In a recent blog post called ‘Crowds versus communities: a quick guide for the perplexed’, I looked at the different kinds of inputs you can get from different audiences. This time, let’s look at one of the more exciting spin-offs of Web 2.0: the chance to move selected consumers up the value chain to become invaluable collaborators, helping you create offerings that click with your target audience.
Co-creating campaigns has gained traction in recent times, with companies reaching out to consumers for inputs on new offerings as part of a well-seeded social media campaign. However, Brian Solis suggests that we can go further than that, switching to structural collaboration where customers are involved in all decision processes inside a company. The reasoning behind this is simple, and sound: consumers give more credence to the views of other customers than to what companies say. That’s the ground reality you and I face every day, both as business people and as consumers ourselves.
But moving from co-creation to pure collaboration is difficult for companies; we’re used to keeping our processes to ourselves and to relying on our own knowledge and intuition. Solis’ post suggests a three-step transition that makes sense to me:-
- Try-out: Scope the scene out and figure out in what ways and to what extent customers can actually, practically be involved in processes. Where can they add value?
- Projects: Involve customers in strategic projects, working towards a customer centric mode where customer involvement becomes an accepted concept.
- Structural collaboration: If all goes well, integrate a customer voice element across processes.
But for a collaborative approach to work, five crucial factors need to be in place in your organization:
- Your culture: You can’t change your company culture overnight. That’s why a try-out phase makes sense. Let the whole company see how and where customer inputs make sense before moving to the next stage.
- People: You need to work with the right customer; someone who is passionate about your brand, but also someone who is knowledgeable about the segment you address.
- C-Level commitment: Organizational commitment has to go all the way to the top; unless your top management is sold on it, it won’t work.
- Share your efforts: This needs a certain blending of internal and external communication but it is important because it involves other customers as spectators and demonstrates that you are genuinely collaborating.
- Measure impact: As always, measure everything and see what works. KPIs to focus on include cost reductions, consumer feelings toward your company, brand perception and success of new launches.
I strongly believe that in our wired, transparent world barriers are shifting and customers can play a more integral, vital role in shaping the businesses they deal with. The platform for this transformation is a meaningful, integrated engagement program – something the Digital Marketing team here at i-Vista happens to specialise in!