How Proper Market Research Drives Utility Revenue

The simple definition of an ecosystem is a large community of living organisms (plants, animals, and microbes) in a particular area. The living and physical components are linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows.

But “ecosystem” has also come to be known as any complex network or interconnected system – and businesses are part of them. Rather than sharing nutrient cycles and energy flows, we share things like authority and customers.

There is ultimate value in understanding your business’ market as a network of participants and being able to influence the right actors at the right time. You can gain this understanding of your network through an ecosystem study – which we recently conducted of our own internet and broadband markets at Updater Home Services.

With this sort of market understanding, brands are able to define how to best position their voice and offerings within the ecosystem for maximum impact. We’re thrilled to share what we uncovered in our own ecosystem study, and how this type of research benefits our utility partners.

What is a digital ecosystem study?

First things first.

As defined by marketing leaders Christian Sarkar and Philip Kotler, ecosystem marketing is the process of positioning your ideas, messages and products in the right digital ecosystems to gain visibility, engage prospects, capture attention, and create customers.

You get the information you need for this approach through an ecosystem study.

A study of a digital ecosystem helps to define the major players in a market and how they’re connected. First, you need to research all the entities in the ecosystem, as well as the centers of excellence and thought leadership—and turn it into a visual map.

The center of the ecosystem map is the core topic being studied—such as a specific product category, like internet and broadband services in our case. The lines from the topic lead to dots, or websites and companies that are most closely connected to the topic.

Some websites that are directly connected to the central topic may be competitors or leading thought-leadership sites. The dots are color-coded in terms of traffic volume and relevance to the core topic. The lines from these dots lead to secondary websites and clusters of related topics.

With this information in hand, you can define how best to position your brand to become one of the major voices in the ecosystem.

Consentric Marketing, our partner for our own ecosystem study, has a proprietary process for mapping digital ecosystems. Here’s what we learned:

Why did we conduct an ecosystem study?

Finding, evaluating, and purchasing internet or broadband services isn’t the most pleasant task to complete. You have to decide what services you want or need, figure out what provider to use and who’s available at your home, decide if you want to set up networks yourself or hire someone, and much more.

It’s complex. It’s annoying. No fun.

We work to make that process a whole lot less painful everyday. In fact, we have teams dedicated just to this problem. We reduce the pain by understanding what our various audiences want to accomplish with their internet or broadband service.

When you break it down, customers buy products and services to get a job done – to solve a problem, fix a need, or perhaps provide themselves a treat. And, they choose the brands that best help them get that job done.

With our ecosystem research, we set out to understand:

  • What jobs are our users trying to complete with internet and broadband solutions?

  • What resources are available to help them complete those jobs?

  • What resources are missing?

  • Where are their pain points in the process?

  • What are our opportunities to help them complete their job more easily?

 To be a leader in an ecosystem, a player needs to offer valuable, impactful and lasting input (content) on what customers are looking for. We believed this ecosystem research would help us to do just that.

What did we learn about our internet and broadband ecosystem?

Our market research showed us that there were no clear leaders of the internet and broadband ecosystems in the specific cities we studied or nationally.

The commerce-oriented sites that existed were content-shallow, providing little advice, context, or value to help consumers get their jobs done. On the other hand, most content-heavy sites did not engage in commerce – they provided useful content to their visitors, but didn’t offer any solutions or service to get the jobs done.

Many players also exist in the ecosystem today because they buy their way into it. Players like this typically:

  • Offer limited value;

  • Receive very little (or no) referral traffic;

  • Disappear the moment their ad spend stops.

 One of the most valuable outputs of our ecosystem study was a thorough understanding of what jobs our various audiences are trying to solve for with internet and broadband services.

Few sites in the ecosystem serve these jobs through useful and relevant content – so we set out to do just that. Updater Home Services made a commitment to value-based content marketing based on the specific customer jobs that our internet and broadband ecosystem study uncovered.

In other words, we’re smoothing the process. Taking the pain out of purchasing internet services. Providing value for consumers before asking them to make a purchase.

Why do our study results matter for your utility company?

When you partner with us, you’re counting on us to market your products and services (as well as ours) to your customers in an intelligent way. But a partner that doesn’t have a grasp on what the consumer is solving for won’t be able to provide value.

We invested in research to uncover these insights and, we’ll keep investing in whatever data is necessary to provide consumers with a more useful (and dare we say, pleasant!) buyer’s journey in the internet and broadband market.

With our expert understanding of the jobs our customers want to complete, we are able to produce content that closely matches what customers are looking for, aiding them throughout their journeys (instead of creating roadblocks). This approach helps us to achieve maximum conversion rates – for ourselves and our partners – and positions us as a leader in our own ecosystem.

If you’re ready to provide value-added services to your customers, consider a savvy partner that’s doing the right research.

We understand our ecosystem and all of the organisms in it, and we’re using that insight to gain visibility, engage, capture attention, and drive business. And you can, too.