Monday, February 14, 2011

Scaling Passive and Active Customer-Centric Innovation

Those familiar with my approach to 'social media' will know I think the marcomms element is a happy outcome rather than a primary objective.

The marcomms-first approach - best characterised by the phrase 'using the channel of social media' puts the cart very much before the horse, in my view.
You get efficient, contagious and joined-in with marcomms as an outcome of the really juicy value creation bit of our digitally enabled socially connected lives.
But the juicy bit is better-fitting innovations. (Image courtesy RachelVoorhees)

If you involve the people for whom the product or service is intended you get a product or service which is a better fit with their needs. And that's customer-centric innovation.
The outcome is better for the customer and since better fit equals more sales that means better for the producer (assuming you can maintain margins, of course).

Working with small groups of customers to co-create is not new. Scaling that is.

For example just three or so years ago no one would have written a blogpost to tell the world they were having a cup of tea. Too much effort to go to.
Now, with tumbling technical barriers to entry for anyone to publish their thoughts (no matter how 'trivial' when viewed by traditional criteria) 135k conversations about tea are published in a single month in the UK alone.

All those tweets and Facebook status updates, (forums and blogposts too) reveal how people are using a product, why, where and when, and what they do and don't like about it. And how they'd make it better - if only you gave them a chance.

Gathering what they have to say, analysing it and sharing the resulting data and strategic insight with the right part of any organisation (for action) can be described as Passive Customer Centric Innovation.
You ask no questions. You require nothing more of your customers and potential customers. But from their open publication to their peers and the world, they provide you a low-cost fast track to innovation to mutual advantage.

The second, Active Customer Centric Innovation, takes the same gathered data, identifies (through nodal network analysis) the most appropriate members of communities and invites them into a process of co-creation with key stakeholders. This requires their active engagement; and rewards for their skills and knowledge.

In both cases the key outcome is a better product - one your customers like more.
The marcomms benefits are a happy bonus - and all the better for being derived this way.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone so I may have to tidy it up later ;-)
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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Of silos and serendipity

Silos are no friend to serendipity.
They make excellent recommendation engines - peer to peer in the likes of Facebook and twitter.
But in order to be discoverable within those silos someone within the silo must make the discovery outside of it, 'like' it (Facebook) or share the link (Twitter etc).
Then, if the thing is relevant and useful, peer-to-peer distribution through networks of trust does the rest.
And that delivers us a filter based on those we follow and friend. Which is excellent. The best combined crap detector and relevancy generator I've ever known.
With a little wisdom, we choose to add a sprinkling of folk with whom we may not agree, whose interests do not match our own. This is us acknowledging the value of serendipity. A sprinkling of it.
Twitter is relatively well placed for this. Facebook, because it's more closed and far from easy to connect with those you don't have huge amounts in common with, is not. Its resolution of the serendipity issue is to provide a search of the web alongside its internal search (powered by Bing - shareholder Microsoft's search engine).
The fact it is there at all acknowledges a simple truth - one that is true of all silos, no matter how adhoc or fuzzy edged (yes, Twitter too): Not everything you need to know is available here. Not every connection awaits you here.
The future is without silos. And that cannot be reached if we entrench within silos and wait to be fed.
Do your bit. Go discover something beyond. Add to the network.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone so I may have to tidy it up later ;-)

Monday, February 07, 2011

AOL isn't future-proofing with HuffPo and TechCrunch - it's standing still

First TechCrunch, now the Huffington Post. How hip, radical, transformational even, AOL suddenly appears. (ah hem...)

It's almost as if AOL is seeking to reinvent itself as a successful web-based media company through acquisition.

Companies acquire for two key reasons - a short cut to growth or a short cut to skills that equate to competitive advantage.

AOL badly needs the latter. And if it's able to retain the services of the likes of Huffington and Arrington (any other web entrepreneurs ending in 'ington' you can think of?) then it gets to learn.

It gets to learn how to exploit the low cost distribution model of the web. But essentially both TechCrunch and HuffPo are large scale broadcasters powered by very traditional ad models. So that's what AOL gets to learn: How to maximise old models.

These are not the best-fit with the network (rather than broadcast) nature of the web but I have no doubt they will continue to be successful in traditional terms (ie with traditional advertisers) for the short term. (image courtesy)

But make no mistake; this is not AOL preparing for the future, it's simply getting by in the present.
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The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?