This week i was asked by one of Archant's divisions to give a presentation to the some of the marketing team of a major printer manufaturer. They were looking at how they could use digital marketing methods to increase customer contact and response. During the debate a theme that has become very prominant across many industries came to light, that being giving your consumers a voice in your business.
In recent months we have seen both British Gas and Eon create customer panels to help them seem more open and to put custmers needs at the heart of the business. Asda in October extended its customer panel and gave members direct influence on buying decisions which is a brave move.
Letting customers tell you more about what they think about your business is never easy from an internal point of view as you might hear things you and your board may not want to. However, as i pointed out the the print company, if a person has stuck their neck out and gained approval for spend, often in the hundred of thousands mark, they are already a beliver, These people have already put their respective necks on the line with your products and so could become valuable brand evangelists in their own right and should be seen as an asset not a liability.
So from consumer panels to simple messgae boards bringing your consumers more into your own business can bring far greater rewards than the oft percieved risks.