A primer on desktop market research.

A primer on desktop market research.

Online market research is an affordable way to gain insight about how to best define, understand, reach and influence your target market segments.

“What are my customers or prospects doing online?”
“How many mothers live in my company’s zip code? City? County? State?”
“What are my industries projected sales for next year and how are those distributed across generations?”

I have a piece of advice for people asking these sorts of questions: ask the internet.

Online investigation is a great starting point for companies using market segmentation to reach and influence consumers with resonant messaging that appeals to their rational and emotional sensibilities.  The reservoir of  statistical data and analysis, trend visualizations, behavioral, geographic, technographic and demographic profiling information and tools available on the internet is undeniable and can be intimidating. They’re best used in combination with primary research and/or challenge-specific 3rd party reports, but you shouldn’t underestimate the quality and depth of information available to marketers who know where and importantly, how to look.

Statistical Profiling

The following  are just a few examples of data-rich websites that can teach you about your prospective and existing customers based on the information you already have. Knowing the location, age, gender,or occupation of your prospective or existing consumers is enough to get you started on finding out more.

Technographic Profiling

Campaign decisions, particularly in media planning, increasingly rely on assessments of  how digital technology can be used to raise awareness and opinion, gather user feedback, increase word of mouth referrals, capture user data.  The list will continue to grow with the centrality of the internet in all of our lives and the ubiquity of mobile technology.
Knowing how and why your target audience accesses, feels about and interacts with technology and media is vital to planning and executing a successful program.

Market and Consumer Trends

Trade publications, marketing resources and case studies or white papers specific to your company’s industry and consumers are your best bet for consolidated industry-specific trends and emerging practices.
If you’re looking for up-to-date information on consumer trends or are curious how others are allocating budgets to build their businesses, marketer-targeted content producers and aggregators can deliver timely and digestible advice.
Our favorites include:

Finding What You’re Looking For

Like many information vendors, eMarketer uses a “freemium” revenue model in which some content is available to the public while in-depth reports and articles are sold on a subscription or per-unit basis. While free and updated content makes desktop research far more rewarding, clicking on an article or report title that promises the information you’re looking for but ends up requiring payment and sign ups is frustrating and time-consuming.

Learning how to effectively use in-site search tools like sorting mechanisms and content type, tagging and category filtering can improve your experience and yield relevant results more quickly than site-wide searches.

Content Types: Like eMarketer, many research companies publish free information in the form of blog posts, articles, or white papers, while full reports are for purchase. Look out for options like ‘full text only,’ advanced search’ (often include content type specification), or ’sort by type’ to narrow your search.

Categories and Topics: These are often found as secondary navigational options and tend to classify content based on high-level attributes like industry or marketing channel.  Searching  and filtering within categories is especially useful in information-overload situations.

Tags: Tags are often more specific and may be used to classify content based on different attributes than categories or topics. For instance, sites that categorize articles by industry may use tags to classify practices. This article, for instance, is in the category “tips” and is tagged “market research.”

Keywords: Most often defined as the words you type into a search field, keywords are of utmost importance to finding what you’re looking for online. Those keywords are matched to content based on the search engine’s algorithm, which could mean either manually or automatically selected words based on titles, summaries, full texts, or manually selected words and phrases. Understanding these parameters makes it far easier to narrow your search results down to a manageable but comprehensive pool to choose from.

The number of sites and services providing public access to valuable marketing data continues to grow, for the better and the worse. Whatever it is you’re looking for, chances are it’s on the internet, but finding it may be tricky. I hope this list of resources and practices helps you search smarter and faster and would love to hear about your favorite marketing research resources or search tips and tricks.

If you’re not convinced that what you’re seeking is out there, leave a comment or send me an email using the contact form to your right – I love a good challenge and hopefully we can both learn along the way.

This article is written from the personal perspective of Bill Williams. The opinions and views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Miller Group Advertising.

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