Researchers’ Voice: The Intersection of Digital Market Research and Marketing

A woman conducting digital market research on a tablet device.

The Focus Vision Researchers’ Voice blog series highlights first-person stories from researchers from around the globe. Each account offers unique perspectives on collecting insights across disparate environments.

The Intersection of Digital Market Research and Marketing

By Lizy Freudmann, Founder of One More Thing LLC

I became a member of the professional market research community about 2.5 years ago. My interest in moderating studies and in developing my quantitative analysis skills had been growing for a while, inspired by what I’d learned throughout my 12(ish) year marketing career. The roles I’d had during that time varied, and employers ranged from startups to established multi-nationals. More recently, working as a strategic marketing consultant, the trends I’d been noticing were thrown into sharper relief. My clients, like my erstwhile employers, were all limited by blind spots regarding the uses and potential value of digital marketing. These blind spots became increasingly detrimental to them, and obvious to me, as digital media became an increasingly important part of the marketing mix. These problems were, and remain, present in a range of industries and company sizes, regardless of B2B or B2C purpose.

Mind the Blind Spots

My basic conclusions can be boiled down to two main points: 1) oftentimes, there is someone in the organization unwilling to test their assumptions about what their audience wants or needs from their business; and 2) in many organizations there is a fundamental disconnect between the actual capabilities, and the perceived utility, of digital channels like social media. For example, budget-conscious decision makers might think that having an intern use facebook to spread the word about an upcoming promotion is a good use of social media. They think they know what the customer values, and that they can present their offering using the same language and visual style across all channels. But this is not a good use of social media; I’d even go as far as saying it’s a very bad use of social media, which is unlikely to yield optimal results. It’s also a giant missed opportunity for market research.

An effective social and digital marketing strategy looks very different, (even on a purely promotional level) and can be an excellent source of research. Digital marketing must be understood as a tool that can simultaneously test assumptions about your customer base (demographic as well as psychographic information), serve as a customer service tool, and promote upcoming events, sales, or other similar initiatives.

Putting Social Media Metrics to Work

Once you understand the metrics, what they mean and are sure your tools are working properly, you can use them to define what you want to get out of your social media activities. More importantly, you can use these metrics to identify your assumptions, and check yourself against them: “I predict that 80% of people who follow our Facebook page will be women, between 35 and 45, with a post-secondary education, and we will have a high engagement rate if we target people who also like an NFL team”. Then, you can adjust your content postings and paid advertising accordingly. You can also use this information to inform segmentation strategies and every other aspect of marketing, sales and brand development.

This is, of course, market research. Every “like”, “retweet”, “share”, ”endorsement”, “follow”, comment and so forth, is a piece of data that can be leveraged by the right people. Every page view, contest entry, e-commerce transaction and opened newsletter can tell you something about who you’re talking to. You can sleuth out overall trends (do your newsletters perform better on weekends or weekdays?) and calculate ROI from specific advertisements. All of this information allows you to optimize customer-facing communications, and tailor strategies to work best on each channel you’re using.

Blending the New with the Tried and True

However, data analysis alone is not a replacement for other market research methods. It is helpful to apply traditional research frameworks to data analysis, in order to both avoid getting overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data, and to think strategically about what information will be most impactful to understand. It can be useful to compare data specific to your brand to broader research studies that aggregate information from multiple sources. For example, you could study data on the financial habits of millennials to see if you buck or are in line with trends. Additionally, the value of traditional focus groups and IDIs cannot be diminished. They continue to offer uniquely complex information regarding customer feelings, impressions and expectations. Similarly, self-reported quantitative data collected from surveys and during business transactions (i.e. during the process of buying a car) continue to be effective ways to get answers to specific questions. Moreover, these traditional methods serve as important backstops against which you can compare what you’re learning from your analytics.

In my opinion, buzzy terms like “data-driven” and “growth hacking” are effectively hipper ways to say “using market research”. If there is a difference, I think it’s really just in the mindset: data-driven companies view the research process as ongoing, whereas traditional market research initiatives are framed as short-term projects to inform future efforts. In my experience, the best results and the most compelling brands, come from savvy professionals who combine the best traditional methods with modern tools and capabilities. This combination enables clear and resonant value propositions to be delivered to the right audience through the best medium.

About the Author:

Lizy Freudmann is the founder and lead consultant at One More Thing LLC, a marketing company that specializes in building connections between brands and audiences. One More Thing LLC builds marketing strategies that serve clients’ overall business goals by combining data-driven marketing with authentic content. Lizy has been developing, working with and propagating monetized content business models since 2006. Striving to learn new techniques every day, Lizy uses her experience to create and implement strategies that often blend market research, advertising and social engagement with marketing best practices. Lizy moved to New Orleans in 2011 to get her MBA and Master of Global Business degrees from Tulane University. She decided to stick around, and launch her business. Why? Because she couldn’t bring herself to leave this AMAZING city. Before that, she lived in Los Angeles and worked in the music industry, at the intersection of media and technology. Before THAT she lived in Providence Rhode Island, where she attended Brown University, graduating in 2005 with a BA in American Civilization. Lizy grew up in New York, just outside the Bronx. (Go Yankees!)

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