Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Ideas Factory: Market Research the Cluetrain way

In the spirit of giving my ideas, here's one I had about a new software product, like a search engine, but push instead of pull technology.

When I worked at a commercial research lab I used to get very frustrated with the lack of contact with customers. We had a building full of smart people, great at solving problems, but not knowing which problems was most important for the customers to solve. We tried to get more contact with customers, but it involved working through internal bureaucracy and politics, and researchers are never very good at that.

At some point I read The Cluetrain Manifesto, which during the dot-com era did seem a bit revolutionary, and it did manage to spawn a book, which was more than most dotcom ideas. Its focus on big companies being responsive to customers rang a bell with the problems I was having in the research lab. I started thinking about how we could be more responsive as a lab to solving the problems our customers really had.

If I'm a customer and have a problem with a camera, I'll probably search their website for technical support and google to see if anyone has complained on the web. And this searching usually finds something. Imagine if the moment anyone posted about a problem to a message board, newsgroup or mailing list a pre-stored search query was matched, and the message sent to the company's proactive customer service department. Or if it was a post saying "I wish I could get a camera that did X", this got found automatically and sent to the research lab who invented a way of doing it. Firms would be so much more responsive.

This would also be a fantastic tool for those in small companies. They could monitor the whole web for comments about their particular niche area, without employing an expensive market research department, or hoping that customers contacted them. In these days of the long tail being the latest business fad it would be incredibly useful.

Google have gone some way towards this with Google Alerts and I've just found out that GoogleAlert is a commercial service, but both of them only monitor the web (and news for Google Alerts). What about mailing lists, newsgroups, radio, TV, podcasts, blogs and a million and one future forms of media?

So in summary, the idea is registered users, with prestored search queries, matched against multiple forms of both push and pull media, with results fed to the user as a push service either in real time or in digest.

I had this idea in 1999 I think, when it was a good idea. I should have published it then, and then it might not be 2005 with us still not having the service available. The best people to do this are Google, I just hope they read this and take the challenge on.

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