Sunday, November 25, 2007

Use of Customer Communities - Charles Schwab

1. The Deep Marketing Cycle in context (Source: Beagle Research Group, LLC)

I have seen an active community of men, 18 to 24 years old (a hard demographic to capture), who volunteer a great deal of information to the consumer products company, Unilever. This community provided insights into what the well-groomed young man thinks and does in his social life, insights that Unilever used to fine-tune its product—Axe Body Spray—and its marketing messages. Unilever credits its community’s input for helping to propel Axe to leadership status in its market, and the company won a 2005 Explor award from the American Marketing Association for its innovative use of technology.

Other industries
Communities, and Deep Marketing, are not simply for CPG companies, either. Charles Schwab, the financial services colossus based in San Francisco, also relies on customer communities and deep marketing to capture customer insights. Recent Schwab communities have included a group of customers who are active stock traders with a minimum amount of cash invested and another group composed of high-net-worth individuals with a threshold amount invested with Schwab.

Schwab customer community participation is quite good—a finding that might surprise conventional marketers, given the relative inaccessibility of these groups to traditional marketing approaches. But because Schwab appears to these customers to be actively listening to their input, and then tangibly making use of it, these people make the effort to contribute.

Not long ago, Charles Schwab, himself, wanted up-to-date information about his clients’ investing strategies and views of the market in preparation for a press tour. Schwab worked with the community administrators to craft a questionnaire, and, according to Schwab Vice President Jonathan Craig, “clients were literally writing essays to him about what they liked and what needed improvement.”

You might expect that kind of response for the boss, but it demonstrates the power of the community and the kind of response community hosts have come to expect when dealing in this realm.

excerpted from

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