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Don’t keep asking people what they need

Watch them interact with their natural environment, then come up with a design that fits gracefully with their related activities and needs.

One of the biggest mistakes well-meaning organizations tend to make is ask their customers: “What do you need?”

If Henry Ford had asked people what they need, he says they’d probably have said, “faster horses.”

People often don’t have a clear idea of what they really need. Sometimes they don’t even know a need exists, until a product comes along and fulfills it.  After all, no one needed an iPhone till Steve Jobs came to market with it.

That doesn’t mean you rely solely on the intuitive fancy of gifted visionaries, and completely ignore customer feedback. On the contrary, it means you take the time to research and understand your customer base and activities so well that you can anticipate their needs better than them.

That’s what iconic brands like Apple, Nike and Harley Davidson do. For these brands, customers aren’t just customers. They’re flesh and blood people with dreams, hopes aspirations and ideologies. These companies don’t just focus on the product. They conjure up a whole universe of values, sensations and experiences. As a result, they build a community of fans, loyalists and advocates.

Customer personas need to be archetypes – a typical example of a certain person; not stereotypes – oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person.

But understanding people with all their complexities and dualities is not easy. Research based on geography or demographics often perpetuates stereotypes. To be potent, it needs to be substantiated with psychographic insights. Customer personas need to be archetypes – a typical example of a certain person; not stereotypes – oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person.

Don’t get me wrong here. Surveys, questionnaires and focus groups are all very valuable sources of gathering user data. But you need to remember, they all more or less answer: what do you need? How do you feel? The questions can be limiting. The responses consciously crafted.

Observing people in the way they naturally interact with their environment is much more impactful than census data, surveys and questionnaires. In their natural habitat, people aren’t responding or reacting to a prompt. They’re doing what they naturally do – with no external influence. And that’s what gives you the purest picture of who they are, how they behave and what they need.

 

 

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Top 3 mistakes to avoid when building online communities

onlinecommunities

Don’t bother investing in community building if you aren’t in it for the long haul, or if product promotion is all you want.

When handled well, social-media communities are a golden opportunity to engage with eager users who have the potential of becoming keen advocates for your brand.

But if you lack commitment, the on-again, off-again relationship can breed more harm than good by generating negativity, or worse still, detachment.

So before diving in, ask yourself these 3 questions:

What is the purpose of this community?

The community needs to fulfill a need for its members, not just peddle products.

Where does my audience live?

When building a community, there’s really no old or new media. You need to meet people where, when and how they want to be met. For example, if your audience is stay-at-home moms, LinkedIn is not the platform for you.

Do I have the wherewithal to commit considerable resources for maintenance?

Managing a community well takes a lot of time and resources, and the more it grows the more time and attention it demands. And in order to keep users coming back, and to encourage engagement, it will be important to answer questions, respond to comments and put in the time it takes to monitor and run a growing online community.

Once you’ve answered these 3 questions, and feel confident you can build, manage and maintain a community, it’s time to steer clear of these 3 mistakes a lot of companies make:

Don’t use community as a marketing platform

People will see through your cheap ploy if the only time you have something to say is when you have something to sell. Get to know your users and personally engage with them. Encourage your audience to share experiences, stories, opinions, likes and dislikes. Don’t be shy of publicly engaging with detractors and addressing their concerns.

Don’t let marketing teams be moderators

That prerogative should belong with passionate community members who don’t have a company bias. Users are quick to call out overly enthusiastic brand representative who slyly push product on people. It’s never a good idea to embed a corporate personality who tries to govern the drift of the conversation. If marketing tires to control the environment and drive sales, the community will start to lack authenticity.

Don’t let numbers be your guide

It’s great to have a million followers, but it’s better to have a thousand passionate advocates. Build a community of advocates, not just followers. A 2009 Neilsen Study suggests 90% consumers trust peer recommendations. Only 30% trust online ads. Engagement, interaction and added value are what will have the biggest impact on brand recognition and the opinion users have about your community; numbers are just a by-product.

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