The most important stakeholder in ANY business is the customer. Not you, not investors, shareholders or your employees, it’s always your customer. For once I’m going to stand my ground and say that this is a fact that isn’t open to debate. Ok your employees are vital to any business, and I suppose you could say that people are the most important aspect of a business, but let’s get off the fence here and give priority to the very people who keep your business afloat.
The customer is of course the end-user of the products and services created by a business, but they should be involved before you create your products/services. Why are my sales dropping? Why are my customers buying from my competitors? Perhaps because you haven’t used your ears. The value of including the consumer when creating your products/services shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s not simply a case of evaluating consumer demand and understanding how much they’ll pay for your business ideas, but establishing the value of co-creation and co-innovation.
Psychologist Carl Jung created the idea that individuals have distinct psychological types integrating the opposites, including the conscious with the unconscious, while still maintaining their relative autonomy. Jung’s theories were later developed by Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers which is known today as the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI). According to MBTI, humans develop a particular method of thinking based on one’s individual personality type. In a 2008 white paper written by Michael Jennings and Julie Wittes Schlack of Communispace, their research highlighted the inherent benefits of understanding the personality traits of people in online communities. The value of their research showed that co-creation and co-innovation is possible by engaging with customer communities when a business is launching new products/services.
Individual personality traits will inevitably vary with the people involved in online customer communities, and Communispace communities consist of a high percentage of people who can be considered visionaries, creative thinkers, collaborators, and problem solvers, exactly what a business needs when developing new products/services. Smaller businesses and sole traders may not have the budget to employ the services of experts like Communispace, which is more commonly used by the big brands. So let’s apply this to modern marketing and social media.
LinkedIn and Facebook groups created by businesses often include friends and family members. Unless friends and family members consist of your actual target market, then don’t bother including them in the process of new product/service development as their opinions are often driven by personal links to you. Attempt to create an online community/group of people who will actually be the end-users of your products and people who will provide unbiased opinions on your ideas. Be open to constructive criticism and allow the community to take charge and let their ideas flow and grow.
Twitter is another social media channel which you could use to gain the opinions of customers, prospects and industry peers, although be careful not to include your closest rivals who may steal your new ideas! Forums on your company website or websites related to your industry could also be used as an online community to generate ideas and solutions to your business problems or new product/service development. You don’t know what your customer want until you take the time to engage with them, and online customer communities are an ideal way to gather innovative and creative ideas from consumers. If you want to know what your customers want – Ask them.