One interesting example she gave was about the launch of the Wii. They wanted to launch a games console that appealed to an expanded market and to sell the benefits of gaming. One critical barrier they saw was the difficulty of persuading parents of children (specifically mums) that this was a new games console that kids should enjoy using. They turned this barrier into an opportunity and launched the alpha mums programme. Finding the most active mums online and seeding them with the product. These mums were encouraged to host parties where other mums could try the Wii. The result was incredible and shows the power of harnessing customer dynamics. One alpha mum alone sold 200 consoles to her email contacts.
For Mary Beth, your new high value customers are not those who spend the most with you over their lifetime. It’s more complex. The highest value comes from your Ambassadors – those who spend a relatively large amount personally and also have a lot of social value – they have a lot of contacts and have influence over these people. Finding exactly who these people are can be complex although really it just relies on finding out where they socialise (online or offline) and how many people they are in contact with there. This gives you their reach. You can then calculate how valuable their recommendations are likely to be and that gives you a crude measure of social value. Perhaps a developing but more useful measure for marketeers.
Thanks to Outside Innovation for pointing me in the direction of a report by Matthew Lees, How Should you Manage Customer Communities? (see here)
As Lees points out, designing, deploying and then managing a customer community is a nascent science. It’s a new but burgeoning area of expertise in customer engagement and is seeing influences from marketing, consulting and market research. The people you have desiging and running a community are critical, and it’s not a role just anybody can do. They need to be good community managers and also have an ability to interact with and input to the core of the brand.
A good community manager acts as the glue between a customer community and the brand and makes sure that every party gets the most they possibly can out of the experience. It’s a tough role and one worth investing in.
There’s a great summary of strategies for successful online communities on Jeremiah’s blog: here. It’s a summary of a report he wrote for Forrester and a good introduction to online community strategies. I’d recommend the rest of Jeremiah’s blog too – he’s a thought leader in web strategy and customer engagement online. And a good read.
For ease I’m including his slides below, but do check out his blog. I’ll post some more about our views on this at FreshNetworks another time.