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Friday, February 4, 2011

The Network Is Your Customer By David Rogers

The Network Is Your Customer By David Rogers
David Rogers, executive director of the Center on Global Brand Leadership at Columbia Business School in NYC, fits my description of a Renaissance Man. He's an accomplished marketer and teacher of branding, marketing and digital strategy at Columbia Business School. He's a renowned composer and musician, whose brilliant saxophone playing brings new levels of meaning to BRITE conferences.  He is also author of the newly released book The Network Is Your Customer: Five Strategies to Thrive in a Digital Age.

I caught up with David as he begins his book launch tour and asked him a few questions:

C.B.: David, congratulations on your new book!  How did the concept for The Network is Your Customer develop?

DR: The idea for the book came from looking at businesses which innovate digitally. And not all of these are Google, Facebook, or startup companies. They represent a wide range of industries and categories - consumer package goods, businesses involved in politics and philanthropy, and others.  All are making prudent, effective use of digital tools to connect with customers.

I reviewed hundreds of case studies and focused on those that demonstrated an understanding of the behavior of customers. You see, at the heart of successful business strategies is a profound desire to shape how the business adopts new technology primarily to connect with customers.  These are companies that fully embrace that they are in the business of serving customers.

C.B.: You highlight many companies in your book - businesses large and small, and in every industry—from consumer, to B2B, and nonprofits [see pages 17-18 of chapter 1]. What makes these businesses stand out?

They stand out for three reasons.

1. These are companies focused on pursuing a business objective and they are disciplined about their focus.

2. These companies are committed to adding value to customers; they spend a great deal of time worrying about how to benefit customers.

3. These companies all successfully pursued strategies that were rooted in one or more core behaviors [accessing, engaging, customizing, connecting, and collaborating] inherent to networked customers.

C.B.:  What are customer networks and why do they matter more than individual customers?

DR: I define customer networks on page 32 of The Network Is Your Customer:
A customer network is: 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.
Why do customer networks matter? We now all of us have access to digital tools for communicating, interacting, and creating on a mass scale. This changes the relationships between individuals and with organizations.

Organizations used to be successful embracing a mass market model. They could communicate to, but not interact with, individual customers.  That has changed with digital tools; the key to success now is a customer network model where businesses listen to, interact with and create based on their network of connected individual customers who participate dynamically and enthusiastically.

Book: The Network Is Your Customer By David Rogers
C.B.:  David, you mentioned 5 strategies during BRITE '10 to truly thrive in this digital age that we live in. Would you describe those here?

DR:  Absolutely. These are strategies that not only create value, but also make for successful customer network business models. They are:

The Access Strategy: the ability to actually connect to networks easily, flexibly, and effectively

The Engage Strategy: the ability to find relevant and valuable content and experiences in networks

The Customize Strategy: the ability to match or adapt those network experiences to unique customer needs

The Connect Strategy: the ability to express oneself and communicate with other customers in networks

The Collaborate Strategy: the ability to engage in purposeful action, with shared goals, in networks

I describe these five strategies in a recent blogpost titled Five Strategies for Business Growth in a World of Customer Networks and also include examples.

C.B.: How are those strategies relevant to business today?

DR: The key as I describe in Chapter 8 of The Network Is Your Customer is to really understand your own customer, your company and your objectives. Once you do, you can then map out strategies and figure out which is most appropriate for your business.

These strategies can be used to meet business objectives ranging from driving sales, to enhancing innovation, decreasing cost, gaining customer insights, or even building breakthrough products and services - once you truly understand customers, company and business objectives.

C.B.: This book seems an natural evolution of the work you've with the Columbia Business School Center on Global Brand Leadership and the BRITE conference which focuses on branding, innovation and technology. How will BRITE '11 further develop the customer network and these 5 business strategies?

DR: The launch event for "The Network Is Your Customer: 5 Strategies to Thrive in a Digital Age." took place on January 26th and consisted of a panel discussion with talented innovators who strategically engage with customer networks.  More specifically, Lisa Hsia from Bravo Digital Media, Frank Eliason from Citi, Carsten Wierwille from frog design and Russell Dubner from Edelman in New York joined me. Those conversations also previewed BRITE '11 where a great lineup of speakers will present their own stories about how they engage with customer networks.

C.B.: David, how do we find you?

DR:  Visit The Network Is Your Customer which includes reviews, a case study database as well as my blog. I encourage you to download a free chapter of my book, too.

Look for me on Twitter: David Rogers, and please do visit [and like] my Facebook page for updates on cases and videos. Or, send me an email and definitely look for me at the BRITE '11 conference which takes place March 2 and 3, 2011 in New York City [Note: more on that in a separate post].

CB: Thank you, David!

You'll also find an excerpt from The Network Is Your Customer on 800CEORead  and can listen to David discussing topics from his book in these video clips as he touches on:
  • Social Media and the Ford Fiesta Movement
  • The iPhone & Network Collaboration
  • Two Key Questions for Customer Network Strategy
  • How IBM Sells B2B Software with a Videogame
  • Bees, Hives, and Customer Networks
I'm interested to hear from you. How are you noticing the shift to customer networks in your business and with the brands you interact with regularly?
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