I really believe in the importance of encouraging conversations with our customers. Just the other day I posted the Cluetrain Manifesto on the wall of my cube. I used to be kind of a blog snob. I assumed that the only real way to have a cluetrain like conversation was through a blog. Since coming to Intuit it has been interesting to see the many other ways this can happen.The Medical Expense Manager Forum is quite impressive. If anything the forum’s structure fosters more conversation and feedback about a specific product (in this case Quicken Medical Expense Manager) than the blog format would. A key to the success of this forum over others I have seen is the very active participation and nurturing of Quicken Lisa in the forum. She has 136 total posts since January and she has a wonderful ability to be both authentic and caring in her writing..
Another mechanism that is interesting to watch is The Official QuickBooks Online Weblog. It is a group blog by the Quickbooks Online Edition Team. Group blogs have a different dynamic than individual blogs but the QuickBooks Online blog seems to be building a following and engaging with customers. Just las for Medical Expense Manager the individuals in the group who do most of the posting are what make it effective.
As I’ve said in other postings I am trying to determine how to best engage our future customer base. At this point I am leaning towards a forum for product specific engagement. We may also have a product blog but I think that might be too much overlap.
The third method of engagement is my personal blog. In my personal blog Intit products are just one of many subjects. The blog may allow me to connect with customers on a personal level. In a forum or a group blog the product is the primary focus but in a personal blog the product is almost secondary.
It will be very interesting to watch how these different mechanisms evolve and how effective they become, It will also be very interesting to see what tools companies are using 5 years from now to engage customers and build community.
I guess the one thing that I’ve realized in writing this posting is that what makes any tool work as a customer conversation tool is not so much the tool as it it the people who are using the tool. Whether it be forums, group blogs or individual blogs, active, real engagement by real people is what makes them work. To quote Cluetrain, "(Companies) will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf."
What other tools am I missing? Can anyone point me to good examples of other mechanisms companies are using to engage with their customers?