In a post called Using Blogs as Communities for Research and Development back in Sept 2006, I mentioned that one of the lesser known yet still ideal uses for business blogs is as a vehicle for conducting market research and product development. Why? Simply because your blog will create a community around itself containing exactly the type of people that you would love to get opinions and feedback from.
I noticed that last week, the Wall Street Journal ran an article called “The New Focus Groups: Online Networks“. Ah, yes indeed! Their focus was it seems prompted by the rise in Social Networks but as I pointed out in “Who owns YOUR Social Network?” the best type of network that you can possibly have as a business, and the one which will endure longest, is one that you run yourself. Essentially, your business blog.
So with a blog as your best way to develop your own network, social or business, this is a ringing endorsement for using blogs in a market research capacity. It also brings the benefits of targeted market research within the reach of companies of all sizes, not just those with a budget of thousands to spend on external market research providers.
The benefits of using the type of private community that a specially created blog can give you are clear. As the article points out:
Companies use them to administer polls, chat in real time with consumers and even ask members to go to the store to try out specific products. The rapid back-and-forth between the company and the online community can help substantially shorten the product development cycle.
Real interaction with customers, shorter product development cycles? Sounds just what the doctor ordered! And with blog consultants able to help you to develop these environments in double quick time (should you require it), you can concentrate your efforts on preparing the research you want to carry out, listening to what your customers tell you they are looking for and then delivering it to them.
Almost sounds like joined up marketing to me!