Want better relationships with your customers? Do this…

crowdOne of the biggest challenges I’ve heard from clients recently is how do they best engage with their “tribe”.

Tribe, as in their fans/customers/target audience.

They’re not sure what kind of content to share or how to build strong relationships that will eventually lead to sales of their product or service.    

They might have some ideas for starting out but consistently engaging with their tribe presents a whole other problem.  The key word there is consistently.

Any of this sound familiar to you?

If so, fear not my friend, because there are lots of ways to engage and build relationships with your peeps. And today I’m going to share with you one of my favorites — crowdsourcing.

You’ve heard of it, right?

Crowdsourcing is basically when you get ideas, content or services by asking a group of people.  

It’s one way to get people to feel like they have a vested interest in what you’re working on.

I’m even guessing you’ve crowdsourced before and didn’t even realize that’s what you were doing.  

For example, if you’ve ever asked your customers for feedback about something you do, boom!, you’ve crowdsourced.  It’s so simple yet, for some reason, so many business don’t do it.

It’s one of the best ways to engage and build relationships with your tribe.

Crowdsourcing At Its Best?

chubby hubbyTo see an example of how crowdsourcing creates a fiercely loyal customer base, you don’t need to look further than the makers of my favorite pints of ice cream.  

You know, those guys who make Phish Food, Chubby Hubby, Cherry Garcia and so many other cold flavors of goodness?

That’s right, Ben & Jerry’s.  

They use social media to engage with their fans so smartly and the cool thing is the strategies they use are all ones we small business owners can model and apply to our own business.

One of my favorite ways they use crowdsourcing is to create new flavors.  

Ben & Jerry’s knows that if people have a direct influence on what goes into one of their ice creams, to be co-creators in a sense, they’re more likely to feel a deeper connection with their brand.

I don’t know about you, but if I open up the freezer door at my local Whole Foods and recognize a pint of Ben & Jerry’s that I actually “helped” create, I’m going to buy it.  And not only am I going to buy it, but I’m also going to tell my friends about it.

Did you know that Chubby Hubby and Cherry Garcia are flavors that were created as a result of customer suggestions?

Yep.  And they are two of the more popular flavors for Ben & Jerry’s.  Cool stuff.

The City Churned Campaign

Ben & Jerry’s has been so successful with their crowdsourcing campaigns that they recently launched a new one called City Churned.

It’s a campaign that has created major buzz for the ice cream maker.

Here’s how it worked:  

Ben & Jerry’s invited people from five cities — New York, Portland, Washington, DC, Seattle and San Francisco — to vote on an ice cream flavor that best represents their respective city.

People voted on locally sourced ingredients from their city like brownies from Greyston bakery in New York or milk chocolate from TCHO Chocolate in San Francisco.

Mmmmm, brownies.

This allowed Ben & Jerry’s to connect with each of the cities on a local level.

They also took it a step further in that the voting also took into account normal everyday activities that happen in each of the cities.

For example, in Seattle, each day Mt. Rainier can be seen from downtown it counts as one vote for a particular ingredient.  If you can’t see it, it’s a vote for another flavor (we know how rainy it can be in Seattle!).

In New York City, cabs traveling uptown count as votes for Peppermint flavored ice cream, while cabs headed downtown count as votes for Fairtrade Vanilla flavor.

They kept track of these things with video footage from around each of the cities.

How creative and cool is that!?  

Then, when all the votes, suggestions and video footage was tallied up in each city, they held a special day where residents of the respective cities had a one-time-only chance to taste the winning flavor.

Not surprisingly, I heard people came out in droves for these events.  There was free ice cream to be eaten, after all!

How Did This Campaign Help Ben & Jerry’s?

When I had Mike Hayes, Ben & Jerry’s Assistant Digital Manager, on the podcast, I asked how they measure the success of a campaign like City Churned.

Specifically, I wanted to know if a crowd-sourcing campaign like this results in more sales.

And what he said to me was interesting.  He told me they “don’t necessarily correlate it to direct sales”, rather, they are more “measuring the impressions and the engagements that we get with people and the relationships that we build through our tactics.”

Ultimately, the better relationships they build with their customers, the more ice cream they will sell.

How to Use Crowdsourcing for Your Business

As a small business owner are you going to use video footage to track things like street traffic? Probably not.  

But you can do things like ask your customers for ideas and run fun contests where people get to vote on something for your business.

Use Facebook or Twitter or whatever social channel you’re on to get the word out.

Or, maybe you’re a bike shop owner and you rent bikes.  Every time someone rents a white bike is one vote for something and when someone rents a blue bike that’s a vote for something else.

See where I’m going with this?  

You don’t have to be Ben & Jerry’s to crowdsource ideas and get people engaged in your business.

It comes down to being creative and listening to your customers and incorporating their stories into your business

This Is How You Build Strong Relationships With Your Customers

If you want to build stronger relationships with your customers, start looking for unique ways to give them a say in the products or services you’re creating.

Not only will this give you direct feedback on what they want, but it can transform a casual customer of your business into a raving fan.

And that’s the big win, right?  People who are so passionate about your brand they tell their friends and family about it?

Listen to your customers and create something great with their feedback. (Tweet this!)

It’s what many of the most successful brands in the world do.  

It can work for your business too.

Photos courtesy: goosmurf and James Cridland

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