Sunday, May 22, 2005

Customer Communities as "Maven Traps"

Since Malcolm Gladwell has come out with a new book, Blink, I thought it was high time to read his last one, The Tipping Point. With regard to business books, I am CLEARLY in the mainstream market. Given that we want to create communities of customers around our B2B products, it is tempting to take what Gladwell says in The Tipping Point and try to start our own epidemics of community participants and sales. All we need is someone with an innate knowledge of the market trend starters, an advertising budget and enough testing to find those changes 'at the margin' that will launch our epidemic. I suggest something more pragmatic, and it comes from Galdwell's discussion of Mavens, Salesmen and Connectors. Use your Mavens, Salesmen and Connectors to act as a bridge from your innovators to the mainstream.
Mavens, Salesmen and Connectors act as a bridge between your Early Adopters and the Mainstream market. Posted by Hello
To refresh your memory, Mavens, Salesmen and Connectors are those people in your marketplace that translate the innovations of the trend setters for the mainstream market. They are motivated by being the first to have or do something, but will want to make it their own by changing it somehow. Gladwell gives special recognition to Mavens--those who know everything about your product, industry or market. He coins the term "Maven Traps" as ways to find your Mavens and keep them inspired. The question then becomes, "How do we find the Mavens and trap them?" Customer Communities are your Maven Trap... and your Connector Trap and your Salesmen Trap. A well designed online customer community is where any self-respecting Maven can feed his thirst for knowledge and show off what he knows at the same time. Here is where connectors feed their desire for social interaction. It is also the place where Salesmen expound upon how innovations will change your customers' lives. You don't have to have a customer community to work with the Mavens, Connectors and Salesmen in my marketplace. Consider the following recommendations gleaned from The Tipping Point: 1. Where are the innovators in your market? Are you the innovators? Are the market leaders the innovators? What new things are they releasing? How are they going to market differently? Don't look at those places where the buzz is already strong. Try to anticipate how broader trends might carry your innovators' ideas forward. Then get this information to your Mavens, Salesmen and Connectors. 2. The early adopters for any new product or service ARE your Mavens. Treat your existing customers very very well. Continue to feed their love of your product or area of expertise at every turn. 3. Try lots of things. The smallest and often unexpected changes result in tipping points. Change your message, your collateral, your web site, your product positioning with abandon (of course, test these changes!) 4. It doesn't take many Mavens, Connectors and Salesmen to tip things. Even if their numbers are small TREAT THEM WELL. I'm going to be implementing this model at the Blue Fish customer community over the summer. I'll document my trials and tribulations here as things move along.

3 comments:

  1. Yes, excellent points. Will be eagerly watching for the insights you gain along the way in creating this community for Blue Fish.

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  2. Really great stuff. the tipping point rocks

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  3. Thanks for your post on mavens. What? In this instant-ON instant-NOW culture you can't wait seven years for a comment?

    @hg47

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