Come on, ‘fess up -Ã‚Â you have just a little bit of a salesperson living inside of you. On those occasions that you get in front of a customer, you can hardly help yourself from launching into a “sales mode” and trying to convince the customer that they need your product. Now that the Web 2.0 has arrived, you can start to do this 24×7 right? Wrong.
Ranjay Gulati, James Oldroyd, and Phanish Puranam are three researchers who have been studying this problem and they’ve made some interesting discoveries. It turns out that your customers who are using Web 2.0 tools don’t WANT you to hit them over the head with the sales club. Go figure.
These here online communities are a delicate thing. There is nothing MAKING your customers participate. Instead, you need to make them WANT to participate. One of the quickest ways to drive them away is once they’ve joined to go ahead and open up on them with your sales cannon.
What your customers are expecting you to do are two things: listen and communicate. This is something that a leading consumer-electronics company found out. They set up an online community that quickly grew to have 50,000 members. They were very careful to not do anything about marketing because they realized that that the community was not about selling, but rather it was about conversing.
Waste of time you say? This company’s community members were able to quickly identify what they were looking for but not finding in the company’s products. They then went one step further (listen closely product managers) and made product suggestions that would meet their needs.
The company implemented these suggestions and got a great response. Their community members were so excited about the updated products that they were asking where and when they could buy them and if they could have the first opportunity to buy them. Man, don’t we all wish that our customers were as excited about our products?
Has your company built an on-line community? Do you do any sales or marketing to this community? If you do, how has it been received – did your membership go up or down? If you don’t, do you have any difficulties justifying it internally? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.