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Innovating into the new year: Five Key Areas for Business to foucs on

January 12, 2009

1. Listening. Use the groundswell for research and to better understand your customers. This goal is best suited for companies that are seeking customer insights for use in marketing and development.
2. Talking. Use the groundswell to spread messages about your company. Choose this goal if you’re ready to extend your current digital marketing initiatives (banner ads, search ads, email) to a more interactive channel.
3. Energizing. Find your most enthusiastic customers, and use the groundswell to supercharge the power of their word of mouth. This works best for companies that know that they have brand enthusiasts to energize.
4. Supporting. Set up groundswell tools to help your customers support each other. This is effective for companies with significant support costs and customers who have a natural affinity for each other.

5. embracing. Integrate your customers into the way your business works, including using their help to design your products. This is the most challenging of the five goals, and it’s best suited to companies that have succeeded with one of the other four goals already.

In fact, these five objectives are linked to the familiar business functions in your company, except that they’re far more engaged with customers and include more communication—especially communication that happens between customers.

You already have this business function Now you can pursue this new objective How things are different in the New Year
Research Listening Ongoing monitoring of your customers’ conversations with each other, instead of occasional surveys and focus groups
Marketing Talking Participating in and stimulating two-way conversations your customers have with each other, not just outbound communications to your customers
Sales Energizing Making it possible for your enthusiastic customers to help sell each other
Support Supporting Enabling your customers to support each other
Development Embracing Helping your customers work with each other to come up with ideas to improve your products and services

* Create a plan that starts small but has room to grow. Companies that try to map out their whole strategy over the course of a year will find their planning is obsolete by the time they finish it. But conversely, companies that quickly launch one technology and then jump to another aren’t necessarily helping themselves. Instead, you should create a rough plan—what you will do first; how you will measure success; and if you do succeed, how you will build on that success. Then be ready to revise that plan every six to twelve months. Imagine where engaging with the ground-swell might take you, but don’t lock yourself in right away.
* Think through the consequences of your strategy. As with the clothing company we just described, your plan should include how engaging the groundswell will change your company. Consider what the endgame is going to be—a very different relationship with your customers. Imagine how the groundswell will change the way you run your business over the next few years. How will it change your traditional marketing, advertising, and PR functions? What are the consequences for your suppliers and distributors? Who will talk to them about it? Will it change your cost structure or the way you compensate salespeople? What are the legal consequences? All these issues need to be considered before the plan is complete.
* Put somebody important in charge of it. You’re about to transform your relationship with your customers. Is this a job for some mid-level IT or marketing person? The ultimate responsibility for this plan should rest with an executive who reports up quite high in the organization. Which one depends on your goals—if you’re listening, it might be the head of research, for example; if you’re talking, the CMO would be a better choice. In many companies the CIO or other high-level IT staff are key advisors based on their technology knowledge. But in the end whoever is in charge of the plan must regularly brief the CEO on how it is transforming the way the company does business with customers. Ground-swell projects routinely stir up people well above the part of the organization where they started.
* Use great care in selecting your technology and agency partners. Companies don’t generally have the resources to build social applications by themselves. As a result, they work with partners—these could be technology vendors like Leverage Software that specialize in communities, agencies like Avenue A/Razorfish that build applications, or large portal companies like Yahoo! that can host applications or communities. Regardless, the choice of partner is critical. You’ll want to be sure you’re working with people who’ve built multiple applications before and understand your brand and your company. Crucially important is that they understand your objectives—or else you’ll be constantly explaining why you want things to be one way versus another. Ask them not just about current capabilities but—since the technology is shifting quickly—how they perceive the one- to two-year future of the types of technologies they are building. This is no time to go with the lowest bidder or even the company with the most features. If you’re not comfortable that your partner understands what you’re trying to accomplish and how that could change, walk away. Find one who does.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 13, 2009 6:24 am

    Nice informative blog.full of knowledge & useful.success of Digital Marketing is guided
    through Vision and smart communication engineering, like a business
    architect:-Didier Grossemy

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