I recently completed a digital marketing certificate at Columbia Business School taught by David Rogers, author of “The Network Is Your Customer: Five Strategies to Thrive in a Digital Age.” Rogers helps organizations think about customers as interactive participants in networks. We no longer live in a day when marketers can simply broadcast carefully crafted messages to largely passive individuals.
Rogers defines customer networks as “the set of all current and potential customers of an organization, linked to the organization, and to each other, through a web of digital tools and interactions” (p. 32).
When you take a customer networks approach, it is necessary to add advocacy as a final psychological stage in the marketing funnel. Positive advocacy in the form of reviews, links, “likes” and social buzz can build awareness about products and services in your customer network and push potential customers down the marketing funnel toward action.
My purchase of a Bose Bluetooth Speaker on Amazon.com illustrates the power of customer advocacy. The product has 28,710 reviews with an average rating of 4.7 out of 5. I consumed at least 20 customer reviews before moving from consideration to action.
Advocacy In Customer Networks
As part of the certificate program, I modeled the customer network for the enrollment process at a university. A single enrollment at a university can bring in tens of thousands of dollars in revenue during the first year. Students are often admitted to several universities before making a final choice, so this part of the marketing funnel, moving a student from consideration to action, remains highly competitive.
A customer networks approach to enrolling students looks at all the current and prospective students of a university, linked to the university (colleges, advisors, administration, etc.), and to each other, through a web of digital tools and interactions.
I took the following steps to model the customer network:
- Describe your customer network and reflect on the constituents that are critical for the success of your venture.
- How do the constituents in your customer network interact with and influence each other in a networked fashion?
- Understanding the networked behavior of your customers, what are your most important objectives for leveraging your network to unleash brand advocacy?
- What network technologies are your customers already using?
After describing the network around prospective students, I started to think about how each part of the network interacted with and influenced other parts of the network. We know for example that prospective students are influenced by their peers. There is a natural link in the customer network between current students and prospective students and their parents. This link reveals a clear strategic objective about the importance of using current students as brand advocates in the enrollment process. With the strategic objective in place, operations and marketing objectives can be added to leverage the customer network and unleash brand advocacy by students.
Customer Behaviors In Networks
Rogers identifies five customer behaviors in networks. I plan to blog about each of these behaviors in upcoming posts by exploring LEGO‘s marketing strategy. Customers want to:
- actually connect to networks easily, flexibly and effectively.
- find relevant and valuable content and experiences in networks.
- match or adapt network experiences to their own needs.
- express themselves and communicate with other customers in networks.
- engage in purposeful action, with shared goals, in networks. (pg. 14).
Today customers are connected in a web of digital tools and interactions. Businesses, nonprofits and brands share space with customers in these networks. Thinking about customers as interactive participants in networks allows you to position yourself in these networks to unleash brand advocacy about your products and services.