Cincinnati start-up PlanetFeedback.com is expected to launch by the end of the month with the goal of giving consumers unprecedented clout with corporate America, and in turn organizing the resulting data and relationships with consumers in such a way that companies will pay big bucks for access.
“Most consumers have no idea how to write a letter to a company,” said company founder and ex-Proctor & Gamble executive Pete Blackshaw. “They certainly don't know who to send it to.”
As a result, PlanetFeedback.com — which at press time was still under construction — planned to offer a search engine to help consumers find the right people at companies to resolve specific issues.
The site, which will not sell advertising, also will give consumers the ability to piece together letters, send them to the appropriate executives, and send copies to influential politicians and other so-called relevant stakeholders.
“Right now, consumers are just kind of CCing everyone. We want to add a little intelligence to that process,” said Blackshaw. “If you're writing Delta [airlines] and you volunteer your zip code, I'll know whether your congresswoman sits on an airline subcommittee. Or I might know the e-mail address of your corporate travel office, or the address of your local Better Business Bureau.
“By wrapping relevant stakeholders around these letters, you dramatically increase consumer clout … We allow consumers to structure their feedback in a way that increases their odds of success.”
Blackshaw insists, however, that PlanetFeedback.com is not a gun to company executives' heads. By nature, the site will be able to identify consumers most likely to spread the word — positive or negative — and offer access to them individually on an opt-in basis or to the data in aggregate.
“Our target customer is not just the consumer affairs manager, it's the brand manager who, say, wants to get a look at all the feedback about Pampers or Huggies and say: 'A ha, among key influencers, here's what the consumer pulse is.' We believe companies that are enlightened about relationship marketing will embrace this model.”
Speaking from experience at P&G, Blackshaw said: “Key influencers are one of the most valued targets to understand, so we think there's a real market for aggregated consumer preference data.”
PlanetFeedback.com announced early this month it received $6 million in venture financing from Flatiron Partners, New York; Blue Chip Venture Co., Cincinnati; Lycos Ventures, Pittsburgh; and Allen & Co., New York.
PlanetFeedback.com's launch comes at the same time as a similar venture, FeedbackDirect.com also rolls out (iMarketing News, Nov. 19.).
FeedbackDirect.com claims it offers businesses an inexpensive communications channel with customers. “We're bringing the per-interaction support costs down by bringing customers to the Internet,” said Thatcher Wine, CEO of Feedback Direct, Santa Monica, CA. “Customer service is such a big problem today, any chance to reduce costs and improve customer loyalty is welcomed by many companies.”
Feedback Direct plans to make money by selling enhanced listings in an “Orange Pages” directory, a searchable listing of 800 numbers and Web site URLs, and by giving businesses access to opt-in lists to announce product upgrades and special promotions.
Blackshaw said that of the consumer feedback sites, FeedbackDirect.com is probably most like his venture in that it's aimed at offering companies value.
“Probably about 90 percent of the sites focused on feedback are negative. They're about 'how do we throw grenades at this company,' ” said Blackshaw. “We believe that feedback is inherently valuable to companies, and we will structure it in a way that that becomes very transparent.”