Layers of corporate hierarchy and technology sit between most brands and their customers. These layers make it difficult for brands to understand what customers think and for customers to have a voice in the future of the brand. The more layers you can remove, the stronger your brand will be.
Alida Principal Director Paul Hagen recently sat down with Forrester Senior Analyst Rich Saunders to discuss how insight communities eliminate those layers to forge stronger customer relationships and deliver measurable ROI.
In this blog, you’ll learn why having a customer insight community is like an insurance policy that de-risks your investment decisions. You’ll come away with recommendations on setting business goals for a community, recruiting community participants, and analyzing community feedback to influence strategic decisions.
The power of two-way conversations
Many brands set up listening posts on social media, monitor intent signals, and survey customers about their experiences. However, Saunders says that passive techniques like these don’t strengthen the relationships between consumers and brands because they don’t have the additive benefits of two-way conversations. Plus, they look backwards at past experiences, rather than ahead, so they’re always providing data that’s a step behind.
“As a brand, you want to be a participant in the conversations your customers are having about you,” explains Saunders. “it’s important that you have some control over the narrative to create a closer connection with customers.” To build those ties, he recommends that brands diversify their toolbox for Voice of Customer and Customer Experience programs by incorporating customer insight communities.
These private, digital communities are “re-creating the marketplace of old” he says, in which people get to know each other and share ideas. They offer much more than a look back at the past. Insight communities help brands shape their future by co-creating products and designing new experiences. Within an insight community, brands can present new concepts, get meaningful feedback, and make sure they’re aligned with customers. Instead of being reactive, both brands and consumers can be proactive creators of a joint vision for the future.
Based on his work with Forrester clients, Saunders discussed the five keys for success every organization should know when crafting a community strategy.
1. Determine what success looks like
Saunders says a common mistake many organizations make is to launch a community without thinking about how it’s going to improve the performance of the business. “You need a definitive answer to the question, ‘what are the business benefits going to be?’ even if it's just hypothetical to start with,” he says. Once you have built a business case for your community, articulate your goals in strategic conversations with stakeholders so everyone is aligned.
Specifically, Saunders sees many brands leveraging communities for product innovation, including ideation and user testing. They measure ROI in terms of top-line growth and bottom-line savings:
- Top line: New products, interfaces, and experiences increase usage and sales
- Bottom line: Reducing time, errors, and rework saves development costs
2. Choose the right people to manage your community
Your community is an extension of your brand. You’ll want the people who manage the community to be powerful ambassadors, so that participants enjoy their experience and want to keep coming back. These folks should understand research and analysis techniques so they can deliver insights that help their business partners make confident decisions.
3. Engage customers in your target segments
Saunders advises starting your community with your highest affinity customers. These are the ones who are most likely to care about your brand and want to see it do well. “I'm always fascinated by how many customers will actually participate not because of incentives, but because they're interested in having an impact on their own experience,” he says.
“Invite your most engaged customers first via all your outbound marketing communication tools,” he recommends. Alida customers, for example, recruit in many ways, such as email, social media, in-person events, loyalty programs, QR codes on receipts, and website intercepts.
4. Have ongoing conversations with customers
Because consumers participate in insight communities on an ongoing basis, brands can track changing preferences and dig deeper with specific customer segments. For example, says Saunders, “If you work with your customers to help design a new mobile application, you can also work with the same customers to ask them how they feel about the app after you make updates.” In this way, you’ll always be adding new information to your customer profiles, and you’ll be able to focus deeply on specific projects and customer profiles of great importance.
5. Deliver rapid results
As the pace of business continues to increase, Saunders emphasizes the importance of fast results. He believes machine learning, Artificial Intelligence, and other rapid analysis techniques are key to a successful community program. “There are clear benefits to utilizing Natural Language Processing to process the text of conversations taking place in your community. Generating sentiment signals and data from unstructured data can provide you with the insights to make better business decisions.”
Listen in for more advice
To hear more examples of successful insight community programs and recommendations to build your own, listen to the recent webinar with guest speaker, Forrester Senior Analyst Rich Saunders, Connecting Customer Experience to Business Value.