Working with major media, sports and entertainment clients in North America, I partner with many research executives looking to leverage their audience base to earn revenue. This is in stark contrast to how research is approached in many other industries, where the function is typically a support column for multiple divisions - effectively making it a cost center.
Digital proliferation has transitioned marketing from a cost to a revenue center years ago, and now research has this same opportunity. To be able to monetize research, an organization needs to have only two things: external business clientele, as well as an audience base that these clients can benefit from.
Once potential clients are identified, there are essentially 4 ways to monetize an audience:
- Provide clients direct access to your audience.
By tapping into an online community of your audience members, you can offer your clients a way to pre-test their marketing content directly with the consumers they intend to target. In addition to pre-testing content, researchers can now conduct post-studies with consumers who were targeted with the partnership, to gauge awareness and close the ROI loop on their client's campaigns. Platforms such as Insight Communities enable you to compare past and post respondent data to find the true value of partnerships. With solutions available to house longitudinal data, researchers can even follow up with only the respondents who said they would purchase or be impacted by certain products or advertisements.
By offering the ability to vet client's content with your audience before it goes live, as well as the capacity to measure their reception after the content has aired, you are effectively bringing much more value to the table and are partnering with clients on an entirely different level.
A majority of our clients monetize their audience in some way using this model. Take a look our client story videos with Yahoo! Inc. (for a full-service perspective) or see Essence Communications (for a client using Vision Critical technology in-house).
- Find the best corporate fit for your audience.
Instead of trying to sell a partnership to every corporate prospect - hounding each organization for their sponsorship budgets or advertising placement - wouldn't it be easier to ask your audience which brands they would like to be exposed to in the first place?
This is the approach that forward-thinking organizations are now taking. Since they have the ability to talk to their audience in real time, they can also ask their consumers what their favorite brand is, how likely they are to purchase certain products, how they perceive the brand, etc.
This information is invaluable in choosing clientele to hunt. You can effectively find the best targets for your organization - the brands that were most preferred by viewers - across multiple categories. Since these are also the clients that will receive the most value from your viewers, the research helps communicate the benefits a partnership would bring them.
- Use fresh data to strengthen any corporate pitch.
In today's digital age, walking into a corporate pitch with only transactional data is not enough. When your competition has direct access to their audience's behaviors, preferences and opinions of the prospect brand, it dramatically reduces the impact of any secondary information you have gleaned from census or syndicated data. Doing this homework on how your audience feels about the client's brand and their propensity to buy it will make your pitch more realistic as you genuinely know the value you are delivering them.
A Vision Critical client, Golf Digest, has leveraged its insight community of over 9,000 golfers (who play on average 66 rounds per year) to support their corporate sales pitches, providing insights that has helped the company land new clients and retain existing partners.
- Open your audience up to the competition (for a costÛ_).
If you'd like, you can allow other organizations to do research with your consumers. The demand you will receive for syndicating research from your audience is highly dependent on the quality and distribution of your audience. If you have a targeted niche audience, smaller, related organizations would love to tap into your sample. Alternatively, large-scale audiences can also be effectively monetized, much like Vision Critical has done for Aeroplan with their affluent American community. Once you know your audience and their value, this is a great way to become the "expert" on them.
As organizations increasingly invest in technology to support research, corporate clients (including sponsors, advertisers, agency clients and additional strategic partners) will come to expect this kind of information when negotiating large-scale partnerships. The research department has a real opportunity to engage its brand's audience and earn a competitive advantage. On the highly-competitive playing field of corporate partnerships, this connection can make the difference between winning and losing a multi-million-dollar deal.
While advertising/sponsor testing is not a new methodology, when you are able to offer this at any time to clientele, the insights can be actionable and make a significant impact internally and externally. For more info on how to monetize your audience base, feel free to reach out directly, or browse through Vision Critical's client stories to see how other brands have successfully replicated this model with the VC Insight Community solution.