Utility Ecosystem Study
By Nicole Bump
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.
How the Right Market Research Drives Your Utility Revenue Streams—Digitally
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 come to be known as any complex network or interconnected system—and our businesses are all part of them. Rather than sharing nutrient cycles and energy flows, we’re sharing 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 here at Bridgevine.
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.
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. Using a variety of technologies, you crawl the internet to discover 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. The lines from the topic lead to dots, or websites that are most closely connected to the topic.
Some websites that are directly connected to the central topic may be competitor websites 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 has a proprietary process for mapping digital ecosystems, so we partnered with them to complete this market research.
Why did we need an ecosystem study?
Finding, evaluating and purchasing internet or broadband services isn’t always the most pleasant task to complete. Similar to the hassle of buying a car, most people would prefer not to go through the process of setting up internet and cable TV. You have to decide what services you want or need, figure out what provider to use, decide if you want to set up networks yourself or hire someone, etc.
It’s complex. Annoying. No fun.
We’re trying to make that process a whole lot less painful for our customers. And the way we can do that is by understanding what our various audiences are trying 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, give themselves a treat. And they choose the brands that best help them get that job done.
- What jobs are our target audiences 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 this process?
- What are our opportunities to help them complete their jobs 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 ecosystem?
Our market research showed us that there are no clear leaders of the internet and broadband ecosystems—in the specific cities we studied or nationally.
The commerce-oriented sites that exist today are content-shallow, providing little value to help consumers get their jobs done. On the other hand, most content-heavy sites do not engage in commerce—they provide useful content to their visitors but don’t offer any solutions or service to the market.
Many players today exist in the ecosystem only because they buy their way in. 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 target 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 have set out to do just that. Bridgevine has made a commitment to value-based content marketing based on the specific customer jobs that our ecosystem study uncovered.
In other words, we’re smoothing the process. Taking the pain out of purchasing internet services. Adding value for our customers before asking them to take out their wallets.
Why does this matter for our utility partners?
When you partner with companies like Bridgevine for additional revenue streams, you’re counting on your partner to attract new customers and close them on a variety of related services and solutions. That’s how you bring in the bucks.
But a partner that doesn’t have a good grasp on what the consumer is looking to solve for won’t be able to provide added value. We have 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 understanding of the jobs our customers are trying 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 also positions us as a leader in our ecosystems.
If you’re looking to add a new revenue stream or 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 prospects, capture attention and create customers.
It may be a complex system now, but we’re making things simple.
About the author
Nicole provides content strategy, editorial planning and writing services for marketers who are ready to lose the fluff—and offer real value. She has been using her wordsmithing prowess for over 10 years to help brands like Epsilon-Conversant, Strategyn, Allegro MicroSystems and Harte Hanks create content that connects with their customers. Learn more and see Nicole's work at www.bumpinbound.com.
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