Collaboration is the basis for strategy
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Collaboration is the basis for strategy

Involving your customers and stakeholders in the evolution of your strategy can inject creativity and new concepts. We run through how to canvas opinions and bring them on board.

Talking to your stakeholders – whether partners or, especially, customers – can add vital insights to your strategy process. Incorporating the knowledge of those who interact with and understand your brand can unlock value and inject a different type of creative input.

As we move away from the traditional active brand/passive customer construct, it’s clear that consumers want interaction and greater personalisation. Including them in strategic planning is a great way to create deep interaction, and demonstrate that they are valued. Stakeholders may also be more motivated to advocate a brand that they have helped to evolve.

Adding community sourcing to your strategy is a good idea – but how can you gather insights?

In person

Traditional face-to-face communication still has a place. Inviting key loyal consumers into brainstorming workshops or focus groups can uncover interesting ideas for brand development. This can also be the best method for gaining the views of employees and partners.

If presented in an interesting and appealing way, street polls or brand stalls can encourage interaction and become excellent tools for discovering interesting ideas from the public.

Social media

Social media is an immediate way to connect with consumers. The open nature of this medium – think of the back-and-forth between companies and individuals on sites dedicated to user-generated content, for example – means it’s possible to listen to consumer conversations. This can help you to identify key customers – the initial step before approaching individuals to encourage further engagement.

Thanks to the sheer volume of content available on social media, creating interesting and eye-catching opportunities to draw in consumers is crucial. Personalising this to your brand is important – for example, a highly visual company might consider creating a brand strategy challenge on Instagram for its followers.

Specific tools

The idea of welcoming collaboration into your business is gaining popularity, and specific tools are being developed to facilitate this.

Apps like Crowdtap allow businesses to absorb consumers’ insights into the strategy process. An online service to ‘empower real people to build your brand’, it works to identify loyal customers and welcome them into a personalised collaboration process.

Online communities

Developing online communities designed specifically to encourage consumer participation in a brand is another option. A clear example is My Starbucks Idea, an online forum in which Starbucks customers present their thoughts about the brand and its products, suggesting new ideas to enhance the company’s strategy. The best ideas are then picked by the company, developed and put into action.

Extraordinary, large-scale events

Last but not least, a company can go all out with large-scale collaboration. IBM’s Collaborative Innovation Jam is the epitome of this; it involved more than 150,000 employees, stakeholders and vendors from 104 countries in online brainstorming sessions aimed at fostering innovation.

Whichever method works best with your brand, there are some constants that are worth keeping in mind:
  1. Go in with a clear aim. Know what degree of collaboration is sought and how to facilitate this to meet expectations.
  2. Identify your collaborators. Understand your brand’s customer segments and which ones would respond well to participation.
  3. Remember it’s a learning curve. Involving employee and customer input means ideas and strategy can evolve in an unpredictable manner. Listen and expect challenges.
  4. Know that change is constant. The rise and fall of major platforms and apps taking place on a semi-regular basis, strategy may have to transform into a more continuous process.
  5. Value your collaborators. Demonstrating that their insights are important will foster loyalty and in-depth, productive collaboration.
Maeve Sinnott Journalist CPL
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