Monday, September 29, 2008

Let your customers be involved

Businesses should do more than talk about incorporating customers into marketing efforts

Although businesses might not be able to go to the same level, the newly released movie Fireproof offers a lesson in customer involvement. The movie, which came in 4th place and earned $6.5 million for its debut weekend, asked for and got a level of participation from its constituencies during product development (shooting the movie) unimaginable to most businesspeople. For example, volunteers built the sets and it is reported that most of the people that made the movie also volunteered.

Why do it?
Allowing customer involvement is one way to increase customer loyalty. Such participation improves customer "buy in". They have a voice. They have a stake in the effort. They want you to succeed.

Easy to dismiss
Businesspeople should not dismiss this lesson too quickly due to an "our customers will not participate with us!" attitude. Granted, Fireproof is an example of extreme customer participation. However, too many businesses do not try hard enough to allow their customers to become involved with them.

Customer participation comes in many forms. A few examples of customer involvement across various industries include:
  • Airlines providing programs to let participants in their frequent flier programs donate airline miles to charities such as the American Red Cross.

  • T-shirt makers allowing customers to vote on which images (which were designed by volunteers) on shirts to sell.

  • Businesses aggressively soliciting and acting upon customer feedback regarding their products and services.

  • Providing online communities that allow customers to interact with each other and the firm.

  • A soda maker featuring pictures taken by customers on the labels on pop bottles.

The questions to ask include...
.....1. How could we be helped by customer involvement?
.....2. How can customer involvement be facilitated?
.....3. How soon can we get it going?

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