As customers are coming forward to contribute their expertise, time, and resources in marketing exchanges in blogs, social media, and many interactive forums, we are witnessing the emergence of collaborative marketing. Collaborative marketing is now becoming the process of working together with customers to create value in marketing exchanges.
Some of the top companies that have used relationship marketing are required to think first about how to relate to their customers. In contrast, with the active customer, collaborative marketing requires companies to think about collaborating with customers, making sure they have an integral part in the company’s marketing activities. In collaborative marketing, the strategy network becomes the enabler of collaborative exchanges and goes way beyond relationship exchanges because companies involve mutual dependence and maximization of shared benefits to their customers.
Collaborative innovation and marketing allow companies to tap into the customers’ expertise by integrating customers with the company’s new product and service development process. They have taken forum marketing to the next level on the Internet. For example, if a company wants to launch a new product, they can have their potential customers register online and sample the new ideas or products. Communities may be created online to discuss the new initiative or product and give honest feedback. This allows the potential customer to be more open and honest with the feedback and not be in a room face-to-face in an environment where a focus group is established and participants often feel the pressure of not saying the right thing for the research answers.
The Collaborative Process
Collaborative communication now becomes a just-in-time marketing through communication that is relevant to your customer. Relative messaging now turns conventional advertising from a just-in-case marketing communication that is created from traditional advertising to a just-in-time communication initiated by the customers, and is truly relevant to the context.
Collaborative support from potential and existing customers allows companies to reduce costs while increasing overall satisfaction. This is done by allowing customers to have dialogue with the company to help solve problems. A great example is Cisco’s online community that allows their customers to get answers to support questions from peers and experts. By allowing customers to take part in the support operation, Cisco is able to decrease customer support costs, while increasing overall customer satisfaction. The community first started out as a customer support initiative and became a valuable resource for new product ideas and competitive intelligence.
While smaller businesses may not have the support staff for something as elaborate as Cisco, they can still utilize an online community to help with new product launches. They also can do this while getting the feedback needed from potential customers to help make relevant decisions about moving forward with a new campaign or product and save money. It also helps all businesses to stop and listen to the customers’ feedback to increase customer satisfaction.
To enable this collaborative process, companies need to build technology platforms that allow the customer to connect to their business processes. Collaboration will not succeed unless both the customer and the company in the collaborative exchange have the appropriate incentives. A key challenge is to determine how to engage the potential customer to want to take the time and effort to provide the pertinent feedback in your online community area. Marketing is taken to the next level when companies understand that the Internet is an excellent channel for marketing to customers. This is true only if the power lies with customers – by making the customer an integral part of the company’s marketing activities and seeing that their feedback is valuable to the organization. Harnessing the power of collaborative marketing is only as good as seeing the customer as a virtual extension of your company’s overall marketing strategy.
While there are many benefits to be gained through collaborative marketing, there are also challenges that you should be aware of such as lack of a common mission, lack of commitment, costs of group decision-making, and barriers for entering and existing in this collaborative marketing effort. A common mission meets common objectives in this new online community. In order to enjoy the rewards of working together, there needs to be a new shift in the way of thinking and acting.
The shift in thinking goes from independent to interdependent thinking, and is one of the most difficult challenges for a business when organizing a collaborative marketing effort. While each of us has an independent mind, we need to adapt to a logical or natural connections association between two or more things associated with interdependent thinking, for example: seek first to understand, then to be understood; synergize and think win-win for connection, correlation, interconnection, and interrelationships.)
Are you ready for this paradigm shift? The answer to this question must be well thought out and carefully planned before you begin this new collaborative endeavor. If done correctly and utilized properly, this could grow your business exponentially.
About DJ Heckes, Author of Full BRAIN Marketing and Owner of EXHIB-IT! Tradeshow Marketing Experts
DJ Heckes is CEO of EXHIB-IT! Tradeshow Marketing Experts and Full BRAIN Marketing . She focuses on educating and training companies to significantly improve their Small Business Marketing strategies. DJ Heckes also presents customized training programs for Business Marketing, Social Media, Leadership and Trade Show Marketing. Learn more at www.EXHIB-IT.com and www.fullBRAINMarketing.com. Be sure to follow us!
DJ Heckes, CEO & Author
EXHIB-IT! Tradeshow Marketing Experts
Full BRAIN Marketing