– Currently, technology companies are analyzing data more than ever to
ensure that their product is reaching the right type of customer. Joel
Friedman of SurveyWriter.com sat down with ePrairie to discuss
how his company provides the software and targeting strategies to
provide such a service.
CURRENTLY LIVES: Chicago's Lincoln Square
GREW UP: Hyde Park, where my father was a professor
at the University of Chicago, and then later in
the south suburbs
FAMILY: Married with a daughter and two young boys
Please tell us about your company.
Friedman: SurveyWriter.com is an application service provider to the
marketing research industry. We provide Web-based software that allows
companies to create and deploy Web surveys, and once the data is
collected, to analyze and chart the results.
market was young (three to four years ago), we knew the industry was
going to move to Web-based data collection and analysis. The tools and
resources needed to provide these Web services were going to be priced
beyond reach of all but the largest companies.
We saw an
opportunity to provide an extensive set of software tools to small and
mid-sized research companies at a reasonable price. We believed (and
were proved correct) that these smaller companies would jump at the
chance to have the capabilities to compete with their much larger
Because we are
completely self-financed from the sale of a previous company, we have
weathered the dot-com storm quite well. Our business model has left us
debt free and our independence has provided us with a high degree of
eP: How long
has SurveyWriter.com been in existence?
JF: About three-and-a-half years. We started development in
January 1999 and had our first sale the following September.
would technology companies choose to use your services?
JF: We offer an extremely sophisticated product with a great user
interface at about one-third the price of our competitors.
eP: What is
your position and role at SurveyWriter.com?
JF: I am CEO and president. I have been with SurveyWriter.com
since its inception and have about 20 years experience in the marketing
research industry. My understanding of the market has allowed me to play
a key role in the design and functionality of our products. Now, I spend
a lot of my time extending our relationships with current clients and
building relationships with new clients.
tell us about the size of your company and describe the people you work
JF: The SurveyWriter.com team is a tight-knit group of
individuals whose skills really complement one other. The core team is
made up of myself and Paul Vriend, who is a key stockholder and vice
president of business development. We also employ a number of very
talented programmers and Web designers.
eP: In the
past year or so, has SurveyWriter.com been conducting business alone or
have you sought assistance from other companies to sell or better your
product? Have you provided those services to other companies?
JF: We have taken a two-prong approach. While we actively recruit
new clients and firms, we are also licensing our products and technology
to value-added resellers (VARs) and other resellers.
elaborate on what VARs and resellers are to your company and how they
are different from new clients and firms.
JF: Our VARs are integrating the suite of SurveyWriter.com tools
with other applications (such as direct mail, advanced statistical
tools, data mining and corporate reporting tools) and reselling it as
part of a larger package.
on the other hand, are selling the tool "as is" to their
clients. Some of the resellers are selling it as representatives of
SurveyWriter.com and others are rebranding and positioning
SurveyWriter.com for other markets.
primarily focused on providing applications to the marketing research
industry, but SurveyWriter.com has applications in many other markets.
It really is an application that allows for a two-way dialog over the
Internet by delivering rich media content over the Web and collecting
feedback from the viewer.
tools have built-in programmable functions, they are also being used for
educational testing, manufacturing process evaluations and corporate
database integration. There are number of other interesting applications
and we are always looking for partners who would like to help us adapt
and resell the tools.
Regarding our current economic situation, have you or your company tried
new strategies or different approaches to business development compared
to a year or two ago?
JF: We have been pretty lucky. Our market has stayed very strong
and we have continued on the marketing path set out in our original
business plan. As we have increased revenue, we are spending more money
on marketing, including a larger advertising and trade show budget. We
are also expanding in the European market. In the long run, we feel this
will offer some protection from the fluctuations in the domestic market.
type of service does SurveyWriter.com offer that your competitors do
JF: Most of our competitors offer a fairly simple product. Their
primary market is small businesses that want to perform their own market
research. We, on the other hand, have focused on marketing research
companies that act as resellers for our product. This means that our
product needs to be extremely flexible so it can conform to a wide
variety of research designs and methodologies.
We also have a
strong set of analytical tools. Most of our competitors have only the
simplest analytical capabilities. We offer a full suite of analytical
tools including full reporting, charting, advanced statistics, full
crosstabs and data transformation. Most of these tools can only be found
in dedicated, standalone software packages.
Finally, we are
very focused on integrating our tool more directly into corporate
databases and intranets. It is one thing to collect data from customers
and clients but to integrate the process into the corporate database
allows for a much greater understanding of the data that is collected.
It also provides corporate managers with instant access to critical
eP: Say I am
a prospective client. Is there anything more I should expect from you or
your company other than the service?
JF: We are always improving our product's usability and
functionality. Our knowledge of the industry allows us to build new
functions and features before our clients request them. Clients are
always very surprised to find that a feature they really wish was
available has already been implemented into our applications.
a typical office day for you and your co-workers.
JF: The nature of our business has allowed us to develop new ways
of conducting day-to-day business. The Internet is our primary business
tool. Support, sales and product development are all Web-based. This
gives our staff a great deal of mobility. With a cell phone and wireless
Web access, we can conduct business on the golf course or at your
kitchen table just as well as from our central office.
eP: Do you
or any of your co-workers play music while you work?
JF: Most of my time is spent on the phone with clients so I need
to keep the background noise fairly low. When I play music in my office,
it is usually classical music. Paul and his minions, on the other hand,
have eclectic tastes and you will hear everything from Fugazi and
Radiohead to Medeski Martin & Wood.
Describe your interests or hobbies.
JF: Before I had children, I used to do quite a bit of bicycle
touring in the U.S. and Canada. It’s much harder to do so now, but I
do try to get out and ride locally a couple times a week. I also try to
take the bike with me if a business trip takes me to good place to ride.
extra to add?
JF: I am thrilled to be able to do business over the Internet.
Its ever-changing technologies are a welcomed challenge. It provides us
with unprecedented freedoms and new opportunities seem to jump out at us
at every turn.