Digsite Inc.’s “virtual focus groups” uncover the answer to every entrepreneur’s problem — knowing a company’s audience.

And its co-founder and CEO, Monika Wingate, says the Madison company can get that answer much cheaper and quicker than its competitors, who often rely on in-person focus groups. Instead, Digsite’s online approach allows marketers, researchers and agencies to privately connect with their audiences, creating communities where participants can share their feedback at any time.

That way, companies using Digsite can get real-time insights over days, weeks or months and cut what they’d pay for a focus group by 40 percent or more, Wingate said.

“Companies today need to be more innovative and get to market faster with their ideas,” Wingate said. “Digsite makes engaging customers fast and easy, and something marketers can afford to do more often.”

It’s not that in-person focus groups aren’t effective, but they can be costly and time consuming. Surveys and other low-cost approaches, meanwhile, don’t provide the richness companies need to develop and optimize new products or marketing programs.

Companies also often struggle to effectively tap into social media, which in theory, offers a marketing lay-up to advertise a company’s brand. Digsite hopes to help the 60 percent of companies that struggle to measure, connect with and gain insight on their audience through social media, as a study last year from Simply Measured found.

Wingate has 20 years of experience in market research, with management roles at General Mills, Pillsbury and as director of UW-Madison’s A.C. Nielsen Center for Market Research.

She also spent seven years managing her own consulting company, where she got the idea to launch Digsite.

“I was looking for new approaches to help my clients get the in-depth answers that they needed, and help them to develop new products or optimize their current brand communication or value proposition,” she said.

Digsite has raised $364,000 so far and hopes to raise up to $1.7 million from venture capitalists. The company will use the money to hire business development experts, as well as additional developers to expand the product’s capabilities for recruiting, participant engagement, community management and reporting.

To date, Digsite has been home to more than 90 online communities created by mid-sized brands such as Sub-Zero, Organic Valley, and Studentreasures Learning, which do not have their own customer research departments. All participants have an annual subscription to the Digsite software, along with add-on options.

Those companies, Wingate said, now have their own insight tool and can now avoid initiating a new research project every time it seeks to answer a new question.

“Digsite is the answer that marketers have been looking for to help their company gain insight on their target audience, to be able to grow and to connect with their customers creating a virtual community around their brand,” Wingate said.

By Mike Caputo,
For WisBusiness.com

Caputo is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.