The Internet is a great platform for anyone doing sales prospecting, research, or sourcing vendors.

The Internet is an indispensable tool for many marketing research tasks, for gathering information on your company’s competition, and for executing critical production steps in your marketing program.

If you are in the marketing planning process or creating a marketing plan you will need to do some exploratory research that may include conducting online marketing research to help you make better marketing decisions.

We typically call this type of research, secondary research. You may want to conduct marketing research that includes primary research in the form of focus groups, customer interviews, speaking with sales reps, calling potential customers to understand their pain points.

This is useful information who are the sales teams and the sales process. You want to turn marketing data into intelligence, and intelligence into action. By creating a connected customer experience,  develop integrated marketing strategies that develop real business results, and propel growth.

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Modern marketing managers, using the Internet for research doesn’t mean sitting around in your office surfing the Internet, or checking a few industry news sites each morning.

For example, if your role as a marketing manager, you will be called on to create a new target market email list of prospects for a new sales prospecting technique and program.

You’ll be asked to line up a new booth for an upcoming trade show your company is attending. Your CEO may I ask you to prepare a memo outlining the competitive outlook and opportunities for entry in a new and promising market, or your company’s VP of Sales will ask you to locate a key contract at a company considered to be a potential strategic partner.

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Using the Internet for marketing research

You can turn to the Internet to search for and find new sales contacts and opportunities, to research important strategic information, and to establish contact with people who can help your company. The Internet is a research tool that can help you exploit new marketing opportunities and increase your company sales.

Just a decade ago, the power to skillfully locate business and sales contact information online belonging exclusively to large corporations.

Corporations that could afford expensive, specialized online databases and other costly information services to conduct strategic research, compile new sales contact, and quickly locate other information on new marketing projects.

The information in these expensive online databases was accessible to managers working at arm’s length with specially trained corporate librarians or search specialist after companies.

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They have mastered arcane, specialized database query languages the patiently extracted needed information for managers, who always left the exchange feeling as if they still weren’t seeing the full picture of the information they really want it, or believed they might not have asked the right questions in the first place.

Today, the explosive growth of the Internet has now made most of the same kind of information once available to only a few, at a very high cost, freely available on the net to anyone who can find it.

But this information is only available to those who know where to look for it, and who knows a few simple searching techniques to help them find what they want, more efficiently, and in less time.

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What you can find on the Internet–and how to find it

For Chief Marketing Officers (CMO’s) using the Internet, the top search site, Google can help you find the information you need to perform a variety of important research tasks, including:

  • Assessing new markets and sales opportunities. You can use the Internet as a quick reference information tool for scoping out the depth of potential new business opportunities for your company, and to gain a quick, basic working knowledge of any new industry or Market. A 10-minute Google search for some news and information sources can tell you a lot more about a new industry or market.
  • Sales prospecting. The Internet is an unbeatable sales prospecting tool and is useful for gathering personal contact information for high-level presentations and proposals for new business development projects. It also plays a very important role in day-to-day sales prospecting tasks, such as compiling a mailing list and sales contact records copied from the website in your market.  Through the use of the WHOIS feature, you can use the Internet to cut through the telephone voicemail curtain now in place in many companies, to identify and establish initial contact with the key person at the company you were trying to reach.
  • Competitive analysis.  You can use the Internet to check out your competitor’s websites, but checking out some of your competitors deeper links in their website, such as company news releases, management team profiles, financial investor information, can often yield valuable competitive intelligence for your company and its marketing efforts. Here’s in advance and SEO tip.  You can reverse-engineer a lot of digital intelligence from your competitor’s website. If you want to win the game of search you must know what you’re up against.
  • Trade and industry news gathering. You can use the Google search site to search for the latest, most relevant and useful news in your industry or market, and allocate the major trade news websites covering your industry. I recommend that you set up Google Alerts for your key competitors. For any industry, there are several leading online news sites providing the latest news of your industry on a more timely basis than conventional trade print publications. These online news sites also have their own search features that enable you to retrieve relevant, older news stories from their searchable archives.
  • Product, vendor, and supplier research. You can use Google to quickly and easily find online suppliers of key marketing related products and services needed by your company. If, for example, you are planning a trade show, a keyword search for trade show displays on Google would yield many useful links to suppliers who sell trade show booths online. The Internet is useful for finding hard to locate suppliers whose specialty items needed by all marketers, such as sign producers, retail and specialty packaging suppliers, etc. The Internet is also an invaluable aid for helping you increase the speed of your marketing execution and dealing with online vendors.
  • Customer and product feedback. You can check Internet discussions newsgroups to see what customers, prospects, and others in the marketplace are saying about your company and its products or services, and what they are saying about your competitor’s products.

But before you can find what you’re searching for, you must first learn how to find it. Every marketing manager should take the same time to learn a few, basic keyword searching skills, to save time and increase the accuracy and quality of the information they collect when they search the Internet.

google alerts

Google: The go-to site for any Internet research tasks

Most of your Internet-based research tasks will involve the use of the Google search engine, so most of the search techniques covered in this post describe the best ways to a keyword search on Google, the Internet’s best search website

Started in 1995 by Stanford University students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google is a search site (also known as a search engine)  that indexes over three billion web links, and responds to over 300 million daily search request. Google is a search website like Yahoo, but its killer application is its website analysis and ranking system, called PageRank. PageRank uses proprietary software technology to retrieve and rank the most useful and relevant sites found in your search, by counting the number of other websites that link to each site found by your search, and ranking these sites by this characteristic.

Here’s an advanced tip for SEO. It is essential if you want to rank, so have a solid backlinking strategy?

Google was the first search site to recognize that an important measure of the quality of any websites content is the number of other websites linking to it, and who would post a link to this website on their own pages.

Page ranking is based on the sensible notion that the quality of a website–e.g., the measure of its relevance and content–can be determined by measuring how popular it is, and thoughts, how many other websites vote for this page by featuring links to it from their own web pages.

Google has become so popular the most people make it their first online stop anytime they need to find something–anything–on the Internet. And, you can find the information you’re looking for on the first page of results of your Google search.

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Wrap up on the Internet as a sales prospecting

The Internet can be an invaluable tool when it comes to sales prospecting in marketing research. You can learn a lot about your target market, potential prospects, and your competitors.

Start by setting up a few Google Alerts but don’t go crazy here. I always say start small and test. Once you are happy with the results then scale it. You’ll be surprised how much information there is that you may not have even known about.

We’re listening.

Have something to say about the Internet as a sales prospecting? Share it with us on Facebook, Twitter or our LinkedIn.

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