Three ways the crowd can empower your business

Previously only businesses like Yelp, which gave customers the power to affect a company's reputation, could enable consumers to control the economic climate. But now, it's present in most companies, especially within the collaborative economy.

On top of guiding business owners on how and where to improve, customer feedback has become the benchmark for all aspects of decision-making. So if a business wants to stand out from the competition, they need to initiate a dialogue. 

Two-way reviews are a key element for marketplaces, which is probably why the largest players in the collaborative economy have displayed the value of empowering their customers. As the head of global community at Airbnb put it, "Use peer power to make some changes."

So what’s peer power? It starts with each individual user of the collaborative economy and it’s the connection they have with the marketplace or company. This connection ties into the types of products and services they purchase, but mostly ties into shared values. It isn’t so much what a company is selling, but what they stand for and the community they foster. It’s the relationship Lyft drivers have with Lyft and other drivers. The connection Urbansitter babysitters have with the parents, but most importantly, with other sitters. That connection and the community that is built from it can be utilised to scale for long-term growth. 

Here are three ways to empower customers using this model...

Create a convenient service people want

In order to get and keep clients, not only will you need to create a service that people want, you also need to make sure it’s convenient and user-friendly. As Craig Battin, the former Head of Marketing at Boatbound put it: "The underlying tech can be a huge burden if it’s not built for both sides of your marketplace." 

You need to layer software on top of your services, in order to make functionality run smoothly on both the front and back end for all parties. Just as the industry changes your marketing strategy will also have to change. If you create a good base, it’s easy to evolve. 

"It’s all about continuing to improve the service and finding some interesting ways to bring the community to life," Cory Jones, VP of marketing and product at Flightcar says.

When you first start out, you will need to do a lot of hand holding. “Curate your listings in the beginning,” is a tip that Tristan Pollock, Co-founder of Storefront, has used and believes in. Make sure each person who comes to your marketplace has a positive experience. It may mean you need to set it up very strategically to make sure nothing goes wrong.

The biggest tip to participate in this people-powered economy is "don’t compromise quality", noted by the Founder of Style Lend, Lona Duncan. There’s no room in the game for bad customer experiences.

Give people a sense of belonging

Businesses need to create a sense of belonging for their customers. You need to nurture your community of participants because they are potential ambassadors. Traditional commercials have been replaced with real people’s testimonials. 

A great way to build a community is through content, whether that's through email marketing, a blog or the numerous social media outlets. Whichever outlet you choose, it is key that you create a consistent stream of content to your clients, making your name at the forefront of their minds. If someone is responding well to your content, then start conversations – build relationships!

"Businesses that place people and what they feel, think, do, and share as a priority in not just product design but overall marketing and business strategy outperform those who don’t. It’s about a journey that knows no end – only how to keep the passengers delighted and valued," Brian Solis says.

If you’re just starting out, make sure you keep the dialogue two-way with your participants. Help your users feel that their voice matters.

Empower your customers

Empowering your clients is key to success. When you have people that are really excited about your company and services, it presents a great opportunity for you to reach out to them as a voice of your business. 

Since customers are leading the way, having them as ambassadors for your brand is crucial for credibility. You see this with brands such as Lyft and Airbnb and how they give drivers or hosts the opportunity to be their own brand, which also encourages them to provide great services, in turn giving Lyft and Airbnb a better public image.

It may seem self-explanatory, but making customers happy leads to success. There is no secret algorithm, if you have a great platform, and provide a service people need, the community will build itself. It is however, easier said than done. But once your users trust your service, feel like they belong, and are empowered, your brand and mission will grow exponentially. 

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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