Thursday, February 03, 2005

Customer Communities

How do you draw people to what you offer, get customers to support each other, and get users to help you make you better at what you do? It's time to get the customer involved. I feel your pain. The advertising isn't working. The banner ads have NEVER worked. It's getting expensive to put another something in the crowded mailboxes of your prospects. You're not Apple or IBM or GM so people don't really care to hear what you have to say. Now imagine that your customers are engaged. Imagine that they help your prospects make the decision to buy. Imagine that they support each other and help each other get more value out of their purchase. Imagine that they work actively with you to make your offering better and better and better. Imagine that your customers send you Valentines. This is the power of the Customer Community. So, how do I get one? All you need to do is the following: 1. Convince your management to turn your marketing message over to the your customers and prospects. 2. Get the subject matter experts in your company involved in interacting with customers and prospects. 3. Create a core set of rules that makes it safe for your customers to talk about how they're using your offerings. 4. Get comfortable with ANYTHING being talked about on YOUR site--including competitors 5. Be willing to invest 12 months in building something that will bring both chaos and incredible momentum to your business. 6. Don't suck. It'll become very apparent if you do. Embrace the chaos. Pretty straight-forward. And you may wonder what color the sky is in my world. Let's translate these rules into the skeptics language. "I, being some blogging yahoo, figure that the momentous requirements are the following: "1. Completely change the culture of our company and explode the brain of the VP of Marketing." "2. Take the people who create our company's offering and distract them with the endless online meanderings of the unwashed masses." "3. Figure out what makes our customers really tick when we don't even know what makes them buy our stuff." "4. Let the unsatisfied goof-balls bring down our carefully choreographed marketing and branding strategy." "5. Blow 12 months of marketing resources when we should be doing what seems to work for everyone else." "6. Well, no one thinks their product sucks. According to our marketing, we're the industry leader, so it must be true." "Embrace the status quo!" And yes, the skeptic's view is dead on. Let me invite you to join the conversation. I declare that this blog and my other endeavors will embrace these rules. Declaration: 1. My head has exploded. My message is in your hands. 2. I vow to bring the best thinkers in building community to the pages of this blog. 3. The rules are this: Contribute, however, personal attacks are not acceptable. New rules will be added only under great duress. 4. Anything goes. Gulp. 5. I am committed to this work for 12 months, 24 months, whatever it takes. 6. For my part, I vow to suck less each day. Comment lines are OPEN.

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