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A market overview

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Research background: HitechTronics, a computer hardware company, holds patents on certain technologies that could be applied to improving existing whiteboard products.

The company itself does not produce whiteboards, but it is considering the possibility of doing so, along with the concept of partnering with an existing whiteboard producer to create improved products.

Before exploring these options any further, the management wants to understand the whiteboard market, including who the major players are, their market share, the technology in use, and trends in product development.

The marketing department will gather this information and pass it along to the managers, who will decide how to proceed.

Research budget: The information will be delivered within two weeks and will include an analysis and summary of the data found.

Although the marketing department will absorb the cost for this research and no one will be “charged” for it, per se, the department does like to keep track of expenses such as this.

The market researcher estimates that the cost will include about three to four hours of research time, another three to four hours to analyze and write up the findings, and less than $250 in online costs.

Research strategy employed: The researcher begins by working on a list of terms and synonyms related to electronic whiteboards.

These include “electronic whiteboards,” “interactive whiteboards,” “digital whiteboards,” and “virtual whiteboards.”

Because she has no specific knowledge of the key sources of information in whiteboards, a general business or market research source seems like a reasonable place to start. The next steps will depend upon the results of the first few sources explored.

Because this marketing department is in a fairly large company, a number of research options are available, including market research aggregators, business databases through aggregators, and the Internet.

The researcher will start with market research reports, move t the business databases, and plan to fill in the blanks from other sources as needed.

Market research costs have been accounted for in the department’s budget, so there is no particular need to take a low-budget approach to this project.

In fact, because the deadline is two weeks away and the researcher needs time to analyze and summarize the findings, it will be most cost-effective to use some of the proprietary databases available to the department.

Research results: The search begins in Profound because it offers broad coverage of market research reports.

Accessing the ResearchLine Reports through Profound’s WorldSearch and entering whiteboards as a title word returned 246 hits.

Ordinarily 246 would be more hits than a researcher would want to look through, but on the first page of results there is a Frost & Sullivan report from October 2002 called World Interactive Whiteboards Market. Jackpot! The full report costs $1,092, but Profound allows subscribers to purchase by the page.

A look at the table of contents for this reports shows that Figure 1-6, “Company Market Share by Revenues,” and Chart 1-4, “Percent of Unit Shipments by Product Type,” can be purchased for a total of $60. The researcher selects and purchases these two pages.

These two charts answer the questions about the major players and what share they have in the marketplace.

Although the researcher was prepared to search the business literature using the tried and true approach of a search string such as whiteboard?(10n)(market(3n)share), this has not been necessary.

This search string, applied to the Dialog databases, would find any reference to the word “market” within three words on either side of the word “share,” with that phrase within ten words of the words “whiteboard” or “whiteboards.”

The search for information on technologies being used begins with the Web sites of the companies identified as the major players in the Frost & Sullivan report.

These sites reveal that the companies use their technologies for product differentiation and gear it to various potential customers.

Major differences center on front versus rear projection; plasma displays with screen overlays versus the ceramic steel writing surface; wireless versus not wireless interaction; and special optical styli versus standard whiteboard markers. The size of the screen is another variable that depends upon the technology in use.

So far the only indication of a trend is Chart 1-4 from the Frost & Sullivan report, which shows a slight movement away from rear projection and toward front projection systems.

For additional trends information and insights into the marketplace, the market researcher moves to the Business & Industry databases no Dialog: Gale Group’s PROMT File 16 and Gale Group’s Trade & Industry File 148.

These databases are available elsewhere, but the researcher prefers Dialog for this project because it offers some unique search options. The following search string permits a comprehensive search with a reasonable amount of precision:

1. To retrieve articles mentioning “whiteboards” enter (electronic OR interactive OR digital OR virtual)(3N)whiteboard?).

2. Combine that with (market(3N)size OR market (3N)share OR trend OR forecast?).

3. For this search, the index term for the event code related to sales and consumption (EC=650) is added, but it did not improve the search results, so it is subsequently omitted.

Several good articles are retrieved from these two Gale business databases to fill in the blanks related to trends and technology. Indications are that the trend is toward rear projection, wireless technology, with larger and larger screen size.

Summary of solution: The research process outlined above has yielded all of the information the marketing department needs to prepare a useful report for the company decision makers.

They are now able to determine how their intellectual property might enhance existing products and to determine which companies in the marketplace might make good candidates for collaboration.

The market researcher’s strategy has worked well: moving from the general market research sources, through the relevant Web sites, and on to the business databases to fill in the blanks.

Experience in completing searches like this one has results in an excellent estimate of time and online resources required, so the project is delivered on time and within budget.

The summary fits on two pages, and the final report, including supporting articles and references, is forty-one pages long.

Useful tips
• Start by compiling a list of as many search terms and synonyms as you can think of. Be prepared to add to the list as the search goes on.

• When you need product information, the company Web site can be a good place to look, especially for “sales” features.

• Searching for market within three words of share will retrieve the phrase market share and the phrase share of the market.


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