From Co-creation to Collaboration: 5 pillars for business success

In the last months, my colleague Tom De Ruyck and I did some research on structural collaboration between companies and customers. We’ve interviewed 17 C-Level executives working at 17 organizations, operating on a global scale. We wanted to get a clear view on the new evolution of structural collaboration in 2012 business live: in this article you can read our most important findings.

We all know that collaboration is not only possible with clients, but that it also can be done with employees. The focus on the research we discuss now, is on the collaboration between a company and a customer. Collaboration is one of the 4C’s I’ve introduced in my new book, The Conversation Company. This research is done, to fully understand this important dimension.

Co-creation, crowdsourcing and open innovation

Co-creation is hot. The last years, we’ve seen a lot of very inspiring and successful co-creation cases getting a lot of attention in the public sphere. Doritos allowed consumers to develop a commercial for the Super Bowl. Lay’s chips asked consumers for new flavors and snack manufacturer Mora produced a new croquet together with consumers. Co-creation has reached, at this point in time, the checklist of many marketers. And yes, it’s smart to experiment with this new way of working. But… we think and feel that it should go further than just campaigning, as is the case in the examples I’ve described above.

In a recent survey, we found that 3 percent of companies have experience with the developing of new products together with consumers. In most cases, this collaboration started as a pilot project. When the project is a great success, collaboration efforts are being intensified. We also saw, that only 8 percent of the companies that are actively co-creating is involving their clients into the launch of a new product. The focus on co-creation is in most cases the developing of new products. But even if consumers are involved in continuing co-creation processes, we can not say that there is a structural collaboration process taking place.

Structural collaboration is the type of collaboration in which customers are involved in ALL decision processes within a company. It’s the brainstorming about new products, it’s actively giving input about new consumer trends in the market, it’s the mapping of touchpoints and giving feedback on how to make them more conversation worthy, it’s the participation in a content strategy, it’s the co-creation of a new advertising campaign. And…. Structural collaboration can also be the involvement in price-setting. Not by you, but by your customers!

In a recent Harvard Business Review-article the author stated that all company questions can be better addressed by companies who have a willingness to collaborate with their customers (Scott Cook, ‘The contribution economy’, Harvard Business Review, 2008). And in a recent research done by the University of Wageningen in The Netherlands, it was proven that a product that says it’s been co-created on it’s outside packaging, is sold better than products that don’t say they’re co-created by consumers. Consumers have, in other words, more faith in the judgments of other consumers than in the judgments of companies.

From co-creation to collaboration in three steps

Structural collaboration with customers: it’s not a matter of technology. It’s the mentality shift that is needed within a company that is really important: allowing the consumer to have a real voice and a real say within the walls of a company. One of the goals is to add a real “consumer feeling” to your companies’ decision processes, and not just relying on your gut feeling(s).

If a company tries to take the step towards structural collaboration in one time, it might get to deal with a lot of barriers: change is going to fast for everyone in the company to keep up with. Our research found, that every company we interviewed started the structural collaboration on a small scale. Step by step, they’ve developed themselves and they learned, day in day out.

The three steps:

1. A try-out: Collaboration starts with a first “sensing” project. You have to check and investigate in what way(s) and to what extend consumers can be involved in your company’s decision processes. For a lot of companies, this is a test to get to know the added value a consumer can possibly have.

2. When the try-out is a success, project based collaboration is next. In this phase, the customer is involved in new and strategic projects. More and more a customer centric attitude is developing within the company: the involvement of customers gets internalized.

3. Structural collaboration is the final step. In this phase, the voice of the consumer is fully integrated in every decision a company is taking.

5 pillars for structural collaboration success

Based on the findings of our research, we’ve defined 5 pillars for successful collaboration with your customers.

1.Company fit & culture

On of the most frequently heard arguments NOT to start with collaboration, is the existing company culture. Managers are troubled by this, so the only way to get started with co-creation is to choose a try-out that fits with the existing company culture. Don’t change the company culture at first, but adapt it, is our advice. If you have a very cost-centric company culture, find a co-creation try out that will increase your efficiency.

If you are in a company in which new ideas always come from one genius brain, leave it that way, but involve your customers in the marketing campaign that is introducing one of the genius’ ideas. We think that there are plenty possibilities to involve your consumers in a way that is in lign with existing company culture, always. By choosing a try-out, you will be in action much sooner and results will be accepted much earlier and faster. In the future, culture will change with the increasing involvement of consumers in your companies’ decision processes.

2. Choose the right people

Not every customer can be of added value in a collaboration process. Choose people that have an intrinsic motivation to help. They have to be very dedicated to your company. But next to this dedication, relevant knowledge is also very important. It’s far more useful to work with people with sector-specific knowledge and experience, than with people that don’t know anything about your companies’ industry. It’s better to work with people who have experience with your products, who also spent money on your product. These people can be seen as employers who are not on the payroll…

3 The active involvement of C-Level people

It’s not sufficient that C-Level is only supporting collaboration projects. Support is too much without obligation…. You will need the active involvement of your organization’s management. Your goal with structural collaboration is, to let customers participate in your companies’ decision processes. When your companies’ C-Level is not actively involved and is not following what customers are saying about your company, chances are that they carry on taking decisions without taking account the voice of the consumer. At that moment, the collaboration process is killed: it has become just a fancy pr-tool for some parts of the company.

4. Break the boundaries between internal and external communication

A collaboration platform is in most cases an internal company project. Most companies don’t want to allow competition to join the party. But when collaboration sticks behind company walls, you will never reach maximum impact. There are two advantages in the external sharing of your collaboration efforts: the first is that it will increase credibility for your products and services. It will allow participating consumers to develop themselves towards external brand ambassadors: we see this as an activation effect. The second advantage is the image of the marketer. When a marketer can tell his colleagues, friend and competitors that the consumer is part of his decision process, he will be seen as an innovator by many: they all have seen the power of the consumer using social media in their daily lives….

5. Measure impact

Furthermore, it’s very important to measure the impact of the structural collaboration efforts. This will make future investments in this kind of projects far more easier. Here are some KPI’s to take into account:

– Success of innovation and feedback on services: By involving consumers you will decrease the amount of product launches that fail.

– Cost reductions: When the amount of failed product launches drops, costs will be reduced. And: you will also reduce costs for traditional market research. Small, more ad hoc market research projects can be stopped: the voice of the consumer is now everywhere in your company!

– Consumer-feeling: Measure the increase of consumer feeling among your employees and marketers. The more they listen to consumers, the better their consumer feeling will develop and the more the gap between company and consumer is closed.

– Brand perception: The overall brand perception of your company can change. When the market knows that consumers are actively involved in the way your company is developing, the perception of your company might change. Consumers will see your company more as a client-centric company, this will lead towards positive conversations about your brand on social media and it means a boost for your companies’ image.

Changing mentality and company processes

The research we did found, that the evolution towards structural collaboration is a very impactful one for a company. Companies that are taking steps towards structural collaboration, are very positive about this process But they all conclude: it starts with a mentality change, but it ends with the adaptation of your companies’ processes. When you truly want to structurally integrate your customer’s feedback into your company, you HAVE to adapt your processes to this new context. When you don’t adapt your companies’ processes, your co-creation and collaboration efforts will stay occasional campaigns: they never become structural.

We hope this article is giving you a good view on the main conclusions of this study. All details can be found and downloaded in the SlideShare paper you can find below:

From co-creation to collaboration

From Co-creation to Collaboration: 5 pillars for business success – Brian Solis.

Get Ready: 4 New Facebook Timeline Features!

Get Ready: 4 New Facebook Timeline Features! image
Recently, Facebook has been releasing its latest news and features for Facebook Pages in silence. Some of them are still in the testing process but at least you will discover what your brand should get ready for!

1. Switch Between Global And Local Pages

If you are a global brand managing loocal Facebook Pages across several countries, you will definitely appreciate what´s in store for you. You and your Fans will be able to switch between global and local Pages thanks to the „Switch Region“ option under the cover photo. Currently it´s being tested but you can check it out exclusively on the Facebook Marketing Page. The global Page and all its local Pages shouldshare the same number of Likes (Fans), only the People Talking About number should vary from Page to Page.

In the future, Fans should also get automatically navigated to their local Page according to their current location. These steps just demonstrate the importance of local Pages which have proven to be more engaging than global pages on Facebook. Become more audience-oriented while keeping the “big picture”!

2. Manage Your Page With Your iPhone

The Page Manager is an application that lets admins check on their Page activity, access insights and respond to their audience from an iPhone or iPad. After downloading the main Facebook app and installing the Page Manager on your mobile device, you will be able to post status updates and photos, respond to comments and access Page content and insights directly from your phone! The only thing that is really missing are the messages, but they should be available in the future.

The main advantage is that you will receive notifications about people interacting with your Page directly to your mobile device! From now on, you will have your Page under control at all times and you will be able to increase your Engagement Rate as well as your Response Rate!

The available insights on Page Manager include: Total Likes, People Talking About, Total Reach and a Trends chart.

3. Find Out Who Is Listening

Did you ever wonder what percentage of your Fan base has actually seen your post? Of course you have, which is why Facebook decided to introduce percentage links to posts on your brand pages. But that is not the only reason. Facebook wants to support the launch of its Promoted Posts straight from the Timeline and it believes that by providing admins with information on the percentage of reached Fans, it should be easier to convince them to promote their posts.

Facebook says that brand posts reach on average 16% of the Fan base and that the Reach Generator guarantees to reach an astonishing 75% in just one month!

This feature is probably available only to some members of the advertising programs at the moment.

4. Create a Timeline Video For Your Brand

In January this year, Facebook introduced its official Timeline Movie Makerapplication which could transform a personal profile into a short and impressive video worth sharing with friends. From now on, even Facebook Pages can share their brand´s history and values with their Fans via video! This new feature embraces the importance of visual communication for brands on Facebook which is why it can be used only if you have enough photos. Then all you have to do is to choose the music and special effects that will help you deliver your message to your Fans. The application automatically selects the photos but you can edit the video and remove the ones you don’t find suitable.

Will your video express your brand´s history or will you focus on emotions and values that define your brand?

[Source: SocialBakers]

The Changing World of Social Media

Social media is an ever changing thing in this world – social sites rise and social sites fall. Social sites are where people find out the latest news, gossip, and updates on our friends, family, bands, companies, and everyone else out there. It seems that social media is in everything we do these days. Since it is becoming such a big part of our lives, we should keep up with them and how they are shifting. This infographic presented by The SEO Company highlights the biggest changes in social media for 2012.

Let’s start with the current king of social networks that has millions of users: Facebook. In January 2012, Facebook integrated the timeline into their user profiles. In March, they launched Messenger for Windows that let Windows 7 users’message on face and receive posts without dealing with a browser. They bought Instagram – one of the biggest photo apps – for $1 billion. This is the most anyone has ever spent on an app. Then, Facebook opened their IPO at $38/share which was one of the most-hyped stock offerings in history. Later, it became the most disappointing social media investment that was produced in 2012. If you look at the numbers, there is no slow down for Facebook at this time.

Anonymous group was a big social entity in 2012. The Anonymous group is most famous for their attacks on SOPA supporters in January. This was their largest attack with over 5,635 participants. Many were identified by their IP address and later arrested. Anonymous has had many attacks for different causes and this has brought people’s attention to them as an Influential person. In fact, Times Magazine named them the most Influential person of today.

The Kony 2012 video was on YouTube which caught everyone by storm in March. It was one of the biggest overnight videos of this year. The video is about “invisible children”or children soldiers in Uganda. Many got mad at the video because Uganda was not currently at war. It does show you how powerful social media like YouTube is in today’s world. After the video was released, Kony 2012 discussions were on prime television after only being on YouTube for a couple of weeks. They recently released a follow-up video and received 500,000 views within a week.

Even the giant, Google, has thrown their hat into the social media ring of making their own social media site. In fact, President Obama used G+ Hangouts to perform the first all-virtual interview with U.S citizens. However, G+ has not been keeping up with the rest of them. For example, in April Google shut down their popular photo editing site: Picnik.

In January, Pinterest was named Best New Startup of 2011 and referred more business than Linkedin, YouTube, and Google+. Who would have thought a site that requires an invite could do better than ones that do not. Pinterest, if you haven’t heard, is basically a virtual pinboard. You can pin pictures to different boards you have created and keep all of your ideas and inspiration in one place. Pinterest is the newcomer of social media sites – a title that Facebook once held.

Social Media is more than a trend, it is a huge power in the world of 2012 and it keeps growing. It is hard to look at the future of social media and predict the next new trend that will take the world by storm. The future of social media can even be seen through the social apps banking. It continues to grow in the mobile world and the SoCoMo (Social Media Cloud) will be unstoppable. These future trends are coming down the line and will ultimately change how we do business.

[Source: The Changing World of Social Media [Infographic] – Page 2 – Technorati Social Media]

TOP 250 Internet Retailers On Social Media

top-250-internet-retailers-on-social-mediaQuella che vi proponiamo oggi è davvero un’interessante infografica che serve un pò a chiarirsi le idee su come i Retailers usano i Social Media per estendere ed allargare le loro attività di Marketing, ma soprattutto per accrescere l’engagement con il proprio pubblico. Campalystha indagato l’uso dei Social Media da parte dei250 Top Retailers negli Usa e ha raccolto i dati differenziandoli per i principali social network. Ne è venuto un quadro completo con numeri interessanti. Il 97% ha una fanpage su Facebookche è il social network più utilizzato dai Retailers, con una media di fans di 935,758. 43 di queste fanpage superano anche il milione di fans. I brand retailers più seguiti sono Victoria’s Secret, che ha superato da poco i 18 milioni e mezzo di fans, WalmartAdidas e Nike. Anche Twitter è usato, sebbene la differenza nelle dimensioni fans/followers sia evidente, ma nonostante questo il 96% dei Retailers lo usa.

I brand retailer più seguiti su Twitter appartengono per la maggior parte al settore Abbigliamento eaccessori, come Major League Baseball con 1,940,548 followers, seguito da Victoria’s Secret che dimostra anche qui di avere un gran seguito con 752,312 follower. MLB è il solo a superare un milione di followers, la maggioranza dei brand presenti, 186, ha una media tra i 1,000-100,000 followers.

Pinterest e Google+ hanno rapidamente guadagnato una buona considerazione da parte dei brand Retailers. Nonostante Google+ abbia lanciato le brand pages solo alla fine dell’anno scorso, c’è da registrare che il 67% dei 250 Top Retailers stanno usando il social network di Google. Anche Pinterest gode di una buona considerazione, con il 61% dei 250 Top Retailers che una brand page su Pinterest e di nuovi se ne aggiungono giorno per giorno. Ricordiamo che Pinterest al momento risulta essere uno dei fenomeni di questo 2012 denso di sorprese e che da poco ha ricevuto un sostanzioso round di finanziamenti da parte di Rakuten, gigante giapponese di e-commerce, che ha portato il valore complessivo a oltre 1 miliardo di dollari.

Non dimenticate di dare un’occhiata al Ranking completo cliccando QUI.

[Source: TOP 250 Internet Retailers On Social Media – and Come i Retailers utilizzano i Social Media]

Gli utenti Facebook sono anche su altri Social Network: ecco perché e come coinvolgerli

Un report di ComScore pubblicato pochi giorni fa lascia intuire una tendenza interessante: gli utenti di Facebook sono sempre più interessati anche ad altri social network. La chiave per leggere questo cambiamento è la complementarietà dei canali: Google Plus, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Twitter e Pinterest non sono considerati competitor del social network più diffuso al mondo, ma vengono utilizzati in abbinamento ad esso, sempre di più.

Per quasi tutti questi canali è facile intuire come non si tratti di una sovrapposizione, quanto piuttosto di un’integrazione, un completamento: se il canale è specifico e specializzato su un tema o un tipo di interazione è facile che conviva efficacemente con Facebook.

Non si tratta di una “perdita di terreno” da parte di Facebook, ma piuttosto di un cambiamento graduale nell’utenza che abbina un approccio “di nicchia” a un approccio mainstream ai social media.

L’opportunità per Facebook e per i brand attivi su questo canale è molto importante: il social network fondato da Zuckerberg ha i numeri per divenire l’hub centrale per la conversazione, il punto di riferimento nello sviluppo di una relazione. I canali più specialistici, come Pinterest, hanno un valore molto rilevante soprattutto quando sono legati a un’esigenza specifica di nicchia. Quando una marca vuole rivolgersi a un gruppo di utenti che predilige un tipo di interazione specifica o che utilizza un canale specifico in modo preferenziale, è utile che sfrutti lo stesso canale per interagire con le persone.

Facebook sta integrando nella Timeline degli utenti in modo sempre più forte le azioni che nascono su canali esterni (come Instagram, Twitter o Pinterest), favorendo così la diffusione di altri canali e permettendo di rivolgersi a un target decisamente trasversale attraverso i milioni di nicchie che lo compongono.

Nessuno dei canali che crescono anche grazie a Facebook è sostitutivo per il social network più grande del mondo: ognuno ha una serie di caratteristiche peculiari che lo rendono unico e importante per un utilizzo specifico. Anche Google Plus, che ha alcuni elementi in sovrapposizione con Facebook, presenta dei punti di differenziazioni rilevanti, come ad esempio gli “Hangout”: asset che Google potrà sfruttare per fare parte dell’ecosistema social degli utenti.

Gli utenti Facebook sono sempre più attivi anche su altri canali social, ma le loro esperienze vengono integrate all’interno del social network che si è appena quotato in borsa, rendendolo un hub di conversazione molto importante.

Per i brand è importantissimo esplorare vie parallele a Facebook, tenendo però sempre in considerazione l’enorme valore di coordinamento e di connessione reso possibile dal social network più frequentato al mondo e sviluppando la propria strategia di canale come un vero e proprio ecosistema, piuttosto che come una serie di canali che procedono in autonomia.

[Source: Gli utenti Facebook sono anche su altri social network: ecco perché e come coinvolgerli | we are social]

Three Myths about What Social Customers Want

Most marketers think that the best way to hold onto customers is through “engagement” — interacting as much as possible with them and building relationships. It turns out that that’s rarely true. In a study involving more than 7000 consumers, we found that companies often have dangerously wrong ideas about how best to engage with customers. Consider these three myths.

Myth #1: Most consumers want to have relationships with your brand.

Actually, they don’t. Only 23% of the consumers in our study said they have a relationship with a brand. In the typical consumer’s view of the world, relationships are reserved for friends, family and colleagues. That’s why, when you ask the 77% of consumers who don’t have relationships with brands to explain why, you get comments like “It’s just a brand, not a member of my family.” (What consumers really want when they interact with brands online is to get discounts).

How should you market differently?

First, understand which of your consumers are in the 23% and which are in the 77%. Who wants a relationship and who doesn’t? Then, apply different expectations to those two groups and market differently to them. Stop bombarding consumers who don’t want a relationship with your attempts to build one through endless emails or complex loyalty programs. Those efforts will be low ROI. Chances are there are higher returns to be had elsewhere in your marketing mix.

Myth #2: Interactions build relationships.

No, they don’t. Shared values build relationships. A shared value is a belief that both the brand and consumer have about a brand’s higher purpose or broad philosophy. For example, Pedigree Dog Food’s shared value is a belief that every dog deserves a loving home. Southwest Airlines’ shared value revolves around the democratization of air travel.

Of the consumers in our study who said they have a brand relationship, 64% cited shared values as the primary reason. That’s far and away the largest driver. Meanwhile, only 13% cited frequent interactions with the brand as a reason for having a relationship.

How should you market differently?

Many brands have a demonstrable higher purpose baked into their missions, whether it’s Patagonia’s commitment to the environment or Harley Davidson’s goal “to fulfill dreams through the experience of motorcycling.” These feel authentic to consumers, and so provide a credible basis for shared values and relationship-building. To build relationships, start by clearly communicating your brand’s philosophy or higher purpose.

CEB has done extensive work on shared values, showcasing how brands like Mini, Pedigree and Southwest use them to engage with customers.

Myth #3: The more interaction the better.

Wrong. There’s no correlation between interactions with a customer and the likelihood that he or she will be “sticky” (go through with an intended purchase, purchase again, and recommend). Yet, most marketers behave as if there is a continuous linear relationship between the number of interactions and share of wallet. That’s why, as the Wall Street Journal recently reported, you see well-established retailers like Neiman-Marcus, Land’s End and Toys R Us sending customers over 300 emails annually.

In reality, that linear relationship flattens much more quickly than most marketers think; soon, helpful interactions become an overwhelming torrent. Without realizing it, many marketers are only adding to the information bombardment consumers feel as they shop a category, reducing stickiness rather than enhancing it. (For more on consumers’ cognitive overload, see the sidebar “Too Much Information” in a recent HBR article.

How should you market differently?

Instead of relentlessly demanding more consumer attention, treat the attention you do win as precious. Then ask yourself a simple question of any new marketing efforts: is this campaign/email/microsite/print ad/etc. going to reduce the cognitive overload consumers feel as they shop my category? If the answer is “no” or “not sure,” go back to the drawing board. When it comes to interacting with your customers, more isn’t better.

[Source: Three Myths about What Customers Want – Karen Freeman, Patrick Spenner and Anna Bird – Harvard Business Review]

Apple by the Numbers

Keeping up with Apple‘s growth is like sneezing with your eyes open — it’s nearly impossible. That’s why every so often we like to bring you an update of the latest Apple news, numbers and trends.

The infographic below was designed by Sortable. It shares the latest Apple profits, revenues and cash-in-hand, along with the company’s reach — 30% of smartphone users in the U.S. have an iPhone.

Along with an impressive iPad market share (62%) and an astounding number of employees (over 30,000), don’t forget one of Apple’s most valuable properties — the App Store. You’ll currently find 600,000 apps and counting in the store, and 895 new apps are added every day.

Are you one among the millions of Apple customers? Can Apple go anywhere but up?

Apple by the Numbers

[Source: Apple by the Numbers [INFOGRAPHIC]]