Mario Sundar

LinkedIn's 2nd PR hire. These are my thoughts on products, public relations, and startups.

Virtual Customer Lounges

I have made a couple of recent posts on corporate blogging here and there. I’m sure all of you’ve noticed that most Fortune 500 companies have what you’d call “Success Stories” or “Customer case studies” where they highlight how much their customers love them. Over the recent past, this marketing genre has evolved by leaps and bounds to keep pace with major strides undergone by the web. Let’s pause a minute to consider the three major ways customer marketing programs have evolved over time:

1. Format of customer testimonials:

i. text: Adobe In Design
ii. webcasts: RedHat
iii. audio: Siemens
iv. video: WebEx
v. HD video: Apple Final Cut Studio Profiles

As you can see, the evolution of the web now permits Fortune 500 companies to amplify their company’s successes via customer testimonials in any of the above formats, with the future definitely heading towards multi-media (podcasting and vlogs).

2. Delighting your customers:

The key here is “delighting”. As cliched as it may sound, customer testimonials are increasingly focused more on the customer rather than on the company. Historically, entire marketing teams have been dedicated towards hunting down and obtaining permission from a company’s gold-standard customers to advocate Company A’s product/service. Smart companies are finding ways to provide a engaging atmosphere with their brightest customers that’d organically drive the creation of customer communities (online and offline).

A great case in point would have to be Studio D from EMC Documentum that does a great job of creating virtual customer communities that’d organically drive the creation of customer references.

3. The future of Customer references (v2.0):

The next step in this customer testimonial evolution would take the Studio D example to the next level.

I believe “organic references” should be extended to the pre-sales stage. So, you can engage with your prospective customers by providing them with suggestions, tips and advice. This can be done by allowing their interaction with current customers. Once they become customers, they’d become an organic reference to your then-prospects. Thus will continue the “Cycle of Organic References”!

How do you implement it?: The tools are ready and so is the web. Just think of how easy it’d be to facilitate customer-customer or customer-prospect discussions with a blog or a wiki. This concept is very similar to the discussion forums that one finds at most web 2.0 products/services. A few examples can be found here and there.

Why it’d work?: “Organic references” would be a natural evolution for customer references, because it effortlessly achieves the goals of a.) receiving product/service support, b.) mind-sharing with similar customers, and c.) finding ways to utilize the product/service more efficiently.

If you have any thoughts of your own as to how to re-define the future of “organic customer references”, just leave your thoughts under the Comments section.

Filed under: Miscellaneous

One Response

  1. […] Some of you may have read my earlier post where I predicted the future of customer references gravitating towards multi-media and this analyst report is further proof that the transformation is actually taking place. For those of you from Corporate America, I’d recommend reading the entire FREE report. But for the time-strapped among you, below are the five facts I found encouraging & useful to all corporate marketers. […]

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