Once, I had to help a computer leasing company figure out what to emphasize in its marketing. Their marketing was targeted at resellers. The goal was to get the resellers to recommend the leasing company as a financing source.

I didn’t know anything about computer resellers, and the only one I knew personally is the one across the street from my office who sold me my system.

I told the client, “I’ll get back to you.” Then, within 48 hours, I reported the results of conversations I had with over two dozen resellers.

Did I conduct a phone survey? Mail a questionnaire? Spend the client’s money on a focus group?

None of the above. I simply went to an online discussion group of computer resellers, and started talking to them about what they look for in a leasing company – and what they thought of my client in particular. (I didn’t mention that I was doing research for a client. I let the people in the group assume I was another reseller. No one asked.)

Thanks to online chat rooms, forums, and discussion groups, you can now gain a quick understanding of the mindset of virtually any market or group of prospects that uses or congregates on the Internet. The two best websites for finding online discussion groups are: www.topica.com www.groups.yahoo.com

Click on either link and select a group that interests you. If you sell model rocket kits, for instance, click on the Hobbies and Crafts category on Yahoo. You can rapidly and easily find out what rocket hobbyists want, what they like, and what they are willing to pay. And it won’t cost you a dime – just some time spent sitting in front of a PC.

True guerilla marketing!

(Ed. Note: Bob Bly is the editor of ETR’s Direct Marketing University: The Masters Edition, a program to help you start your own successful direct-mail business. Sign up for his e-zine, The Direct Response Letter.)

Bob Bly

Bob Bly is an independent copywriter and consultant specializing in business-to-business and direct marketing. He has been hired as a consultant by such companies as Sony, Chemical Bank, J. Walter Thompson, Westinghouse, and Prentice-Hall. Bob is also the author of more than 50 books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing (Alpha Books), Targeted Public Relations, Selling Your Services, How to Promote Your Own Business, and Keeping Clients Satisfied. A phenomenal public speaker, Bob will share with you how easy it is to start your own business. Whether you’re ready to quit your job or are just looking to make a little money on the side, you’ll want to hear Bob’s advice.

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