|Publication number||US20060031108 A1|
|Application number||US 11/199,028|
|Publication date||Feb 9, 2006|
|Filing date||Aug 8, 2005|
|Priority date||Nov 15, 1999|
|Also published as||US6968313|
|Publication number||11199028, 199028, US 2006/0031108 A1, US 2006/031108 A1, US 20060031108 A1, US 20060031108A1, US 2006031108 A1, US 2006031108A1, US-A1-20060031108, US-A1-2006031108, US2006/0031108A1, US2006/031108A1, US20060031108 A1, US20060031108A1, US2006031108 A1, US2006031108A1|
|Original Assignee||H Three, Inc.|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (29), Referenced by (6), Classifications (18), Legal Events (3)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
The present application is a continuation of commonly assigned copending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/441,191, which was filed on Nov. 15, 1999, by Daniel P. Oran for Method and Apparatus for Facilitating and Tracking Personal Referrals and is hereby incorporated by reference.
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to the use of electronic networks for personal referrals.
2. Background Information
Word of mouth is a crucial factor in the success of many ventures, including the promotion of books, the sale of real estate, and the identification of job candidates. An appealing product or an interesting opportunity appears, and one person tells another, who tells another, who tells another. Such a series of personal referrals can quickly disseminate news about a product or an opportunity to a wide audience.
The Internet makes it possible for such personal referrals to reach a significantly wider audience. Unlike other communication media, the Internet presents no physical or financial barriers to personal referrals across vast distances. For example, the cost of sending electronic mail from New York to Boston is the same as the cost of sending electronic mail from New York to Tokyo. In contrast, sending postal mail or making a telephone call across the Pacific is significantly more expensive than doing so within the United States. And a face-to-face personal referral from New York to Tokyo obviously requires the purchase of a costly airplane ticket.
Although personal referrals via the Internet reach a wider audience than those made via other communication media, there are at least six fundamental limitations on the effectiveness of such referrals as a marketing method: (1) as a referral reaches each additional person, the continuation of the series depends on that person taking the initiative to contact someone else; (2) even if the series of referrals continues unabated, the marketer has no reliable means of identifying individuals who often make an above average number of referrals, or whose referrals often lead to successful outcomes for the marketer; (3) there is the possibility that an individual will receive the same referral from multiple parties, causing annoyance and ill will; (4) there is no way to control the manner in which each additional person in the series is contacted, i.e., the content and tone of the referral is left entirely to the individual; (5) after an offer has been modified, there is no way to prevent further referrals regarding the original version of the offer or to ensure that the latest version of the offer is always presented; and (6) after an offer has expired or has been withdrawn, there is no way to prevent further referrals regarding it.
Objects and Advantages
Accordingly, several objects and advantages of the present invention are:
The present invention facilitates and tracks personal referrals made via electronic networks. In a preferred embodiment, using electronic mail delivered to a participant interface, a central controller provides a Web page through which an individual may enter the electronic-mail addresses of those whom he or she wishes to refer. This spares the individual the inconvenience of generating his or her own electronic-mail referrals, and also enables the central controller to determine the format and tone of the referral. The address or contents of the Web page includes a unique identifier that is exclusively associated with that individual and a specific offer. In this way, the series of referrals may be tracked, duplicate referrals to the same electronic-mail address may be eliminated, offers may be withdrawn or modified, and referrals about an expired or withdrawn offer may be prevented.
For the sake of clarity, just one central controller 100 is depicted in the
At step 440, the central controller 100 sends electronic mail about the item to the individual at the participant interface 110. The message contains either (1) a Web page tagged with or including the unique identifier, or (2) a hyperlink to such a Web page. In interacting with the Web page at step 450, the individual may choose one, all, or none of the following responses: (1) opt-out 150, (2) acceptance 130, or (3) referral 140. For example, in the case of a job description, the individual may choose to accept the invitation to apply, and, at the same time, also refer several friends for the same job.
At step 460, if the individual chooses to opt out, the central controller 100, at step 465, updates the relevant records in the participants database 290 and the offers database 295 to reflect this choice. At step 470, if the individual choose to accept the offer 120, the central controller 100, at step 475, first determines whether the offer 120 is still valid. If the offer 120 is still valid, the central controller 120 updates the relevant records in the participants database 290 and the offers database 295 to reflect this choice, and also notifies the sponsoring party. For example, in the case of a job description, the central controller 100 might send electronic mail to the prospective employer.
At step 480, if the individual chooses to refer one or more people, the central controller 100 first determines, at step 487, whether the offer 120 is still valid. If the offer 120 is still valid, the central controller 100, at step 493, substitutes the latest version of the offer. Next, at step 495, the central controller 100 creates new records in the participants database 290 for the referred people, if they are not already included in it. For each of the referred people, the central controller then loops back to step 420, first determining whether he or she has previously received an offer 120 for this item or opted out. In the case of a previous offer 120 or opt-out 150, the central controller ends the process at step 425. Otherwise, the process continues on as described earlier, beginning with step 430.
As depicted in
While the present invention has been described in terms of specific embodiments thereof, those skilled in the art will appreciate that various changes in form and detail may be made without departing from the intended spirit and scope of the invention as defined in the following claims.
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|U.S. Classification||705/14.53, 707/999.001, 705/26.1, 705/319|
|International Classification||G06F17/30, G06F15/02, G06Q30/00|
|Cooperative Classification||Y10S707/99931, G06Q50/01, G06Q30/0601, G06Q10/063112, G06Q30/02, G06Q30/0255|
|European Classification||G06Q30/02, G06Q30/0601, G06Q10/06311B, G06Q50/01, G06Q30/0255|
|Aug 6, 2005||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: CAMBRIDGE INCUBATOR, INC., THE, MASSACHUSETTS
Free format text: MERGER;ASSIGNOR:REFERRA, INC.;REEL/FRAME:016874/0408
Effective date: 20011213
|Aug 8, 2005||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: REFERRA, INC., MASSACHUSETTS
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:ORAN, DANIEL;REEL/FRAME:016874/0416
Effective date: 20000710
Owner name: H THREE, INC., MASSACHUSETTS
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:CAMBRIDGE INCUBATOR, INC., THE;REEL/FRAME:016874/0776
Effective date: 20041020
|Jan 27, 2012||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: TOP PROSPECT, INC., CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:H THREE, INC.;REEL/FRAME:027608/0578
Effective date: 20120118