Barry Noble, managing director, Tpoll
Brands as diverse as Xbox Kinect and Facebook acknowledged the growing importance of customer insight at the recent Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
Xbox Kinect’s creative director Kudo Tsunoda revealed candidly – and with some humour – how it took audience insight to get the now ubiquitous Xbox on shelves worldwide, while Facebook’s vice president of global marketing solutions Carolyn Everson stressed the need to move away from obsessing over numbers of ‘fans’ and ‘likes’ and instead explore actual consumer behaviour.
Unsurprisingly, both brands are using some form of market research; Facebook’s Client Council could be likened to a very well-informed focus group, while Kinect’s development of a community and its beta testing ‘Funlab’ is allowing the team to gather further insights around what strikes a chord with its target audience.
For brands looking to gain similar customer insight, online communities are a powerful way of delivering actionable findings. But there are several basic rules – or do’s and don’ts – when it comes to engaging your communities.
- Get buy-in from insight teams and users across the business from the outset. Getting the stakeholders to invest in the concept and establishing an understanding of what it can do will make everything run more smoothly later on.
- Invest time up front to understand how you will engage community members. Engagement is key to the long-term health of your community. Your agency should bring a huge stock of knowledge around what works and what doesn’t for communities, but you more than anyone know your customers and what makes them tick. You will therefore have a good feel for what tools and enticements will work for them – if you can’t imagine your customers enjoying the community, you may need to re-think your engagement strategy.
- Put a policy in place outlining exactly how you will communicate with community members and stick to it. Your agency should be able to suggest acceptable types and lengths of questionnaires and forums, frequency of contact and types of feedback. But just as important is the tone of communication for the community and how that fits with your industry or brand – you would, for instance, need to speak to a community of company CEOs in a very different way to a youth panel made up of 18 to 25-year-olds.
- Decide on the community’s status with the Market Research Society. Working within the MRS guidelines gives you protection and increased freedom to recruit customers who have signed up for research. But it also means you can’t give your vouchers, products or services as incentives.
- Think about how you can integrate other data sources with your community. Are there social media, call centre or transactional data that can be appended to community feedback to provide a really rich single source of insight?
- Don’t get too hung up on being the ultimate gatekeeper for the community. For a panel to thrive it needs to be busy. You will need to trust your agency to work with a range of people in your organisation on surveys, forums and feedback to get the most out of the tool.
- Don’t underestimate the resources you will need to commit from your team. Agencies can provide everything from stand-alone software solutions to full-service management of the community. Check what’s included in the proposal you have from your agency and what will be expected / needed from your resource to keep the community engaged and the insight robust.
- Don’t expect the job to be completely finished right after launch. You and your agency should continue to work together to publicise the successes of the community around the business, to keep everyone’s interest high and activity flowing.
- Don’t stop evolving the community and its features. The way we communicate with customers and respondents is constantly changing and the community needs to keep up with that. Find out what is new and what else is being done on their other panels and across the industry.
Finally, don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back when the community is up and running. You’ll be at the forefront of new research thinking and methods – and that’s worth celebrating.
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