If someone asked you how they could make your life easier, wouldn’t you tell them? You probably wouldn’t hesitate. This is, in essence, customer-centric or differentiated innovation.
Why customers? Not only do you get instant insight into what your consumers want and need, which helps you create a competitive advantage; as a by-product, you also get your customers’ buy-in before even creating a new product. What are they more likely to buy and what brand are they more likely to favour? The one who has asked for their opinion or the one that took a wild guess into what they might want or need?
Our client, Say Communications, a London-based PR and communications agency, successfully ran an open innovation challenge where they asked parents to come forward with ideas for children’s diets, with the goal of creating products and services to make parents’ lives easier. Having successfully completed their ‘Think Toddler-sized’ challenge, they shared with us their guide to engaging customers in innovation.
Step 1 – Set objectives
What are you hoping to accomplish? Just like with any strategy, you need to start with objectives and a clear purpose. Say Communications aimed to collect a minimum of 50 ideas over the course of their six-week campaign. Their well-planned strategy and unique approach helped them exceed their target 100%, collecting 100 customer ideas over six weeks.
Step 2 – Define the terms and conditions
As we talk about ideas, intellectual property is at the core of your campaign. Who owns customer ideas? People always check T’s & C’s when it comes to submitting their ideas and quite rightly so. In the Say Communications model, participants were asked to relinquish their rights and pass the ownership of the idea to the campaign organisers – a not-for-profit organisation – but were rewarded with money prizes and shopping vouchers.
Step 3 – Understand your audience
Be specific about your target segment; discover their unmet need; learn to speak their language; find out what motivates them and how they prefer to receive information. Say Communications used social listening to understand their audience: they studied the language parents used and the channels they preferred to communicate in. As a result, they identified the parenting forum as the most suitable channel to promote the ‘Think Toddler-sized’ challenge.
Step 4 – Take action
Define the challenge you are inviting people to solve and develop engaging content to support it. Make it simple, relevant and with a clear call-to-action. Make it visual. Say Communications asked parents to take photos, videos and even draw pictures, which brought the campaign to life, made it much more impactful and relatable. Lastly, don’t forget your partners – the subject matter experts who can create valuable content and are best positioned to evaluate ideas.
Step 5 – Manage engagement
High engagement requires a rigorous management process. Create a clear judging process, monitor and optimise the ongoing conversation. You need a dedicated moderator to facilitate an environment of sharing and prevent conflict or provocation. Be crystal-clear about how everyone will benefit from their participation. Say Communications had offered a £1,000 prize for the winning idea which naturally increased the level of interest in the challenge.
As a result, Say Communications inspired 50,000 people to visit the open innovation platform. 7,000 parents engaged with the campaign and were compelled to submit, comment, vote and talk about ideas. If you wish to learn more about engaging customers in your innovation efforts, please visit our Customer audience page.