Feet on the Street


A fascinating post in The Business Insider mentions today that commodity traders -- big dollar buyers of all types of business information -- are now following posts by farmers on Twitter, a free and decidedly erratic information platform. What's going on?

It's simple. Traders will do anything -- and pay anything -- to get a trading edge. The more they know about what is going on, and the faster they know it, the more opportunity to profit. And that's what Twitter is offering them. If a corn farmer in Kansas notes low yields, that's a potentially valuable insight. Of course, these traders then need to not only confirm the information, but determine whether or not it is an isolated event or a trend. That's a lot of work, and it's not work traders want to do, which is why they would happily pay others to do it for them. I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this.

This news item also reminded me of a story I had heard years earlier.  A major Wall Street firm had a huge investment in the stocks of major waste management companies. A managing director of the firm who was in charge of this investment grew frustrated with his lack of insight into trends in the business. This was despite receiving thick reports on the industry by investment analysts on a regular basis. His solution: "a deep dive on dumps." Yes, he started calling landfills around the country to ask them if they had business, and which companies were sending in the most trucks. To this day, the visual of this top Wall Street player (I always pictured suspenders, a big corner office and a fat cigar) chatting it up with the guys checking in trucks at the city dump makes me smile. But it worked. The story as it was told to me was that this regular monthly flurry of calls ultimately led to a profit estimated at over $40 million.

The lesson here is that those of us who can provide our own primary research in our markets create for ourselves real value and differentiation. Those who can deliver it quickly add even more value. And those who can quickly wrap up primary research into actionable insights and recommendations offer the best value of all.

Do you have an opportunity to somehow leverage "feet on the street" (or perhaps "tweets on the street") to make your customers smarter, faster? If so, it's an area well worth developing.

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