights


Women in Business: Kristin Hedberg

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Total Research’s New Mine for Data

Using the Internet to mine for marketing data is like

prospecting for

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

keep them."

"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.

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Hedberg, from an Oil Family

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

Blinke Inc. (TOTL), 5 Independence Way, Princeton

08540. Kristin Hedberg, president and chief operating officer.

609-520-9100; fax, 609-987-1378. Home page:

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