Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

How to Connect with the Connected Customer

Companies need to give their customers a voice and a way for them to engage in order to create valuable relationships with them over time. How does a business do that?

A recent Consumer Experience Report by Razorfish highlights three ways: (1) bringing utility; (2) enhancing sociability; (3) making a meaningful connection. Let's take a look at a couple of examples to extrapolate some ideas that could be applicable to your business.

Find a Way to Bring Utility

The Visa Business Network created a program that can help small business owners. Historically, this is a fragmented group to reach for financial services companies because they have diverse needs - and thus a lead generation campaign or a broad customer loyalty program are not scalable.

What they did instead was to give new registered users of their application on Facebook $100 to create targeted advertising for themselves. The company's Resource Center also aggregates content for small business owners.

How about discovering what your network is reading or sharing files and collaborating with your network on LinkedIn? How about letting people download a widget from your site that aggregate news of interest for their customer base? Or how about proving location-based services? Urban Spoon has created such an application for the iPhone GPS.

Enhance People's Natural Sociability

You probably know about Nike+, which is both a product, and a community. I have participated in the Broad Street Run, a 10-miler in Philadelphia, for four years in a row. I know that training and signing up can be a lonely experience.

Nike came up with the Human Race - an event that allows people to train for the race with a virtual coach, challenge other runners and run the Nike+ Human Race anywhere in the world. Connection as a service.

If you are in the business of providing services or advice, how can you help your customers log in continuing education points, for example? Or find other people who have the same value-based approach to investing?

Make a Connection that is Meaningful

The report documents what Toyota is doing with Scion Speak to help users get creative with their cars. Go ahead and develop your own crest. This reminds me a lot of what Fiat did with the relaunch of the 500. Here's the entry that won the sticker contest called "Please do not disturb" - so Italian!

As customers continue to connect with things that are useful and meaningful to them, they enhance their ability to connect with others. By hosting these spaces, you and your brand increase the possibility that your customers will make a meaningful connection with your product or service.

What kinds of experiences can you design for your customers that are meaningful to them? Give your customers the answers they are searching for. How can you craft stories and answers in a way that helps them make a connection meaningful?

There you have it - find a way to bring utility, enhance your customers natural sociability and make a connection that is meaningful. That's how you connect with the connected customer.

Valeria Maltoni . Conversation Agent