Interview: Adapting Marketing Research Tools for the Digital Age

Marketing Fray sat down with Copernicus' Eric Paquette, a senior vice president at the firm who's leading the digital charge, and posed three questions about how and what marketers can do to make good digital marketing decisions.

Marketing Fray sat down with Copernicus' Eric Paquette, a senior vice president at the firm who's leading the digital charge, and posed three questions about how and what marketers can do to make good digital marketing decisions.

The main thrust of his recommendations: adapt your current marketing research tools to the digital age. Smart companies, he says, have already begun to make changes to the kind of information they capture about buyers in their category or industry. And it's not hard to do.

Here's more of what he had to say:

Marketing Fray: It’s not exactly new news that marketers have shifted more and more of their attention and budgets to digital marketing efforts. What’s not talked about as much, it seems, is how they are going about figuring out digital investments. Do you have a sense of how they are developing digital marketing plans?

Eric: The entire process of planning marketing communications has gotten dramatically more complicated over the last several years, that’s for sure. The explosion in the use of digital technologies has really changed what marketers need to consider when deciding how, when, and what type of brand communication to share or deliver. It’s not just about digital GRPs anymore.

Yes, when developing digital marketing strategies, marketers and their media planners still have “traditional” concerns like reach, frequency and efficiency in addressing target customers. But they also have to grapple with what these folks will do when they come into contact with a brand, whether through advertising, content they sought out, or buzz they “hear” as others talk about a brand on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

So on top of “traditional” concerns, marketers and their media planners have to determine how digital fits into the consumer “journey” of learning about, talking about, and hopefully buying the product or service. Does digital play a lead role in the plan, or is it there to support other vehicles? How does mobile fit? What’s more, they also need to worry about the receptivity of the audience to different vehicles, including digital vehicles.

As you can see, there are many factors that go into building digital marketing plans.

In our experience, these days good media planners focus much more closely on integrated communications planning—stitching together “bought” advertising with search strategies; owned content (e.g., the website, proprietary videos or other content, etc.) strategies; and “earned” media (think PR on steroids in our digital, connected world) strategies.

Marketing Fray: What marketing research tools might help them?

Eric: Really, marketers can adapt existing marketing strategy research tools to make them more applicable and actionable in a digital world.

A market segmentation remains a core marketing research building block that they should use. They still need to define customer targets for marketing activities; they just need to adapt market segmentation into make sure the definition offers guidance on these new digital marketing concerns.

There are three ways to do that.

One, because digital technologies make it much easier for us to connect and disseminate information, a market segmentation that will guide digital marketing strategies should include what I’ll call a customer’s “advocacy value.”

Ideally, marketers would like to target folk who love the brand, love to talk about the brand, and have a significant digital “reach” with blogs, social media and the like. They can capture these key pieces of information through a segmentation questionnaire. “Advocacy value” should get factored into the current and potential value of each segment and, therefore, the target selection process.

Secondly, a market segmentation that will help marketers make smart digital decisions describes how a target segment likes to behave on line. Several companies, including our sister company Carat, have defined digital behavior typologies that can be used to guide communications planning.

Are our targets “Authors” who like to create their own content on-line? Are they “Connectors” who like to share content with social media? Or are they simply “Spectators” who like to read, watch or observe the content developed by others? A good market segmentation that will guide digital marketing communications strategies captures this information to help.

Finally, while it seems boring by today’s standards, a digital-age market segmentation research exercise should also capture where our target goes on-line to help guide some of the "bought" digital media strategies. Where do we want to place our banner ads, or do home page take-overs?

Aside from market segmentation, I’d also recommend a second key piece of research, what I’ll call “buying process” research. Basically this is an examination of the “journey”—or how consumers learn and buy in a particular category. It addresses where targets go for information in a category, where they buy, how long they take to make purchase decisions, etc. Is it a research-heavy process, or an impulse-driven purchase? What are the key pieces of information that drive someone to purchase?

This type of marketing research can be a revelation for marketers and their media planners as they map out the communications strategy. The insights in provides helps to clearly define the role that different types of media and communications will play.

Marketing Fray: Any real-world examples of companies using marketing research tools like market segmentation to make better digital strategy decisions?

Eric: We’re starting to see some of the smarter and more ROI-focused companies adopting/adapting these marketing research tools.

They tend to be companies that historically have been good about integrating their market segmentation research and target selection with media planning decisions. They have always known that they can drive significant efficiencies in media planning by understanding the detailed media use of their targets. When marketers find media vehicles used disproportionately by their target, it allows media buyers to essentially buy GRPs at a discount.

Today, these companies have begun to realize that the “old” way of doing things now only solves for a small fraction of their communications plan. The old links between targets and traditional media use still hold value, yet too many critical unanswered questions linger. The smart companies out there will start to fill in these information gaps with research well-designed for the digital marketing world.

-June 2010

This content was provided by Copernicus Marketing Consulting and Research. Visit their website at www.copernicusmarketing.com.

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