Today Only: $2,000 in Free Real Time Market Research

How much would you pay to be able to run an instant poll where you get responses to any question from 1,000 diverse people within about an hour?

If you are an entrepreneur or marketer or business owner, you know that knowing what prospective customers think and need and want is essential. You need good, relevant, timely customer feedback in order to develop products and craft marketing campaigns that match what the customer is looking for.

It is very expensive to build a product or launch a marketing campaign without first doing some market research to validate the product or the marketing approach. And yet most small businesses probably never conduct market research studies because they are typically very costly and time consuming. In the past I’ve paid for market research studies that cost tens of thousands of dollars and took months to complete.

But today, my team and I at FamilyLink.com run dozens of surveys every day and we get between 100,000 and 200,000 answers daily from our huge audience. We have nearly 30 million monthly visitors to our network of sites. (See our Quantcast chart here.)

Our focus at FamilyLink.com is building apps and sites for families that help families get connected and stay in touch with their relatives. We generate revenue primarily from advertising and from subscriptions to our massive genealogy databases. But we also believe we can potentially provide real value to businesses and market researchers if they have access to our real-time survey tool and huge panel of customers, primarily from the US, UK, Canada, and Australia.

I have wondered how many more businesses would use market research if instead of a month or two and $10-20,000, they could conduct a simple survey to a random panel of 1,000 people and get the results in less than an hour.

How much would you pay for that?

I’m guessing that many businesses would pay $199 for such a survey. We have asked hundreds of questions that we have found useful. We use the tool in product marketing to learn:

  • what product features customers want most from a given product category
  • what marketing benefits customers are most likely to respond to
  • what domain name to use when building a promotional or product site
  • which web page design or marketing concept design customers like most

The surveys can be used to determine brand awareness (how many people prefer my brand over my competitors), intent to purchase, pricing sensitivity, and more. They can be used to find out people’s favorite books, songs, hobbies, or to track interest in new trends or fads. They could be used by journalists or political leaders to measure public opinion on anything.

Our survey tool can support up to 10 multiple choice responses. It can also provide a text entry box, so that you can actually get 500 free format answers to any question you ask. These open ended questions are my favorite. I have a list of about 20,000 responses about what famous person people admire most and who they would like to meet in person, if they had a chance. We are using the data we are culling from this crowdsourcing effort to make sure that WorldHistory.com (and games that use its database) contain biographies of all the historical figures that people admire most.

And, it can link to graphics so that you could, for example, show 3 different logos you are considering and ask 500 random people which one they like best.

We are using the survey tool daily for all kinds of questions. Our knowlege of what our customers think and want from us, and from other products and services they use, is really valuable. In nearly every internal discussion about what features we should build next, we are referring to past surveys or designing new ones that can run during our meeting and give us valid data from our customers before the end of the meeting.

We have decided that today only, we will provide a free 1,000 response survey to the first 10 people who contact us. If you are in business, education, journalism, government, non-profit work, or any other field, and you would love to know what people think about anything, please email me at paul AT familylink.com with subject line: SIGN ME UP

My team and I will contact you quickly and get your survey question online so that you can have answers in no time.

Our “consumer panel” consists of more than 50MM Facebook users worldwide who use the “We’re Related” application from FamilyLink to find and connect with relatives.

So, what are you waiting for? Think up that question, and send me that email today.

Does product loyalty run in families?

Last year, as FamilyLink.com’s product strategy and business model were becoming more clear, we realized again that in many ways, the family is the center of the economic universe. So many consumer purchases are really made within families. Think about the mortgage, the car payment, educational expenses, travel, health-related spending, consumer electronics, and gifts too. Most of our major and minor expenditures have something to do with family.

As FamilyLink reaches more consumers each month with our family applications on social and mobile networks, we have more opportunity to understand our users better. We have developed a robust survey tool that allows us to collect thousands of answers very quickly on all kinds of questions. We often ask our members what they like or don’t like about our applications, what they want us to do next, and how we can improve our products and services. But sometimes we ask our members what products they use, or like most, or recommend. We also religiously read every user post on our Uservoice customer feedback site which contains thousands of ideas and suggestions from our customers, along with their collective votes.

Last year, before we developed our in-house survey tool, we ran a third-party survey to find out what products people used because their mother used them. I blogged about it last February. The top ten products were Tide, Ivory, Clorox, Campbell’s Soup, Crisco, Dove, Crest, Kraft, Comet, Quaker. I have no idea why 7 of the top 10 start with a K sound, but they do. These are all household products that most people use daily or weekly.

I asked a similar question recently to discover what products (brands) people use because their father used them. And for the first time, I’m publishing the list here, in ranked order. We received 19,288 responses to this question.

  1. Old Spice
  2. Ford
  3. Craftsman
  4. Colgate
  5. Chevy
  6. Gillette
  7. WD40
  8. Crest
  9. Heinz Ketchup
  10. Pepsi
  11. Budweiser
  12. Sony
  13. Coca Cola
  14. John Deere
  15. Nokia
  16. Tide
  17. Marlboro
  18. Honda
  19. Nike
  20. Dial soap
  21. Hellmans mayo
  22. Ivory
  23. Sears
  24. Toyota
  25. Folgers coffee
  26. Duct tape
  27. Brut
  28. Kraft
  29. Dove
  30. Dodge

Old Spice had 16 times more responses than Dodge, which was in 30th place. The survey was unaided and all the answers were typed into a text box. The hardest part in compiling the survey answers was in finding all the misspellings of Budweiser. The dads that influenced their kids to drink Bud also forgot to buy them a dictionary.

If you had a customer base of 50 million people of all ages and family sizes using a family-related web application, how do you think this kind of market research could both generate revenue for your company and also provide a better experience for your members than traditional display banner ads? In other words, how do you think we can or should incorporate popular brands into our user experience?

(We have some really fun ideas, and are working with some selected brands already, but I always love to hear other thoughts on big strategy questions like this.)

Quantcast getting better and better

I’m a huge fan of Quantcast. I’ve blogged before that it may be the best free tool for online marketers.

And now it’s even better.

Two weeks someone showed me that whenever you are looking at a web site, to see how much traffic it has, that there are two arrows that PREVIOUS and NEXT, so if you are looking at the 100th most popular web site, you can click on NEXT and see the 101st most popular.

So I spend a couple hours scrolling through the 200 most popular web sites, looking for those that appeal to an the demographic our company is targeting. So I wanted to find very high traffic sites that we could advertise on, or partner with somehow.

I found a dozen excellent sites that I had not heard of before.

But now, on the Quantcast home page, you can now easily see the top 100 highest traffic web sites, and then the next hundred, the next hundred, and so forth.

I can’t wait till Quantcast allows you to enter in your audience profile and have it show you all the sites that match your audience that you should be advertising on, and then enable you to purchase ads quickly on those sites.

I wish Quantcast would buy the old Top9.com web site, with its thousands of helpful categories, and update it with their current data. Top9.com became one of the very popular web sites for marketers years ago. It was powered by data from PCData.com, then it disappeared. Here is a snapshot of Top9.com from the Way Back Machine.

When I worked at MyFamily.com and our properties were ranked us as one of the top 50 web sites in the world, we had plenty of capital to pay for services like Media Metrix, Netratings, and later Comscore. These services cost tens of thousands of dollars per year, but gave us tremendous insights into media buying and affiliate recruiting possibilities, as well as some competitive intelligence. I especially liked the reports on Netratings that could show us where our competitors were getting their web site traffic from.

A couple years ago I blogged about Five Things Most Entrepreneurs Can’t Afford. This was one of my most popular posts that year. The second item on the list was “third party measurement services” like those I’ve mentioned above.

Amazingly, Quantcast provides most of the value that these super expensive measurement services offer, and it is disrupting the industry at the perfect time–Comscore has filed to go public and Hitwise was just acquired by Experian for $250 million.

Quantcast isn’t going to make money selling their measurement data. Paul Sutter, the cofounder of Quantcast says that audience measurement is a few hundred million dollar market, but media buying is a few hundred billion. Quantcast is planning to help marketers reach their niche target markets through the use of their data. And I’m sure they’ll get a portion of the media buys, as marketers and web site publishers use their tools.

This is going to be very exciting to watch.

With Quantcast raising $5.7 million in venture capital in March, and with thousands of sites signing up for their free “quantified publishers” program, their data gets better and better.

Comscore has filed to raise $86 million in their IPO (see the Comscore S-1 ). I wonder how hard that will be given what Quantcast is now doing to the industry. I suppose Comscore could change its business model, and do the same thing Quantcast is planning to do. But it is always harder to steer a large ship in a different direction. So in the new world, Quantcast would clearly have the advantage since they’ve been designing this business model from the ground up.

Smart entrepreneurs will spend many hours mining the Quantcast data looking for marketing/advertising opportunities among the thousands of high traffic web sites whose demographics and psychographics match their own.

These are good times for entrepreneurs.

(One other fun web site, a mashup called Attention Meter, lets you see data from Quantcast, Alexa, Compete, and Technorati.)

Music on cell phones

Last night I was told about a great site for buying cell phones online called letstalk.com. So I checked it out and they do seem to have most phones and most carriers, so a lot more options than you typically see. They offer referral bonuses as well. My friend got a free Blackberry Pearl and loves it.

Speaking of mobile phones….I am advising a lot of entrepreneurs to skip the internet phase of their business, meaning trying to get desktop traffic to their web site, and instead focus on mobile applications and mobile web site development. That seems to be where everything is going right now. Google’s mobile search is ready for primetime, Yahoo launches a mobile ad network, GPS-enabled phones are finally arriving in large numbers, video is getting to phones, and on and on.

Today I saw this press release from letstalk.com that shows how much music is making it to cell phones.

SAN FRANCISCO, March 22 /PRNewswire/ — Online wireless retailer LetsTalk today announced the results of a survey that found the music player feature on cell phones isn’t just for teens. The survey shows over 83 percent of music phone purchasers are over the age of 25, and that 55 percent of those 35 years and older are listening to music on their cell phones. Yet, the music they are putting on cell phones isn’t typically coming from carrier offerings.

The music feature on cell phones is becoming more popular with people of all ages — about 63 percent of multimedia cell phone users have listened to music on their phones. Over 50 percent have downloaded 20 or more songs, and 89 percent have downloaded at least four songs to their phones.

Music phone users have several options for acquiring and downloading music to their cell phones, but in spite of the convenience of buying and downloading songs directly from their carrier, only 14 percent of survey respondents said they have done this. Overall, buying music online is popular, with over 60 percent of those polled going this route. While 67 percent of those polled stated they have used a computer to transfer music files to their cell phones from CDs or the Internet.

“Our survey results indicate that consumers are listening to music from their own collection, so virtually any music phone can meet their needs” said Delly Tamer, CEO of LetsTalk. “Customers are making the most of their music phones with cables and memory cards. The industry needs to offer customers a more compelling reason to download songs directly and easily to their cell phones — better prices, easier navigation, faster speeds, exclusive songs, or all of the above.”

I still don’t have a decent RSS reader for my cell phone (although I downloaded Bloglines for Blackberry today, so I’ll try that), and my web connection is still way too slow (can’t wait for T-Mobile to upgrade their network), and I haven’t bought a Blackberry 8800 yet so I’m still missing the GPS and location-based services that I can’t wait to have, so there are still limitations to my using my cell phone for everything. (I still use my 60GB iPod for music and audio books), but I think those limitations will fade over the next 1-2 years and by the time the successor to the Blackberry 8800, the Nokia N95, and the iPhone version 2 or 3 arrive, they will be so useful that I may never need to use a laptop again.

Understand Your Customer Better Than Anyone Else

Our top priority at World Vital Records is understanding our customers needs. A VC friend told me recently that if you choose a market and understand your customers’ needs better than anyone else, and meet those needs, that you will be successful.

In addition to monthly usabilty tests of our web sites, we now have a panel of 783 customers who are willing to answer any questions that we ask them. The first question we asked is what kinds of records they want us to add to our web site. Our next question will be what countries they want us to gather these records from.

We are also studying our site analytics regularly, doing A/B testing on our outbound email campaigns, and have begun using Google Website Optimizer so that we can test various landing pages in real time to see which ones perform best.

We have found by analyzing our customer database that 72% of our paying subscribers are women and 28% are men. Using Quantcast, we have a good glimpse of the demographics of our site visitors, what other web sites they tend to visit, and what keywords they are searching for.

Quantcast is an extremely useful tool and it will only get better. The founder of Quantcast emailed me recently and told me how many pixels they are tracking on a monthly basis. Their open system (where webmasters can opt in for validated numbers) will make their system better with time. As more media planners use their site to design interactive marketing campaigns, Quantcast will be able to play a key role in the ad selling process, and take a slice of that pie. To build audience, they’ll continue to make their audience measurement and demographic information free.

I love this service.

Quantcast is extremely valuable to understand all the companies in an industry. We can use Quantcast to learn the demographics of visitors to Ancestry.com or any other genealogy web site. Ancestry’s users tend to be over 45 years old, and more female than male.

I can start to see differences in audience composition and determine who is strong in what area. For example, World Vital Records already has a lot of users from a variety of ethnic groups, whereas Ancestry.com’s audience ranks high on Caucasian but low on most other ethnic groups. As we launch international databases and search engines, perhaps this gap will only widen.

We can use Quantcast to find hundreds of genealogy sites that are potentially good partners, where cross promotion could help us and them.

If you have not yet started using Quantcast, I suggest you set aside a few hours to do so, and write down all the insights you gain about your competitors and your customers, and what other sites they visit and what other interests they have.

In the traditional direct marketing industry you can use a service like Claritas which can provide you with a customer segmentation report if you provide them with the mailing addresses of your customers. They can answer questions like:

* Who are my customers?
* What are they like?
* What do they buy?
* Where can I find them?
* How can I reach them?
* How can I keep them?

They also have Data Enhancement services, which they describe as follows: “Claritas can help you learn all about your customers – their demographics, lifestyles, and consumer behaviors. We can append Claritas data to your customer file of names and addresses to give a richly detailed profile of what your customers are like and why they buy from you.”

Quantcast is providing a combination of Alexa/Hitwise/Comscore-like data along with free Claritas-like data. I’m a little surprised that it’s not getting more buzz than it is. I have found a few good posts on Quantcast, including this post on Rojo.com that says it may be a valuable tool for advertisers, and potentially an acquisition target for Google, but that it has been self-funded and may not have a business model fully figured out.

I suppose if it had venture backing then it would be getting a lot more media coverage than it is. Or maybe the company is lying low and perfecting its service until it is ready for prime time.

I blogged earlier this month about how Quancast is the best free tool for internet marketers in years, and I stand by that claim. The more I use it, the more I like it, and the more potential I see for it.

But back to our topic … understanding your customer. One more practice that we are going to start at World Vital Records is requiring all our executives to have regular phone calls with customers.

I remember when my brother Curt Allen was CEO of MyFamily.com and he asked his executive staff of 12 people how many had spoken to a customer in the past month. If I recall correctly, not a single hand went up. He was making a strong point that when a company is growing fast, it is easy to lose touch with the customer.

So when I ran the marketing department, not only did my staff each visit our call center every week to be involved in customer phone calls, but we also started holding group discussions with our customers to find out what they liked and didn’t like, and what they wanted us to do next.

It is so easy to get busy with housekeeping and putting out fires that you can completely neglect speaking with customers.

We are also planning to attend many, many national, regional, and local family history events. Not only are the people at these conferences the nicest people you’ll ever meet, but they are so incredibly knowledgeable–some of them have been doing family history for decades, so they have so many insights and ideas for what would make their job easier.

A consultant friend of mine told me recently that third-party surveys are far more accurate than those conducted by a company itself because customers will be more honest with third parties for some reason. What do you think? I remember we hired Wirthlin Worldwide to do a major customer survey for MyFamily.com back in 1999 and the results were incredible.

Blogging keeps me in touch with internet entrepreneurs, but not with the family history community yet. I think I’m going to keep this blog focused on internet entrepreneurship and marketing (due to popular demand!) and start a new blog that I’ll probably publish at Worldvitalrecords.com that will focus on family history topics.

Bill Marriott claims that his new blog will help him do on a global scale what he has been doing for years: talking to the customer.

What are your topic 3-5 techniques for staying in touch with your customers and really understanding their needs? And how has this helped you achieve success in your business?

Please share….

Note: I have not been involved as an employee of MyFamily.com (now The Generations Network) since February 2002.

22% of online advertisers also doing mobile marketing

I found this a little hard to believe–both the percentage of companies supposedly doing mobile marketing and also the overall advertising budget for mobile marketing.

From MarketingVOX:

A study this month from JupiterResearch found 22 percent of companies advertising online also are doing mobile marketing. Overall, the study predicted, mobile ad spending would more than double – from an anticipated $1.4 billion this year to $2.9 billion in 2011.

I have no doubt that mobile marketing will be a multi-billion dollar industry, but where is the $1.4 billion being spent this year?

At SES I attended a couple sessions on mobile marketing, and it seems so early, that I can’t imagine where the $1.4 billion is going.

Any thoughts from my readers?

What web sites do mobile phone users use?

Comscore and Telephia have teamed up to offer data about web sites that are being visited by mobile web users.

In their first report, Comscore and Telephia show some interesting data about mobile web use. It looks like checking weather is very popular.

Another thing I found interesting: Google Mail has only a fraction of the users of Hotmail and Yahoo Mail, both by desktop and mobile users. I switched from Yahoo Mail to Gmail last year and am much happier with the speed of Gmail. But it looks like more PC and mobile users still use Hotmail and Yahoo Mail.

I just added Telephia to my Google Alerts. This is a company that I want to track, since some of our companies are in the mobile content space and most of our other companies will need to develop mobile applications in the future. Any time they issue a press release about mobile application usage or mobile web market share, I want to see it.