Clearly, the title left out a few pieces of information. I believe there is still a future online for free, but increasingly, the way to get things done, to go from conversation to agent, is subscription-based. Why? Accountability, resources, self-selected network, and opportunity to syndicate service, for a fee.
The service for a fee model interests me most. That's why I joined Third Tribe as a member this week. The whole velvet rope community concept should make brands pay attention. This is not just a build a community to push your products, or just engage customers in your stuff kind of model.
It's a legitimate way to build a pipeline for consulting services with customer buy in.
The social network equivalent of or answer for lead nurturing programs. The missing link between customer portal, where they see only the information about themselves, and in person user group forum events, where there is only opportunity to talk about current issues with a limited number of company people.
I don't know if Chris, Brian, Simone, and Darren meant their model to be leveraged this way when they set out to offer a private membership forum and information/education place to share openly about internet marketing strategies, tactics, and ideas. That's the business opportunity I see for brands.
What each party gets out of it
We keep hearing that staying up to speed on skills is paramount to remain competitive -- in the marketplace, and your own organization. This is front and center in the mind of your customer base.
The other valuable piece is of course to help them succeed in the day to day normal course of work.
Subscription-based for customers means they will receive additional education and training, and opportunity to cross network. Instead of getting direct mailers or emails as part of a campaign, they vote to participate in surveys about products, services, marketing campaigns, communication preferences.
We lament the state of our budgets and how we need to learn to be more efficient and a big part of that is expanding within your existing customer base.
The other valuable piece for marketers is learning about what makes customers click on the purchase button with more frequency.
Marketers get to seed a community manager and experienced consultants in a customer community where they can learn about the burning issues, questions, preferences, and needs of the people they used to push marketing at.
This is permission-based. People actually want to talk to each other in there. Worth considering.
How to Operationalize this concept
Ideas are free, right? It's the making it happen part that needs figuring out.
Imagine this as your new customer loyalty program. You give a little, you get participation and enrollment.
You start with a limited time promotion -- accounts that bill xyz per month (read profitable), get to join in for free. Accounts that bill between xyz and abc, get to sign in for the special discount price of $__/month. Accounts that bill below abc, get to join in at a higher $___ /month with the option to downgrade to a lower subscription fee if they buy services that put them in the higher recurring revenue range.
This is one simplified execution idea. I have a few more where that came from. Makes sense? What would you add, change, object to?
Subscription-based is the future of online models. In an environment where customer intelligence is at the core, brand advocates need to get up to speed on executing these kinds of ideas for their organizations. They are the connection between CRM systems, marketing platforms for lead nurturing activities, research outputs, and content marketing.
What are you waiting for? Join Third Tribe and start figuring out how you leverage the ideas we're brewing in there for your business. This was my first idea and I just joined. As of this post, I have no financial incentives to encourage you to sign up.
A little less conversation, a little more agent.
Sidebar on commitment: how do you stick with participating in an online forum? You do it the same way as you stick with everything else in life. You set goals that fit into a strategy to get you to what's next, and build deliverables under them.
For example, check in every day/other day (your own frequency) and commit to: sharing 3 things and asking 1 thing.
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