Why your next marketing collaboration should be with your customers

‘Collaborative marketing’ refers simply to the process of collaborating with others in order to market more effectively. Traditionally, this has meant collaborating with other companies or brands, however, there is growing evidence to suggest that that most rewarding marketing collaborations are actually those with consumers themselves.

There is a real drive towards collaboration, relationships and conversations in marketing, driven by consumers. According to Edelman’s brand share study, 87% of people want ‘more meaningful relationships’ with brands and we see this in our campaigns too – the consumer no longer wants to just consume, but craves a more active stake in their favourite brands.

So how should we respond as marketers? Here are four key areas in which brands could and should be collaborating with customers:

Word of Mouth

92 per cent of us believe recommendations from friends and family over all other forms of advertising (Nielsen). Today technology enables us to connect with and open a dialogue with the people on the ground, and engage large groups of your biggest fans, at scale. A study by Lithium found that talking to 1,000 people can spawn 500,000 quality branded messages, experiences and conversations about a brand all with near zero wastage, because intrinsically we only share things with others that we know they’re interested in.

Word of mouth doesn’t just achieve awareness, it also influences purchase behaviour. As many as 50 per cent of all purchase decisions are influenced by word of mouth, according to Lithium, and a recent landmark study by WOMMA showed that one offline WOM impression drives at least five times more (and up to one hundred times more) sales than a single paid media impression. Add to this that WOM boost the effects of all media by 15 per cent and conversation becomes a metric worth paying attention to.

Social content

Content marketing is a huge topic that’s not going anywhere, but content for the sake of content can be really damaging for brands. The crux lies in understanding how to make your content meaningful and your customers can help you out here. A great example of a brand using UGC in their ABL activity is Lidl, with their campaign ‘Lidl surprises’, which showcases tweets shared by customers. But there are also lots of other ways your customers can work with you to bolster your ABL activity. Websites and owned channels are an obvious way to showcase testimonials and real life stories, insight and visuals add huge credibility to PR executions. Content created by real people resonates with your audience.

Real-life research

Customer collaboration can happen at any stage of a product lifecycle, you don’t need a product that’s ready for market and if you involve customers much earlier in the process you’ll not only gain priceless insights, but your customers will thank you for it. In fact a report by Ipsos SMX found that 9 out of 10 consumers view brands more positively when they involve real people in product development.

Co-Creation

New products appear almost daily to entice fickle customers away with the promise of a new aspiration, look or experience. Innovation is critical to keeping customers inspired – but who says that innovation is best placed to come from within?

McKinsey talks about the impact that co-creation has had at P&G, where co-creation strategies have led to ‘dozens’ of new products. Lego – possibly the ultimate co-creation brand – invites fans to submit ideas of new products and Heineken, who openly admit that they do not have all the answers, strive to connect with the outside world through their Innovators Brewhouse. With 90 per cent of us reportedly more likely to purchase products from companies that involve them in co-creation, collaboration at the ideas stage pays too (Ipos SMX).

Collaboration of this nature is a brave step for brands. Relinquishing control can be a daunting proposition, but when you get it right, magic happens. And the best bit? The biggest resource, your customer base, is already in place. You’ve been nurturing it for years.

Now is the time to activate it.

First published 5 August 2015 on The Drum

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