Reading Comprehension 034


Most marketers today focus narrowly on consumers needs within the parameters of their product category. At best a marketer may analyze a few related categories. But few marketers (outside of advertising-supported media organizations)
try to analyze the business of companies in unrelated industries that are targeting the same customers.

Marketers must expand their horizons as electronic communities emerge. They must learn how to cross-sell the products and services of the many providers within their community. Consider the role of marketing at a toy manufacturer that plans to participate in the organization of a parenting community. Marketers first must understand the full range of products and a service that the community needs to provide vif it is to attract online parents. These could include parenting magazines, access to book publishers, health care providers and life insurance companies, links to brokers offering college savings plans and even the products of competing toy manufacturers.

Second, marketers must learn new ways to interact with the providers of those additional products and services in order to reach customers. Also, marketers must learn how to take advantage of the technology that allows customers to move seamlessly from information gathering - finding out about a product through an advertisement or another users online recommendation
- to completing the transaction. This technology will transform today’s marketing into tomorrows direct selling. Marketers who are not currently in the business of direct selling, such as those in many consumer-goods companies, will need to learn the skills of fulfillment. They also must come to understand the strategic impact of electronic communities, which in many cases will threaten the existing distribution channels of dealers, brokers and retailers. Questions about channel strategy that marketers must answer include:

 What electronic communities might our customers belong to now or soon?
 Who will be organizing those communities?
 How can we use them to strengthen our relationships with our target customers - not just through advertising but as a means to stimulate greater trial and usage or even to sell directly to the consumer?
Communities affect the very nature of some products; they even can affect how marketers define their business.

For a magazine publisher, is the product of the online magazine or the online community? If the online community features content from competing publishers, what business is the community owner really in? New business definitions may emerge around the notion of owning a customer segment across the full range of its interests and needs, rather than focusing on owning products and services.

Finally, electronic communities will offer marketers a wealth of new and quite detailed information about their customers - even about individual customers. Marketers will need to learn how to use this information to anticipate a customers needs and respond to them instantly. For example, if a greeting card company or a toy manufacturer knows the birthdays and ages of children in a given household, it could market to the parents two to three weeks before the birthdays. This means that marketers will need to wrestle with time-sensitive micro-segmentation - marketing to the individual customer at specific points in time. Marketers therefore face several questions related to information:
 What kind of information can we capture in electronic communities?
 Are our information systems equipped to access and analyze this information?
 Are we organized to market both more broadly to specific customers and more narrowly to individual customers at particular   points in time?
 Marketers who rise to meet these challenges will hold the business advantage.



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