Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Marketing research on the move

E-Commerce Times reports on how big brands are nurturing their own private online communities for market research purposes. The article points out one company, Communispace, that helps companies set up their own community infrastructure with all kinds of neat features. On a related note, MarketingProfs just put out an article called How to Make the Online Community Your Marketing Partner. What's interesting in this discourse is the idea of partnership - the idea that both parties have to work together to make good marketing happen. Even Communispace, which argues that customer communities can work for any business, cautions that, "Companies must be genuinely interested in hearing customers' views and be willing to tell community members how their ideas are being used. When customers are treated as company insiders like employees, they go to extraordinary lengths to help you." Online communities, just like offline ones, require time and attention. If you don't take the participants seriously, they'll return the sentiment. No matter what your marketing strategy, be it online, offline, or something in between, approaching it as a collaborative effort between patrons and librarians is the way to go. However, while I'm on-board with pursuing customer/patron communities as avenues of research, I would take their input with a grain of salt. As the E-Commerce Times article cautions, "Private online communities do come with a warning, though. You can't take the results as set in stone. They do not represent scientific statistical samples. You may be able to gauge reactions, but you shouldn't make multimillion-dollar decisions based on user feedback in these communities, Hessan [Communispace CEO] admitted." So, online communities are much like focus groups in that they represent the views of a relatively small number of people (in this case, tech-savvy online customers) and aren't generalizable to the entire population. Of course, this doesn't mean we shouldn't be active in these arenas, but it's important to interpret the results appropriately.

I'm currently taking a course in marketing research, which is promising to be incredibly useful, so I have a hunch I'll be talking about this topic more in the weeks to come. If you're interested in learning more about this topic on your own, my favorite site, KnowThis.com, has two tutorials of interest: Information for Market Research and How to Do a Market Study. The SBA has a quick guide called Marketing Research that you might want to look at, and QuickMBA has a fairly in-depth guide that more closely resembles what I'm doing in class, but it could be too much detail if you just need to get a quick jumpstart on the process.

Categories: neat_trends | technology_tools | train_yourself


Mack Collier said...

Jill thanks for the mention of my MarketingProfs article, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

I will say this, you are doing yourself a great service by spending time online blogging and reading articles by other bloggers and marketers. All too often, academic instructors are too 'detached' from the 'real world'. I learned more about marketing in my first few months of blogging than I did in all my years of undergrad and graduate marketing courses.

Good luck with your career!

Jill said...

Thanks a lot, Mack! :)