Should you be building a customer ecosystem?
When you try and collaborate in the offline world you run into limitations caused by the size and breadth of your personal network. Hunting down the person or people with the expertise you need can take an incredibly long time. You also run into the dilemma of only knowing who you know. The vast array of expertise outside of your network is often in your knowledge blind spot.
Internal social networks can go some way to improving this situation because they allow you to operate not based upon strong connections but upon weak ties. You don’t need to know everyone in your organisation well to be able to tap into their knowledge. A simple query posted on a discussion forum can often elicit a response within minutes from an expert in that field. A major problem with this approach however is that corporate social networks are, by their very nature, limited to those working in the company. It’s probable that the range of knowledge available is limited as companies tend to recruit to support their strengths, not their weaknesses.
Patrica Seybold suggests opening up your collaborative efforts to overcome this weakness, forming a customer ecosystem. She outlines 6 key factors in the creation of a successful customer ecosystem.
6 critical success factors when creating a customer ecosystem
1. Help customers achieve and/or manage something they care about.
2. Design for specific target audiences.
3. Provide a “secret sauce” that transforms customers’ ability to get things done.
4. Attract partners & suppliers who can contribute to these customers’ success.
5. Align the entire ecosystem to meet customers’ success metrics.
6. Embed, co-brand, and be ubiquitous so customers will encounter and use your secret sauce no matter what their starting point is.
Becoming a sense and respond organisation
Traditionally companies have fallen into the ‘make and sell’ mold whereby marketing intelligence typically revolved around how best to advertise and sell the products already made. Token efforts may have been made to employ focus groups to ‘understand’ customers.
Social media changes all of that. It enables companies to become sense and respond organisations. Developing a customer ecosystem is the first part of this process because it enables you to understand the marketplace and the needs of your customers like nothing before it.
That forms the sense part. Next comes the respond element, and there are few better examples of this in action than the open source movement, so for that I direct you to my recent post on how to innovate like the open source movement.