PROPOSITION 2: NEW WAYS TO INFLUENCE THE CUSTOMER

There is plenty of room for information sharing, collaborative influence, and competitive intelligence to fuel marketers’ information needs. For example, YouTube is being used extensively for the public sharing of ideas, case studies, and testimonials. Many of these commercials are fairly long. For example, a popular Corning 5:32 minute long commercial has been viewed by over 23 million viewers on YouTube and has received over 17 thousand comments.3 As the use of public sources becomes widespread, they are also turning out to be a great data mine for competitive intelligence. LinkedIn is providing a great opportunity for professionals to connect with each other. Before any meeting with customers, sales persons are often checking LinkedIn profiles of people they will be meeting. LinkedIn also provides special groups, such as “CMO Network”, which facilitate group discussions among LinkedIn members on common interest topics among group members.

In the software industry, user groups have provided valuable feedback to the software marketers covering how the products are being used, as well as feedback on future directions. Often, a small number of influential users are invited to in-depth product direction discussions, in the form of “user council” or “user board”. These concepts are creating non-electronic versions of exclusive clubs, where marketing ideas are shared with a selected few. The social media sites are beginning to capture this idea in the form of “velvet rope,” derived from exclusive membership only gambling or dance clubs.4 In a typical implementation, a corporate marketer uses a shared collaboration area where membership is by invitation-only. The invited members can invite others to join, thereby creating a buzz for an idea. The site provides certain privileges not available elsewhere. The membership restriction creates an exclusivity and a demand to be included. The extra privileges provide the extra value to those who join this exclusive club. The collaboration can be used for discovering new product uses, new product ideas, or for prioritizing product features and additions. The biggest value to the participants is that their use cases form the basis for new product ideas and features, thereby reducing their cost for implementing the product in their organization.

Collaboration jam is a similar concept where collaboration is facilitated in a time-boxed manner to facilitate idea sharing across customers. In chapter 4, I covered some of the examples of collaboration jam and how these jams can be used for generating ideas. The collaboration jam facilitates a number of prospective customers to come together. Collaboration jams can be used for generating ideas from one customer for a solution that can be implemented across a market. Take the example of the Covjam, a collaboration jam organized by IBM and the city of Coventry. The three day 24 hour interactive forum was named CovJam and generated over 2,000 posts from participants contributing their ideas and opinions. Participants debated ways Coventry could attract inward investment, sustain employment in the local area, personal security and how quality of life could be improved for all the city’s inhabitants.5 The jam benefited the city in generating new ideas, but also helped create the vision for a “smarter city”, which can be used by other UK cities. “Jam technology is a proven technique for drawing on the wisdom of crowds, and capturing their enthusiasm and ideas in a way that wouldn’t be possible through traditional forms of consultation said Fraser Davidson, IBM UK Vice President for Local Government. “We’re working to help cities not only realise their sustainability ambitions but also to enable them to improve the lives of people in UK cities.”6

 
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