Why every business needs to have a customer community online

I thought that my last blog post of the year should be an easy read about a straight forward subject. It shouldn’t be too hard to convey the value of a customer online community to marketers in small and large organisations! It is a no-brainer when you think of all the possibilities that open up for companies (and their brands) that own online communities…. right? Wrong! Well, for one, the market research spend on private online communities for insights and co-creation does not support my optimism; which is a curiosity if you ask me. It is definitely a lost opportunity for everyone concerned:

  1. For the brands because they do not get to engage with customers as they could have.
  2. For the community members because they do not get the chance to connect with like- minded people and impact the world around them. (see Fig.1)
  3. For the respondent recruitment agencies because they miss out on discovering a new revenue stream…and believe me they need it.
  4. For the full service market research agencies that do not get the opportunity to re-invent themselves and move from consumer panels and ad-hoc research to a continuous feed of better quality data with a higher potential to turn to insights.
  5. And finally, for the tech companies that develop platforms for customer communities online who may lose their patience and move to greener pastures.
 

Figure 1: Intrinsic motivation to join a community online.
Intrinsic motivation to join a community online

I realise that I have outlined 5 points that may be mistaken for the 5 reasons to build a community online; allow me to clarify: this is merely what I will coin a “symmetrical warm-up”. It is a mirror 5-bullet list that paves the way for the punch line(s) of this post.

Who doesn’t want to have customer insights on tap? Every marketer and of course every insights manager or market research manager would give their right arm to know what could make one of their video clips go viral, or which website configuration can increase customer conversion by 5%, or how to find a new sales lead generation channel or a way to increase new product awareness by 10 percentage points; the list is endless.  

Let’s cut to the chase! The 5 reasons to build and plug in a customer community online to support ALL your marketing activities are:

plug in a customer community online1. The people who are supposed to buy your products or services and be positively impacted by your communications can help you to create them.

2. The people who helped you create the digital content (communications) will be proud to share it with their friends and network – this is in so many ways better than you paying for advertisements.

3. Agile and continuous research is better than doing it ad-hoc at specific points in time for major issues only, as opposed to any question you may have at any time.

4. You can use multiple ways/tools to engage with the community members to cover the same marketing objectives, thus having multiple data points in order to connect the dots and discover something otherwise unattainable.

5. Should social listening and analytics be your primary source of insights (as it should, according to global insights directors of well-known blue-chip multinationals) a community online will provide the platform to probe on issues that need further clarification.

As always with these lists of tips or reasons to do something or not to do something, there is more that I could share, but 5 sounds concise and compact enough – for marketing purposes, you know. If you do need more reasons or have any questions on the above reach out to me on Twitter and I will oblige.

Reason number 5 is the one that I like the most because it is a concept that can create a virtuous circle. Every time a business is blessed with one of those, their telephones ring off-the-hook. More specifically, every time we go around a listen-probe-listen-probe circle, unique customer insights are bound to appear in front of our eyes, almost like small epiphanies! Share your story if you have experienced something similar or simply share your view even if you do not agree. A healthy debate always leads to better performance.

 




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