Dennis Ma, founder of the Vancouver-based local daily deal aggregator MiserMcGee.com, noticed that many consumers were overwhelmed by the volume of special offers arriving in their inboxes.
Dozens of recently launched daily deal websites, similar to Groupon, were flooding the market.
At the same time, a number of non-profit organizations and clubs with established memberships were looking for fundraising ideas. Mr. Ma recognized the potential to help them raise money by improving navigation of the daily deal maze.
The large body of research on social networks focuses on how connections are made between people and organizations. People have a finite capability to manage these connections, and they can become overwhelmed when too much information flows directly to them without being filtered and pre-sorted.
It can be easier for an individual to rely on a single connection that summarizes information rather than trying to maintain a link to every provider. The single connection takes on the role of a “central actor,” and its value is intuitively understood when thinking about well-connected people, the type you speak to when needing an introduction, but it is often overlooked as a strategic opportunity.
Mr. Ma, a recent marketing graduate knee-high in debt, was frustrated when he missed out on good deals from the laundry list of daily deal providers. Each provider generates an e-mail when new deals are added, but it can quickly become overwhelming for the average consumer, and Mr. Ma recognized the information network needed a central actor to help navigate and filter the torrential flow.
He started to search for existing daily deal aggregators. The best he could find only covered 50 per cent to 75 per cent of the available local deals, and they listed many deals that had expired. Mr. Ma was surprised that there was not a fully comprehensive and accurate central aggregator focused on the Canadian market, and he decided to utilize his interest in web development to fill that gap.
MiserMcGee.com now covers more than 60 local daily deal sites in major Canadian markets, and it provides consumers with the most comprehensive up-to-date daily summary of all available deals in their city. But even after having built a superior technology, and establishing a satisfied user base, Mr. Ma still wondered how to use his marketing background to get the word out to more people.
He realized that while he was playing an aggregation role, he needed a central actor to introduce MiserMcGee.com to a broader audience. Knowing that non-profit organizations and clubs have extensive membership and stakeholder bases, he identified them as ideal partners to help with outreach and close the communication gap.
On the flip side, non-profit organizations are always looking for low-cost ways to raise funds, and Mr. Ma recognized MiserMcGee.com could help them while tapping into their powerful networks. He built a customization tool so that these organizations could offer a comprehensive selection of daily deals to their membership and stakeholders, while collecting money from each transaction when someone makes a purchase.
Mr. Ma and the non-profits became partners in the centre, with Mr. Ma as the central actor aggregating the daily deals, and the organizations playing the roles of central actors connecting their memberships with information. Their relationship jointly bridges the central position in the larger network.
Mr. Ma is now using the sophisticated platform that powers MiserMcGee.com to offer customized daily deal revenue opportunities to central actors in other sectors, such as bloggers focused on shopping and savings strategies. Mr. Ma is capitalizing on the strong benefits of being a central actor, while helping others capitalize on their own positions of network centrality – a match made in daily discount heaven.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Dr. Marc-David L. Seidel is an associate professor of organizational behaviour in the Sauder School of Business of the University of British Columbia.
This is one of a regular series of case studies by a rotating group of business professors from across the country. They appear every Friday on the Your Business website.