Broadly speaking, a consumer community is a group of consumers who come together over time and contribute their opinions, feedback and ideas on a set of stimulus which is then shared back with the manufacturer, brand owner or retailer to enable them to make more informed decisions. However, the term can be misused, for example when it refers to a panel, which can lead to confusion and even disappointment.
However, whether to check you’ve got your finger on the pulse or to sense check ideas before progressing, a consumer community offers a valuable and practical way to bring insight at all stages of your innovation journey.
I have been a passionate champion of long-term innovation communities for several years and at KICR Innovation, communities sit at the heart of what we offer. By placing the consumer right where they should be – as an integral part of innovation – you allow business creation, not just evaluation, at every step, for faster, better innovation.
But over the years, I have talked to many a client and insight professional about communities, and it’s fair to say a number of people have had their fingers burnt. With these taking up a sizeable chunk of insight budget, it can be a costly process if all does not go to plan!
Having supported the MMR family community offering for over 6 years, plus setting up and executing a number myself, I thought I would share my top tips to set up a community for success…
1. Plan, Plan and Plan again!
I can’t say it enough, but the success of a long-term community comes down to the planning! This is both the strategic planning in terms of the community purpose – be that a onetime goal of a single innovation, the long-term transformation of your innovation process or tactical day to day content planning to keep consumers fresh and motivated. For all our communities we have an engagement plan, a rolling schedule of which activities will take place and when, all underpinned to add value and fit with the overall aim. For me a community lives or dies by the level of planning. Underestimate the importance of this at your peril!
2. Partnership, Not Transaction
When a consumer signs up to your community they are making a commitment to you. They’re committing to contribute their opinions and offer insight into their lives. It’s only fair that in return they get something back. By this I don’t mean incentives (although important of course), but I mean a transfer beyond this. Sharing back to your community on the contribution of their information is having and how it is changing your decisions as a business, is my next golden rule. Essentially you need to think about your consumers as your partners and to be treated as such, not merely as a transactional exchange of information for a reward.