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Customer networks: The new paradigm

During the past years, a new business model has been developing. How so? Darwincould explain it: by the need for adaptation to thrive.


With the increasing usage of digital technologies and social media, rising competition, and market globalization, people are more communicative, both to each other and to companies. As a result, the approach to doing business had to change to match customer networks’ behavior, reshaping the understanding of successfully doing business.


Companies that adapted stopped seeing clients as isolated, passive, and as a mass with similar interests; to understand them as dynamic and interactive users that seek personalized solutions to their needs. Today’s customers are continually interacting, responding, connecting, and sharing content, thoughts, and reviews. This has given much more power and influence on individuals than ever before. By seeing this, companies find the key to persisting and gain a strategic advantage over competitors.


To survive and thrive, from big corporations to small startups and entrepreneurship, they all need to understand customer networks’ behaviors and act accordingly. How do they behave in networks? What motivates them? What do they value? How can you add value to their lives,  and help them get what they need? All these questions should be shaping your business and marketing strategy. But how so? By making customers part of your strategy.


Social Customer Relationship Management (Social CRM), was defined by Greenberg, in his book Social CRM comes of age (2009) as: “A philosophy and a  business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, processes and social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment”. But still, we are talking about taking this to the next level: Working with customers just as working for them.


How did different firms take this into practice? The clearest example is crowdsourcing sites that allow customer networks to rate and invest in new products’ ideas. In the case of Netflix, they use the strategy of letting customers rate movies. As for Coca-Cola, permitting fans to bring their Facebook page to fame. Nike opted for launching a line of sneakers that can be designed by consumers. And this is how significantly different business lines have something in common: their approach to customers.


It is crucial to understand how your business could take advantage of this scenario, and for that, to understand the network’s behaviors. Here we systematize five customer network behaviors, according to the ones developed by David Rogers in his book The network is your customer: 5 strategies do thrive in a digital age (2011):
1. Seek to access digital data, content, and interactions as quick and easy as
possible;
2. Customers seek to engage with digital content that is relevant to their needs;
3. They seek to customize their experiences in networks by choosing and
modifying information, products, and services;
4. They want to connect by sharing their ideas and opinions;
5. Customers strive to collaborate on collective projects and goals through open platforms.


Because a network could adopt different combinations of these behaviors, a company’s strategy to approach them should be flexible in order to permit adaptation to changes. This will give rise to various business strategies rooted by the same variable: Individuals.


Our behavior in the online world shapes our actions in the offline world.
Understanding it is key to building strong relationships, creating value, and designing outcomes tailor-made for our clients. So, what is the lesson? The shift in the paradigm from mass media to customer networks impacts the way companies do business, just as Rogers explained it in 2011. If one wants to prosper in this new context, adaptation to a dynamic world’s  contingencies is the only way. Do you focus on understanding how your specific niche and potential clients behave to adapt and shape your business and marketing model?


Sources:
Rogers, D. (2011). The network is your customer: 5 strategies do thrive in a
digital age. Yale University Press, UK.
Rogers, D. L. (2016). The digital transformation playbook: Rethink your
business for the digital age. Columbia University Press.
Greenberg, P. (2009). Social CRM comes of age. Sponsored by Oracle

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