Increasing customer intimacy is one of the most common goals of the 21st Century business. We want to deepen our understanding of our market to gain a true insight into their behaviours and desires- and we all want to be first to solve their problems and meet their needs.
The exciting thing is that not only is there a type of customer that is willing to give you this type of intimacy, but they also want to help you achieve success…
Unlike other types of customers who may purchase or loyally recommend your brand, the Co-Creators take the customer relationship to another level. They are so charmed by your brand that they want to help you create more value and to receive value in return. They offer their ideas, knowledge, networks and/or money in exchange for a share of the value your organisation produces- often including revenue and profits, but sometimes in other forms too.
Having Co-Creators involves the company and customers creating shared value. It means growing a tribe of end users who not only love your brand, but want to add their own value to your business too. Having customer Co-Creators is effectively like ticking off at least two stages of the innovation process.
And fortunately, every business of every size can attract them.
That’s because there a three main types of Co-Creators: The Rewarded Contributor, the Active Participant and the Dynamic Share-holder.
The Rewarded Contributors are the most common type of Co-Creator. Rewarded Contributors are usually developed by crowdsourcing in the form of a competition for customers to design a new product or service that is then voted on. Apart from the winner who receives a prize, the reward for the customers is generally an intangible sense of worth. They may feel pleasure in giving their ideas, excitement at the possibility of winning, or a sense of ownership in seeing the design they voted for available commercially, but beware, value creation like this is generally short-lived. For the business on the other hand, you receive invaluable data on the likes and dislikes of your customer-base and a window into future opportunities. Whilst crowdsourcing will not sustain your customers as Co-Creators for long, it does provide a fast and fortuitous win:win for both parties, which is why so many major businesses from Arnotts to Lego are using it.
There are other more significant ways to develop and nurture Co-creators. With the Active Participant, you can create a business model that is entirely reliant on them. Take MumsNet for example. Mumsnet provide a safe space for Mums to network and co-contribute to the site with their own questions, advice and content, and then the mothers are rewarded with discounts, special offers and a range of relatable content. MumsNet wins by gathering impressive data on this demographic, which in turn attracts advertisers. AirBnB is similar. They provide the website and platform, and their co-creators (the room/home owners) provide the goods on sale. When demand grows, it’s the co-creators who solve the problem by satisfying demand and when demand shrinks, it’s the Co-creators who decide the pricing strategy to cope with it.
And then there are those businesses that are funded by their Co-Creators. A great example of using Dynamic Shareholders is Scottish company BrewDog. A craft Beer company with a wild nature, their philosophy has always been to shorten the distance between themselves and the people who enjoy their beers. BrewDog’s Co-Creators are the reason they exist, having contributed financially to a phenomenal equity-funding campaign called Equity for Punks which currently has 46,000 shareholders.
BrewDog not only pays their Punks value back to them in dividends, they also run VIP events, do free tours of their breweries, provide discounts on their beer, value their advice and opinions at their annual AGM festivals, and for their largest shareholders they even fly them to Scotland to meet BrewDog’s owners and have a 4-day holiday. They also describe their shareholders as their friends and community, demonstrating a level of gratitude and savvy awareness of their end user that more established brewers could only dream of. As a result, BrewDog is rapidly expanding their share of the marketplace including an impressive foray into America.
The down-sides of nurturing Co-Creators in your business are reminiscent of any type of sponsor. Co-Creators can be demanding, there’s a risk of control loss, and their power of persuasion could turn against you with potential public disagreements. But when the benefits of Co-Creators range from low-cost marketing opportunities through to increased customer intimacy and increased revenues, the benefits appear to outweigh the risks.
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