DirectMail.com Receives Patent for GeoSelector - Business Geographics Made Easy

By Joe Francica

DirectMail.com recently received a patent for the GeoSelector technology with which marketers may interactively target a geographic region and purchase potential prospects for a mail campaign, all via a mapping interface. Editor in Chief Joe Francica interviewed Shawn Salta, a vice president at DirectMail.com, to determine what aspects of the geocoding technology were patented and to discuss the extent to which demographic variables can be used to do more precise target marketing.

Directions Magazine (DM): What aspect of GeoSelector is patented? Drawing a targeted area or a buffer zone does not seem like a function that would be patented because it is used by many other mapping software solutions.

Shawn Salta (SS):
Our inventive concept of GeoSelector was to solve a problem within the direct marketing industry. Prior to our invention, the methods of selecting data from a database in order to build a mailing list were time-consuming and lacked true targeting abilities. Anybody wishing to target a precise audience, based upon geography, was restricted to selection by radius, ZIP Code or some other location-defining criterion such as street, city, state, etc.

Since GeoSelector's inception, we have continued to develop a growing suite of high value applications for the direct marketing community. We bring value to our customers by automating the previously inefficient and costly tasks of precise targeting, market intelligence and data visualization. We are not a mapping or GIS focused organization. How our patent compares with the functions of mapping software solution providers would have to be determined by individuals who have the technical expertise to provide opinions on such. I have copied the abstract of our invention below - you can view our patent in more detail from the USPTO website - our patent number is 7,561,169.

"An embodiment relates generally a method of generating user-specified information. The method includes selecting a plurality of points on a map, where the plurality of points forms a closed polygon. The method also includes determining a plurality of coordinate pairs, where each coordinate pair is associated with a point from the plurality of points. The method also includes retrieving user specified information for an area enclosed by the plurality of coordinate pairs."

DM: Did you build the geocoder from scratch? Can you more fully explain the unique aspects of the geocoder?

SS:
We really didn't build our own geocoder; we used a free, open-source one because we couldn't afford to pay for a commercial one at the time. The geocoder used for this early version came from http://www.geocoder.us/. (The perl script version was placed in a .net >wrapper.) The geocoder used data from TIGER/Line, downloaded from the Census [Bureau]. It had the benefit of being free, and in many cases, though not all, the data were at the household level. It was better than what we were getting at the time since those data were not even coded at the household level at all.

Today, our data providers use a commercially available geocoding solution based on Tele Atlas data.

DM: Can you elaborate on the pricing options?

SS:
We provide a basic version of GeoSelector to the general public on our website, where users are granted free access to the software and the demographic reports without having to first register and without having to purchase a single record. The "fee" for using that version of GeoSelector is built into the cost of the list that's ultimately purchased, and even with that, our prices are among the best available.

Our "Enterprise" version of GeoSelector provides for additional robust features, the most important of which allows users to upload their own database for overlays, appends, look-alike locators and in-depth reporting. It is licensed on a very attractive fee structure, depending upon the number of users and the number of records which we store for their access.

DM: Will you host users' data for them?

SS:
Yes, we can host users' data. As we've just mentioned, the chief distinction between the basic version of GeoSelector and the Enterprise version is the ability to use the application overtop of your own database. The beauty of GeoSelector is its ability to run overtop of any database, with few limits on the number of records or the type of, or number of, selects. There's no software to purchase, you can learn to use it very quickly, and it allows you to understand your data visually, in ways that are simply impossible in a flat file or data report.

DM: Explain the "look-alike" functionality. What criteria can the user select in order to filter information on a precise industry cluster?

SS:
When you refer to industry clusters, we're going to assume that you're talking about business lists.

For consumer lists, visitors to our site have the ability to refine their lists, using hundreds of select criteria. Some of the most popular are based on demographics by age, income, marital status, occupation, etc. Additional filtering by lifestyles, homeowner and mortgage data is also possible. Mosaic clustering and more are also provided. Mosaic clusters place records into one of 60 groups, identified by affinity or other shared characteristics that are also crossed up with True Touch data, which further identifies the channel dominance or preference by breaking the population into a dozen more groupings.

GeoSelector's Reporting functionality allows the user to determine which Mosaic clusters are most prevalent in an uploaded data set. Using this information, it allows the user to select prospect records which have many of the same demographic characteristics as the source record by selecting like clusters. In addition, we have technology in development which will analyze the demographic characteristics of the source record on an individual level to determine which demographic variables have the most profound effect on response. We then allow the user to target to precisely those values through our demographic selection process. GeoSelector can be customized to support filtering criteria based upon any values within a dataset.

DM: You mention "high-end" demographic marketing tools. Whose demographic data are you using? Are you employing a psychographic clustering system?

SS:
Our licensed consumer data are from Experian - Mosaic Clustering, True Touch Impacts and Behavior Bank Elements are available within the system.

Mosaic is a household based segmentation system that classifies all U.S. households and neighborhoods into 60 Mosaic types and 12 groupings that share similar demographic and socio-economic characteristics.

True Touch is a multi-dimensional contact system that, when combined with Mosaic, not only helps users identify their best prospects and customers, but also tells them what type of messages and offers motivate their purchases, the communication channels they prefer, and the times they can be reached.

Behavior Bank Elements are household indicators of self-reported past transactional experiences.

Our business leads database is from InfoUSA.

DM: Do the modeling routines you have built into GeoSelector use a spatial interaction model such as a Huff or gravity model?

SS:
Our modeling is based around an SPSS decision tree, which analyzes the relationships between demographic variables on a file as they relate to response. This feature is not available in the current product release, but will be available in the near future.

DM: Is your routing and scheduling module available for a separate price or is it truly built into the product?

SS:
I am not sure what a scheduling module is in the context of GeoSelector. The routing used is provided by a publically accessible third-party Web API. GeoSelector does not provide its own routing engine; it simply buffers around existing polyline routes up to a defined distance.



Published Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Written by Joe Francica



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