Steven Van Belleghem

Jun 18

From Co-creation to Collaboration

A few weeks ago, Tom De Ruyck (@tomderuyck) and myself finished up a research project in which we interviews 15 top managers about the role of consumer collaboration in their company.

The research showed us that there are 5 pillars to evolve from a one-time co-creation effort towards structural collaboration. This posts gives insights in those 5 pillars:

1.    Fit with the company culture
During our interviews, everyone mentioned company culture as a very important pillar to evolve from co-creation to structural collaboration. It is easier to collaborate with employees and customers if your organization is characterized by an open and positive culture.

However, this does not imply that collaboration is only possible in certain companies. Collaboration is possible in every company, but the current culture determines where you can start. To be successful with collaboration it is important to select an approach that fits the current culture. Don’t try to change the culture through your first collaboration projects. For example, if you have culture where low cost is key, make sure the objective of the collaboration is to reduce costs of other expenses (e.g. doing less ad hoc market research). If you are a company that has connection with its target group high on the agenda, add consumer connectivity as an objective.
In other words: let the collaboration objectives and way of working (duration, intensity and level of involvement of different departments) fit with the existing culture. This approach will allow you to start.

2.    Select the right participants
There are two types of customer collaboration possible: an open online platform where everyone can participate and a closed online community where you select the people to join in.

In the large open communities you have little direct control over who joins in and who doesn’t. The members come together in a very spontaneous way to discuss particular subjects that are of their interest. Your role with regards to these people is simply to listen. This will allow you to discover a series of unfulfilled market needs, which may eventually lead to new products and services. Of course, you are also free to ask them questions, but you must always remember that these are open communities – anyone else might be listening to their answers!

Companies that want to involve the customer in more strategic decisions and who have a need for in-depth feedback, tend to work with a closed online community with a limited number of relevant customers. If you want to solve a specific management problem, it is better to discuss possible solutions with a smaller, closed group of between 50 and 150 of people with a keen interest into your category. It could also be a group of your most ardent fans, fans who you have carefully vetted and selected yourself. The major advantage of this approach is that you have everything in your own hands – and this is advisable when you don’t want the whole world to know what decisions are being taken.

It is important to acknowledge that not every customer will be able – or is suitable – to help you solve management problems.  To give your company access to the right advice on a daily basis, you need to listen to the right (and relevant) people.  For your communities seek to attract people who can offer an added value.  The minimum condition is that they must have a clear commitment to the company and what it stands for. They might be an expert in the sector, a knowledgeable and enthusiastic amateur in the sector or just a big fan of your brand. Research has shown that without this kind of emotional commitment people seldom have enough interest to contribute effectively to an online community.

In other words, you need to talk to people who are interesting and interested.  If they don’t have an opinion or the natural motivation to take part is missing, your community will not achieve what you want it to achieve. But it natural engagement not enough, in order to make your community a real success you need to manage it well. A number of things are important: be open and transparent about the goals of each project, listen in an active way (allow participants to put their issues on your agenda too), make it a fun experience (after all people are doing this in their spare time) and give enough feedback on what you did with their answers.

3.    C-level involvement, support is not enough
One of the critical success factors is the involvement of your top executives. To implement collaboration in a credible way to the market, there is need for tangible proof of the results of the collaboration. Consumers want to see a new product, change in service or communication. If they feel there is no impact of their efforts, they will drop out. Consumers participate in this type of projects to get recognized by a company, not to get rich.

In order to make sure the feedback of consumers is used during implementation, the involvement of your C-level is necessary. Top management support is actually not enough. Based on our interviews, we conclude that the most successful cases of collaboration are all stories where the CEO has an active role: both internally and externally. Internally, he or she leads by example: consumer feedback is used to make important decisions. To the external world, they are the face of the company who reports back on decisions that have been made.

CEO’s who invest in collaboration want to add consumer-feeling to the gut-feeling of the organization. Many organizations don’t have a clue about what the consumers thinks. As a consequence market research is needed for every small step. The moment your organization gets a consumer-feeling, managers can look at the world through the eyes of the consumer, which increases speed and decreases costs of ad hoc research.

4.    Internal communication is not enough. Internal = External
Managers show more interest in a project or approach that gets external credits than in a project with a sole internal focus. In other words: make sure your structural collaboration is not completely taking place behind the scenes of your organization.

Sharing your collaboration work with the whole organization and the rest of the world has a number of advantages. Next to an increase in motivation of your management, it will also increase the motivation of the participants of your communities. Further, research has shown that consumers have a higher trust level towards and a better perception of brands that co-create. So, there is also a commercial benefit to leveraging your efforts externally. There are a few communication tactics you can apply to increase the internal and external impact of your collaboration process:

5.    Measure impact
To keep the collaboration flow going, there is need for evidence that the approach works. Therefore we advise to use a number of clear success indicators that you can measure during the implementation of structural collaboration in your organization. There is no standard list of KPIs to use; they differ from company to company, as they are closely linked to the company culture and the company’s (long term) objectives. There are a few KPIs that apply to all companies to follow up on the impact of structural collaboration:

If you want to read more, please take a look at the full research paper:

From co-creation to collaboration
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If you want to hear the story, you can also check this short video:

Mar 20

The Conversation Company

In March, I launched my new book, The Conversation Company. The goal of the book is to optimize the conversation potential of all companies. To boost the power of conversations, the Conversation Company relies on a consumer centric culture, believes in the power of people and uses social media as an ideal partner.

The slides of the new book can be found here:

The Conversation Company
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Feb 07

A 6 step content marketing model

Most companies are aware that they need to evolve from campaign thinking to content thinking. Although most agree, implementation is still very intangible for most advertisers. With this research paper we want to offer a pragmatic approach to start with content marketing.

Content marketing exists of 6 different steps. Each of the steps are as important, they all play an important role to achieve the previously mentioned objectives.

1.       Topic selection: define where you want to be famous for. There is content overload in the world. The magic happens when you find a topic in which you are knowledgeable and where the market is still waiting for. Select your content domains in a smart way and be consistent in this choice.

2.       Content Conversion strategy: content marketing has to lead to an increase in revenues. Think upfront about where conversion will happen. Define a top conversion point and lead people to this point through your content.

3.       Editorial content planning: once you defined the topics and the conversion strategy, create an editorial calendar. Set up a roadmap so you know when and where content will be shared. Streamline the content calendar with all other marketing actions to increase impact. The content calendar also describes the level of intensity of each content action.

4.       Create shareable content: the right content domain (step 1) is important but not sufficient. The content need to be easy to share and worth sharing. People tend to spread content that is positive, relevant, appealing and contains a benefit. Take that into account during the creation of the content.

5.       Manage content Conversation: once the content is launched, people will react to it. Be open for this engagement from your audience and be ready to answer questions or feedback. Next to this conversation management, think about the role of industry influencers during the launch of your content.

6.       Measure success: the moment the content strategy is up and running, measure the impact of it through a set of relevant KPIs. These KPIs should be a combination of business generation measures and conversational measures.

If you want to learn all details about each of the 6 steps. Feel free to read, download and share this research paper.

A six step content marketing model
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Dec 07

Power to the People

Without any doubt: 2011 was the year where the Power of the People became clear to the entire world. From the Arab spring to the London Riots to Occopy Wall street. People fully understand the power of new media/technology and the impact they can have on society.

In this video, you can see some of the highlights of the ‘Power to the People’ in 2011 (I am aware of the fact that this video is not complete and that we had many more cases):

This evolution has of course an impact on organisations. To leverage the full power of the people, companies need to be less opportunistic towards consumers. In fact, until now, we only used consumers as a medium to build reach. In my opinion, that leaves out a huge opportunity. Many consumers want to be involved in the decision making process of their favorite brand. Structural collaboration with this group of consumers is a way to use their positive engagement more than we do today.

full leverage of consumers

In fact, each four of these quadrants have their value.

In the following presentation, you find more background, cases and opinions about leveraging the power of the people in a positive way for your company.

Power to the people
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Sep 25

Social media around the world 2011

We conducted an in-depth study in 35 countries about the social media adoption and behavior. In this presentation, you can find all results. We decided to create this FREE research report so companies around the world can have a clear view on the current state of social media. Feel free to use and share our information.

Social media around the world 2011 View more presentations from steven van belleghem

Sep 04

Social media integration study

During the last few months, InSites Consulting conducted a research project to learn more about the integration of social media. We interviewed 25 people from different companies in different sectors and countries to get a clear view on this theme.

The results of the study are reported in a PowerPoint presentation with a summary of the results.

Social media integration View more presentations from steven van belleghem

Next to that, we have a full paper with all details of the research project.

The Social Dynamics model: how to integrate social media in your company View more presentations from steven van belleghem

Internal and External conversations are a perfect combination

Most companies agree that consumer conversations are important. Many are investing in listening software and try to use the voice of the consumers in their decision making process.

Many companies tend to forget a second influential conversation source: their own employees. Once your employees start to share stories about their job, your conversation power becomes stronger.

The great thing about the combination of internal and external conversations is the complementarity of content. Customers will talk about their customer experience. Employees will talk about company culture and important news.

When potential clients search on Google, they will find a combination of these two conversation sources. This leads to a more complete overview of your company.

Internal and external conversations

Jun 09

Conversation Mapping

Conversation Management start with observing existing conversations, both online AND offline. At InSites Consulting, we developed a method to map conversations in a strategic way.

To help brands, we map them on three dimensions:

A small methodological note: we map these conversations based on survey results and diary research.

conversation mapping

May 25

Conversation Engagement Framework

This is a framework we like to use when building a Conversation Manager strategy. Developed this together with @polledemaagt , @dennisclaus and @samberteloot.

conversation engagement framework

Updated Conversation Manager presentation

I just updated my Conversation Manager presentation. Most changes in the beginning of the story. Hope you like it.

The Conversation Manager: update View more presentations from steven van belleghem