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    Home > Articles

    Marketing Research is Everywhere


    Every marketer needs lots of data about customers, non-customers, and competitors. However, market research data is usually hard to get — and more expensive than you'd think.

    I'll bet you've looked for published data about how well you're doing compared to your competition — and, except for large companies in big markets, the data isn't available.

    Here are some non-traditional ways to obtain marketing research without the big, expensive marketing research projects.

    One of the great things about dynamic (i.e., database driven) Web sites is the amount of data that can be collected about Web site visitors. For example, the Coravue system collects behavior and attitude data on Web visitors and online customers, responses to offline promotions, as well as salesperson interactions. that's enough data to give a marketer terrific insights into customers and how to meet their needs.

    Brad Field, an investor in the blog aggregator NewsGator, used subscriber data for his blog to estimate market share data for blog aggregators in general.

    Another source of data for comparing Web sites is Alexa.com. They monitor a small number of Web users who install their monitoring software. While the data is skewed because it overemphasezes technically competitent Web users, it's data that's not available from other sources.

    In the offline world, marketers have used ingenious techniques to monitor customers and the competition.

    Some marketers have been known to identify the vendors that supply competitors with shipping boxes (it's usually printed on the bottom of the box), then getting the box companies to tell how many boxes the competitors use.

    Sometimes it's even easier to monitor customer behavior. Each year I go to a local shopping mall a couple of weeks after Thanksgiving to watch shoppers so I can get an idea of how the economy is doing. The metrics I calculate are the number of shoppers who pass by, the percent of shoppers carrying bags (i.e., purchasers), and how many bags are from high-end stores.

    Like a lot of market research, these techniques don't provide exact data, but they can indicate relative change from the previous year.

    But frequently the most interesting data comes directly from customers and potential customers.

    I recently completed a series of executive conversations on behalf of a client looking to expand into two markets. They had made a few sales in both markets and wondered if they should launch a marketing campaign to grow those market segments. Fortunately, I was able to learn why one segment would never be profitable, and also how to complete in the other market segment.

    Market research is one of the most valuable assets a marketer can have. These examples show that market research doesn't always have to be a large, expensive project. And, sometimes market research can be fun.



    Cliff Allen is the co-author of the book One-to-One Web Marketing; 2nd Ed., published by John Wiley & Sons, and has consulted with companies on strategic marketing for 20 years.

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