Building Customer Communities For All The Wrong Reasons


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by Megan Hemphill (Prairie & Co)

by Megan Hemphill (Prairie & Co)

Bill Lee published a post on Harvard Business Review Blog Network titled: “Building Customer Communities Is The Key To Creating Value“.

In this post Lee argues that for a company to capture ‘such’ value from customer relationships requires a Level 4 Value proposition. Where ‘such’ refers to “getting their customers to advocate for them, create peer influence in their markets, and make important contributions in areas like product development“.

I believe Bill Lee is right, at large, with the statement he makes in the title of his post. After reading it though, I think he’s making this statement for all the wrong reasons and is using all the wrong arguments as well.

Wrong arguments first:
Lee describes four levels of Value Propositions:

  • Level one being a commodity product,
  • Level two a product or service that is perceived to get a (Customer’s) job done,
  • Level three where you engage a Customer to such a level that you strengthen loyalty and retention
  • And a level four value proposition being the one that offers Customers to build their social capital..

I cannot begin to explain what is all wrong with the list above. Most strikingly he makes a distinction between commodity products and propositions that are perceived as helping Customers get their jobs done.

Mr. Lee seems to think that it’s the value propositions (or products/services) that get the job done. That is not the case: It is the Customer that gets the job done, with a little help from the products or services hired to help her with it. Thus ALL products and services are proposals for Customers to help them get their jobs done, regardless if they are considered commodities or not.

Wrong reasons second
And then Lee provides four ways (and reasons) to help Customers build their Social Capital. After reading them all I can only come to the conclusion that the one and only reason Lee is proposing companies to do so, is for them to create value for themselves, not the Customer nor their friends or families. It is all about being able to leverage Customers as marketeers. Or like Lee says it himself: “What do all of these efforts have in common? They build communities that exert positive peer influence across all the relevant companies’ markets.

Customers see right through
I think Customers see right through if you try building communities for all the wrong reasons. It’s the difference between Instagram after trying to change their privacy policy and e.g. 7 million Nike+ members that are keeping score every couple of days in one of the most successful communities around. Why? Because Nike+ is focused around the jobs their Customers are trying to get done and helping them to share these experiences, not Nike products.

It’s the difference between trying to capture value from and seeking to co-create value with..

In my humble opinion that is. What’s yours?

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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