INBOX INSIGHTS, February 16, 2022: RFPs, Data Visualization, Patents

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Why I Love RFPs

I don’t know about you, but I love the RFP process. In this context (in case we’re not on the same page) an RFP is a Request For Proposal. A company will send out an RFP when they are looking to bring on an agency to do some specific work for them.

But you knew all that, smartie pants.

If you know me, then you’ll know that it’s weird for me to say that I love the RFP process. I’ve been through it dozens of times in different jobs and roles.

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “the RFP process is long and painful” and I’m not going to disagree with you. It absolutely can be. It can feel like a waste of resources, especially when the RFP is vague. Your odds of getting selected are low and in the end, you’re frustrated and feeling rejected.

So, why do I love RFPs?

It highlights room for improvement

We get so busy with our nose to the grindstone that we can forget to check in with the other members of our team. Responding to an RFP gives you an opportunity to see what other people and departments are working on, and where they may need more support. You may see an RFP request and feel like your company meets all the requirements but when you dig in deeper you realize that there are more skills needed. See this as a positive thing. You can now build a professional development roadmap and set goals for your teams.

It fosters communication

I remember one time, in a previous life, that my team was flown across the country on the client’s dime, for the excuse to get different departments in the same room to talk to each other. That still feels like an insane use of my team’s time, but that’s what they needed. Again, we get so busy that we may check in on surface-level items and high-priority issues, but do we really dive into what’s going on with other teams? I’ve often found that this part of the process allows teams to start breaking down silos and start building more collaborative processes. Responding to an RFP gives you an excuse to get together with other teams and resources that you may not otherwise have a chance to talk to.

It allows you to recognize your accomplishments

Ok, so responding to an RFP isn’t all bad. Most will ask for case studies of programs that you’ve done, demonstrating why you’re a good fit and that you’re capable. I don’t know about you, but writing case studies feels like a chore even though it’s supposed to be positive praise for the work you’ve done. Look at it as an opportunity to toot your own horn a bit. You might be pleasantly surprised at all you’ve accomplished.

You can get dragged down but the RFP process or you can choose to see all the positive things it will do for your company – even if you don’t win the business. You’ll get them next time! Focus on what you’ve learned and commit to applying those lessons moving forward.

How do you feel about the RFP process?

Tell me about it in our free Slack group, Analytics for Marketers »

– Katie Robbert, CEO

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Data Diaries - Interesting Data We Found

In this week’s Data Diaries, let’s tackle something different. I saw a post this morning from a company that does patent analytics – that is, they scan patent data and produce extracts and search for a fee. They made some basic claims about how many patents were filed in 2021, and that was about it.

That got me thinking… what else is in this data? Patent data – at least in the United States of America – is freely available to everyone. What’s in the data that we’re not seeing, that the publishing company chose to exclude? Very often, companies exclude data because they don’t have the ability or resources to process it, or it doesn’t add value to their focus.

So let’s see what’s in the box, as it were. The US PTO offers databases going back 40 years, containing nearly 8 million patent filings. Each filing is classified by major type, such as utility, design, or plant, along with the date, a patent title, and an abstract. When we look at the last few years, here’s what we see by month:

US Patent Filings by Month

That’s helpful and useful, especially visualized over time. We see a definitely decline since the pandemic began, for obvious reasons. Whether that trend holds or not remains to be seen.

Let’s next look at the words in patent filing titles. What do we see?

US Patent Filing title words

What we see over the past almost six years is a giant bias towards computer hardware and electronics, from semiconductors to circuits to sensors.

US Patent Filing text words

We see a similar pattern in the patent descriptions themselves.

While the patent dataset is fairly large – around 6 GB of data – it’s not unmanageable. Modern versions of software like Microsoft Excel can easily handle files that large. That in turn means that if you’re looking for new and interesting ways to examine what’s happening in your industry, patents and trademarks shouldn’t be something off-limits to you or something you necessarily need to buy from a third party vendor.

What would you do with this information? As we have above, publicly available data is a rich source for infographics, analyses, and “news for when you don’t have news”. It fulfills a useful public relations and content marketing function – and as long as you know where to get the data and how to process it into relatively straightforward charts and graphs, it has a very low cost.

Methodology: Trust Insights extracted 7,905,326 patent filings from the US Patents and Trademarks Office database, then filtered those filings to patents filed after January 1, 2016. Retracted patents were excluded. The timeframe of the data is a snapshot taken on February 16, 2022 and includes filings since 1982. The date of study is February 16, 2022. Trust Insights is the sole sponsor of the study and neither gave nor received compensation for data used, beyond applicable service fees to software vendors, and declares no competing interests.

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