National borders and geographic regions.
This is one of its great strengths:
customers can shop the world over
without leaving the privacy of their
homes, and e-marketers can reach
millions of people with a single website
or e-mail campaign.
But its very vastness can also be disconcerting,
and the myriad choices available may impact customer
Even in a global environment, people still long for
a small-community feeling; one of the reasons social
networking sites have been so successful. They humanize
the Web, making participants feel as if they
are part of something special.
Enter customer-centric communities; a strategy
that takes branding and website usage one step past
the traditional notion of Web 2.0. With customercentric
communities, any company can use branded
tools to offer a community experience that turns
prospects into customers, customers into loyal customers,
and loyal customers into evangelists. How?
By taking the familiar look and feel of social network
sites, wrapping them in one’s brand, and providing
the intimacy of a small, local group that can reach
across the world.
The advantages of a branded community (versus
branding on a site like Facebook) include full control
of the look and feel of the community, full control
over advertising and revenue, ownership of data
for acquisition purposes, full control of features,
and robust metrics and measurement.
An e-commerce site that offers high-end gift
products, for example, might offer a customer-centric
community that contains wish lists, discussion
forums on gift-giving, or message boards enabling
communication directly with the company about
future product lines and services offered – and all
with invite-a-friend capability that ensures viral
growth of the community.
To build this community, the steps are not much
different from other business objectives. Choose
goals, identify elements that will add value to the
community for users, assign someone responsible
for managing the community, lay out a content strategy, integrate the community
into the company’s business,
and then launch, measure, adjust,
Custom communities provide
the customer with what
the Internet does not: intimate
surroundings and the ability
to be part of a community that
shares one’s interests and cares
about one’s opinions. At the
same time, they provide marketers
with an opportunity to
capture customers’ preferences,
keep customers’ attention
focused on the brand, and an
opportunity to engage in constant
dialogue with customers
and prospects. These communities
are focused, engaged,
and loyal — both to other
community members and to
the sponsoring company.
When using the Internet
for business, we must think
globally. But we also have the
option of retaining the feel
of local markets where our
names and faces are known
and trusted, where customer
preferences and opinions are
sought and valued, and where
we share a sense of community
with those around us.
Discover popular resources like Ning, KickApps and SmallWorldLabs that help you build customer-centric communities.
About the Author: Neil Rosen is the founder/CEO
of www.ewaydirect.com. He
is responsible for setting the
company’s strategic direction
and for the development of new
products. This is the third new
venture he has founded and
guided to success.