News & Buzz

Grasshopper is everywhere

Original Article

How Grasshopper Used Crowdsourcing to Find 5,000 Influencers

When the FedEx envelope containing chocolate-covered grasshoppers arrived for our founder, Brent Frei, we applauded GotVMail-turned-Grasshopper for a well executed, world class viral marketing campaign. The flattery of being selected one of the 5,000 “influentials” and the creativity of the package, sent Brent to the web to investigate this company who sells commodity phone systems.

Their efforts at gaining attention that translated into buzz clearly worked. This is just a small sampling of the coverage they received.

To further capitalize on the momentum, Grasshopper recently released a case study detailing their campaign. It was awesome to see a real case study, with actual budget numbers and response rates. What a great way to further the impact of the program. The reach extended beyond the few articles I had read.

However, it was one particular part of their statistics that really caught my attention. They created a list of 5,000 influential people for $2,103.

Not just any list, but one described in their case study as:

“The second challenge was developing a direct mail campaign so remarkable that recipients would have no choice but to tell their networks about the package they had just received. In order to do this, they targeted 5,000 of the most influential politicians, business leaders, journalists, authors, and bloggers in North America. They scoured the online world, social media, business press, newspapers, and magazines to build the mailing list.”

I’d say it’s pretty innovative to be able to produce the list described above with a quality that generated the results shown for just $2,103. I can count on zero fingers the places you can buy that list for $2,103. So, who exactly were these interns and what online tools were used?

The formula for producing the list was brilliant in that it ignored conventional barriers to building it. Typically, cost and complexity would dissuade SMBs from a vision this grand. The Grasshopper team approached the solution in the following way (published with permission from Grasshopper.com):

1. Determine categories for lists of the 5,000 most influential people:

The executive team at Grasshopper brainstormed the categories and demographics of the kinds of people that have an audience and are likely to mention Grasshopper based on this unique campaign.

Politicians & Powerful


  • Governors
  • Hollywood Businesses
  • People at NBC
  • Associated Press Reporters
  • Celebrity Entrepreneurs

Online Media

Mainstream Bloggers

  • Advertising Bloggers
  • Online Marketers
  • Web Personalities

On-air Media

  • Head local TV news anchor
  • Top morning radio show
  • Radio business host
  • Local TV biz anchor
  • Local talk/biz radio hosts
  • Local news station anchor

Entrepreneurs & Venture

  • Founders/CEOs
  • Entrepreneurs
  • VC Managing Partners
  • Incubator Leaders
  • PR Firm CEOs
  • Entrepreneurs in the news

2. Build the lists of people in those categories

The interns were tasked with completing the lists of people within each of these categories. For many categories (Senators, Governors, Mainstream Bloggers, etc.) the names were pretty readily available in current online lists. For the rest, the readily available information was largely in the form of Company, Radio Station, TV Station, etc. listings, but not the specific people behind them. That’s where the “Online Tools” came in.

The $909 is solely composed of crowdsourcing from Smartsheet, the work management company I co-founded in 2005. The interns pasted the lists into a Smartsheet, created a paragraph of instructions explaining what they wanted, picked a price they’d be willing to pay per list item and submitted the workto the waiting on-demand workforce behind the technology.

3. Get everyone’s addresses

Once all the lists were complete, a simple Smartsourcing run to crowdsource up the mailing addresses for everyone, followed by a double checking run to ensure accuracy, was pretty simple.

4. The Metrics

In all, the interns requested 8,506 separate pieces of work (find name, get address, …) from the Smartsourced workforce at an average cost of just over 9 cents each resulting in the $909.

So, Dianna, now you know the answer to the following question:

“I think the service is a great idea, and I love the campaign, but I’m not sure why I was targeted. Apparently, 5,000 of us received the grasshoppers (the tag says I have grasshopper bag #1343 of 5,000)”.
– Dianna Huff

There’s a bigger case study in “How to Innovatively Run a Small Business” going on inside the walls of the Grasshopper organization. They are cutting edge in creativity and tools.