The proliferation of media choices has significantly changed the dynamic for marketers who are trying both to communicate with their current customer base and gain new prospects. Using the right vehicle to find B2B or B2C customers via television, magazine, radio etc. used to be fairly easy. Now, consumers decide what content they want to consume, the time and place they want to do so, and which format fits their current needs. Marketers have realized that technologies such as DVRs/Tivo, iPods, on demand cable, and the 24/7 Web have broken down the traditional media habits of consumers.
Once marketers acknowledge consumers are firmly in control, the question is how to reach them with maximum impact and return on investment. The answer could lie in using market research in a slightly different manner than in the past.
For many years marketers have relied on the media companies for TV/Radio ratings and syndicated readership research to let them know where and how their customers and prospects were consuming their media.
In today’s media landscape marketers need to take on that task themselves. It is critical to conduct research to determine how customers and prospects are consuming media. Marketers can’t rely on the word of the media companies; they have vested interest and an agenda. They are more concerned with their ROI, not their clients’.
Market research should focus on how a prospective audience wants to be communicated with and its specific preferences. Questions should focus on the physical format and platform such as print, Web, video, etc. Additionally, the time and place they are receptive to receiving marketing messages are essential areas of inquiry.
Marketers should also test the types of content that will help targets in their jobs or lives. An audience has limited time to consume information, so what they receive should offer a real benefit for them. Market research can help determine prospects’ “pain points” and reveal how to effectively communicate a marketer’s ability to take away some of that pain.
When marketers communicate in a format and manner their audiences prefer, prospects are more receptive to the messages and attach a greater affinity to your company. The marketers themselves will receive a benefit: Increased ROI on their outbound communications.
How so? Market research can help cut down on waste and communications that will be ignored, enabling marketers to generate better response rates on whatever measure or behavior they are trying to effect. For instance, most major technology companies have concluded, based on their research and user interviews, that IT end users and managers prefer Web casts that they can watch live or on demand at their own desks. Because of that finding, there has been a huge shift of media dollars that were once spent on print ads and trade shows being redeployed toward Web casts and podcasts. The net result for these companies is that they are now driving thousands of qualified leads which create great ROI.
There are many ways to conduct research to find out how audiences like to consume information. At the high end, marketers can conduct a solid online research or a series of focus groups. However, there are other lower cost ways to get this information: Marketers can ask a few questions wherever their organization has face-to-face contact with customers.
Those companies that have newsletters or magazines can include a mail-in survey. Marketers can ask customer in a retail environment. Offering an incentive to participate (a small prize or chance to enter a contest) helps boost response.
Above all, customers appreciate marketers who are trying to do a better job communicating with them.
Gordon Plutsky is Director of Marketing and Research at custom media company King Fish Media.