Marketing Research Does the Job

Melissa Farmer Richards, Virginia Tech's Director of Marketing and Strategic Communications From Z. Kelly Queijo:

In March 2009,  Melissa Farmer Richards, former Director of Partner Marketing for rPath, a software company located in Raleigh, became Virginia Tech's new Director of Marketing and Strategic Communications.

Prior to interviewing for her new job, Richards did what any good marketer would do before targeting a new audience.  She conducted a market research study.

Using QuestionPro's online survey tools, Richards created surveys that targeted three distinctly different audiences and posted them to her personal blog. Those audiences included: college/university alumni, faculty and staff from four-year universities, and college-bound high school seniors. 

The results provided significant insight into the world of higher-ed which, in turn, helped prepare her for the job interview.

“I'm very interested in research,” said Richards. “There's no better way to paint a picture of what's out there than to take a pulse of the audiences that I would be trying to reach as a marketer.”

A second post to her blog, “Calling all Hokies” posed this question to alumni and fans: “In your own words, what does 'Virginia Tech' represent?” Responders provided answers using the blog's comment feature. The results cinched the deal for Richards.

“I got this fantastic list of words that were all very emotional. There were lots of great football but most of the words were heaven, the most beautiful place on earth, and where I want to be every day. “You could tell people have a passion for Virginia Tech and Blacksburg. That was very comforting. It reassured me about my choices.”

Also reassuring was the power of online survey tools. “Not just in the findings, but in the fact that I was able to create a survey with an online tool, post it on my blog, and send it out to my Facebookfriends, I was able to reach 100 people. While that may seem like a small sample size, it happened in just 48 hours in my prep for an interview. So you can imagine what you can do with online tools – the reach and the expediency."

Melissa Farmer Richards is also founder of iMarketingMix, a boutique marketing consultancy connecting best-in-class marketing freelancers with marketing executives for niche projects. She is also co-founder of Little Computer Bugs, offering computer classes for children ages 3-6.

“The key to being successful,” said Richards, “is knowing your audience.”


To help others get to know that audience online, Melissa Richards contributed to "Getting Gritty," guidelines for establishing an online presence, for Virginia Tech Magazine.

Z. Kelly Queijo writes about business and technology, people and their passions.  She is a frequent contributor to Handshake 2.0, an enterprise of VT KnowledgeWorks member company Handshake Media, Incorporated.

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