"We are not just passing into another historical period or another cultural modification.......But more specifically we are terminating the last 65 million years of life development." Thomas Berry, historian philosopher
The universe is constantly coming into being through irreversible steps of transformations; from a lesser to a greater order of complexity, from a lesser to a higher mode of consciousness. [This thinking holds true only if you subscribe to linear theory of evolution, which is opposite of cyclical evolutionary theory...well that is another conversation for another time]. It has been professed by social scientists that genetically we are very different from our forefathers some 200 generations ago as they were different from the Neanderthals. "What we are catching is an exceptional time." This growing complexity is evident in our social lives and in our business lives. Needles to say, if you are a brand marketer you are in for the ride of your lifetime: you have umpteen different social media sites to peddle your stuff and unnumbered "How To" blog sites to master one single craft. To compound that, new social media tools are launching every day and new marketing best practices are emerging every minute of your waking lives.
But you are not alone.
Get this, 90% of people move between devices to accomplish one single goal. Talk about a disjointed social culture on the verge of total disarray. It is like we have been handed over the technology of the gods without being primed for it.
As marketers, is sanity an achievable alternative? The short answer is yes.
If we take a step back from this massive marketing permutation and combination that is going on every second of the day
and focus on the human currency of our business and cultivate them we create tangible value for ourselves and our businesses. "Hidden in Plain Sight is Today's Greatest Overlooked Growth Opportunity ... It is our Customers."
Bill Lee, author of The Hidden Wealth of Customers: Realizing the Untapped Value of Your Most Important Asset maintains that once you identify your star customers and nurture them in such a fashion that increases their personal value proposition, you now have re-defined your relationship and transformed your customers into your brand advocates and key influencers in your industry. He calls this community marketing. Because, you are helping your customers build reputation that help them expand their support groups and build communities.
Cash rewards, discounts or 'try it before you buy it' is the game of marketing as we know it. It is usually tailored towards customer life time value which is based on how much money they are prepared to spend. On the other hand, customer-centric marketing increases customers' life time value. It helps build their social capital, increases their reputation and gives them access to new treasure trove of ideas. "This new concept of building customer advocates, peer influence-based, community-oriented marketing, hold much greater promise for creating sustained growth through authentic customer relationships."
How do you do it.
Each industry is different. However, there are some basic principles that can be enacted across all industries.
Identify Industry Trends: Create a space (virtual or face to face) in your customer community and set up an exercise that identifies trends and insights of your industry. Trade shows and events are great venues where you may single out such trends. Bring forth those ideas to your marketing team to discuss product enhancements, service improvements and rewiring of brand proclamation if needed. Infusing your internal team with these ideas will advance your business with customers in mind always, all the time.
Here is how Amazon does it: Jeff Bezos periodically leaves one seat open at a conference table and informs all attendees that they should consider that seat occupied by their customer, “the most important person in the room.”
Create pixel spaces for your different product or services. Populate these spaces with FAQs. Links these spaces with popular social media channels. Make it very simple for your customers to navigate to these different groups from the home base. Ask your customers what improvements they would like to see on the offered products. This helps build brand loyalty. Give your customers a reason to visit the community. Make good use of it. This is your platform to highlight customer success stories. It’s also a great way to get your customers to be your brand evangelist. Some collaboration platforms for your knowledge, product and brand communities that you might consider is Jive and Akiva
Empower your customers to be co-creators: Encourage your customers to contribute in white paper study to build their reputation. Encourage them to blog, share and tweet stories. This helps build individual authority and circles back to the primary goal of creating customer advocates.
Partner with your customers to build videos and webinars that illustrates how your customers' business have been impacted as a result of smart choices that she has made with your help. Gradually, as you build a network of rock star customers, you host local events and participate in trade shows to bring such advocates together with prospects and media people.
Developing a thriving customer community keeps your bottom line on target and makes your top marketing dollars accountable. At the end of the day, your goal as a marketer is to create new opportunities for your business. One, sure fire way to do so, is to sustain your focus on ROR factor as postulated by Ted Rubin (return on relationship) and echoed by Bill Lee. ROR is a robust virtuous cycle in which you, (the marketer) provide them (your customers) with superior value and they (your customers), in turn, enrich your company.
At the end of the day, you have taken control of your sanity. You have stayed true to your focus. Your life is enriched because you have helped another person flourish ... Atlast, you kick back and as you get to marvel at your own greatness, you come to "admit there is something glorious about being you."
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Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly. Franz Kafka