The most powerful way that digital media and technology has empowered organizations is by providing a new way to directly connect with customers. The ability for organizations to now interact in an ongoing, personalized, and cost-effective way represents a potent new way to sell, serve, and create value. Over the last 10 years, this capability has been embraced strategically across a number of industries:
- CPGs fostering direct customer connections and communities, without retailer involvement or co-op dollars (e.g. Kraft)
- Automotive OEMs creating owner portals to provide service notifications to increase repurchase and after-sales revenue (e.g. Ford)
- Manufacturers augmenting the value and lock-in of their physical products with new digital services (e.g. Nike+)
- Retailers establishing new promotional platforms for shoppers that provide personalized offers and valuable currency (e.g. PC Plus)
- Telcos offering subscriber applications and programs to provide new ways to serve and increase ARPU (e.g. Bell)
- Financial service providers creating personalized dashboards and self-service tools to increase customer retention and lower service costs (e.g. RBC)
- Publishers creating new membership tiers and channels to distribute content and create new revenue streams (e.g. New York Times)
The list is long and the digital tactics are varied, but at the core of all of these initiatives is the same challenge: convincing a customer to join and remain engaged with a platform and a program. To address this challenge, marketers must establish a compelling value exchange: a proposition for a customer to join and engage, with the promise of reciprocal value delivered over time.
Establishing an effective value exchange can be challenging, as it must be attractive to the user (or they won’t join), simple for the user (or they can’t join), and achievable for the company (or they can’t afford it). Those who get it and do it well have a broad view of what they want, what they have of value to give, and how they can establish a system that makes it simple to enroll and equitable to provide over the long term.
Which brings us to our next framework, a model to address the Frequently Asked Digital Question (FADQ): Why would a customer join and remain engaged?
The purpose of this framework is to try and help organizations to develop a value exchange that is balanced and mutually beneficial, that includes new dimensions of value from both customer and business perspectives. It is based on 3 steps: (1) Identify, (2) Prioritize, and (3) Equalize.
The first step is to generate a list of potential ways that the business and the customer can provide value, considering a broad set of value dimensions.
What will the business give?
Start with the business, and identify all of the potential relevant ways that you can provide value to your customer. Make sure to not only focus exclusively on traditional financial and service-based benefits, but also explore a broader set of value dimensions.
- Relevance: What additional level of customization can you provide? This may involve more specific personalization and tailoring of treatment, content, and offers to members.
- Utility: What digital features may be unlocked after registration? These may be exclusive or full-version features that may only be used by recognized members.
- Access: What digital content may be unlocked after registration? This may include access to exclusive data, premium content, and full-length versions.
- Status: What level of public recognition can you provide? These may involve ways to allow a member to be recognized, to project status, and to experience social esteem.
- Influence: What level of ‘insider’ influence can you provide? This may involve providing members with access to an exclusive community and opportunities to provide input to the brand.
- Service: What service and transactional advantages can you offer? These may include more privileged ways to treat members, reducing friction from service experiences.
- Pricing: What pricing advantages can you offer? These may be one-time advantages to incent registration and ongoing discounts for members.
What will the customer give?
Next, explore all of the different ways that a customer can provide you as a business with value. And in the era of social media and data analytics, many of these dimensions may actually fuel more relevant interactions and enhance the overall value exchange.
- Information: What personal data can a member provide? This may range from data required for the program to actually function, to data that may be interesting to other business areas.
- Permission: What additional terms will a member agree to? Beyond legislated opt-in, these are other permission areas that are valuable to a business for a member to accept.
- Connection: What other networks can the member connect to? These may involve connections to social networks, providing data back to the business and permission to post to the member’s network.
- Endorsement: What attribute or product can a member endorse? These may involve ways in which a member can positively and publicly validates a brand, product, or claim to increase reputation.
- Contribution: What content or input will a member provide? These may be user-generated content elements or input provided publicly by a member such as shares, reviews, and comments.
- Participation: What other actions can a member engage in? These may include different dimensions of digital engagement, such as time, frequency, duration, and key actions within a platform.
- Payment: What might a customer pay for? This may be a one-time registration cost and ongoing subscription-based payments for longer-term access.
After generating your long list of various ways that a business and a customer may provide value to each other, the next step is to prioritize the strongest candidates.
For the business, prioritize the potential benefits offered according to:
- Desirability to Customer: What is most attractive to my customer?
- Feasibility to Business: What is least costly for my business to provide?
The strongest candidates are those that are most attractive and least costly.
For the customer, prioritize the potential contributions required according to:
- Desirability to Business: What is most valuable to my business?
- Feasibility to Customer: What is most acceptable for my customer to provide?
The strongest candidates are those that are most valuable and most acceptable.
The final step is to establish an effective balance, pairing the right set of benefits provided by the business to the related contributions required by the customer. The relationship must be clear and the value must be mutual. It is best to begin with a core value exchange (represented by the inner circle of the model) and plan to broaden out the exchange over time to increase overall value (represented by the outer rings in the model).
As always, I’d love to hear any thoughts that you may have on this framework or your experiences in establishing a value exchange for your brand or business. In the meantime, I hope that you join the Kickframe newsletter and remain engaged with what we share with you.