Although some organizations continue to debate the definition of “co-creation” and how wide the contributors’ circle should be, here at KL Communications, we have focused on deriving value from co-creation for our clients for over 20 years. Co-creation communities – establishing them, motivating them and harnessing them to achieve value creation – are part of our fabric. Through the combination of structured questioning, process, technology and experience, your extended network of customers, suppliers, partners, employees and competitors, you can gain and translate insights from others into valuable, actionable plans for your business.

Where is your business struggling?

This is the first question you need to honestly ask yourselves. If you’re not struggling anywhere, fantastic! Pat yourselves on the back then dig a little deeper. There is always one area where you could be doing better even if you’re at the top of the market. Look to your customers, they can be harnessed as your trusted advisors and will relish in the idea of being consulted as your “Idea Jury.”

Customers have a plethora of choice today. In fact, as of April 2019, Amazon alone lists 119,928,851 different products for sale. That’s mind-blowing! The consequences of not tapping into your customers’ collective mindset can be dire. Last year, over 3,800 retail stores closed their door. Small businesses (SMBs) do not fair that much better: 30% close within two years of launch, 50% within five years and 66% within ten years.

Even more mind-blowing is that the #1 reason SMBs fail is that they failed to investigate the market and lack an understanding of what their customers want. This is where co-creation really comes into play. By tapping into what customers want, engaging them and entrusting them with the all-important task of co-creating something new together with your company, you can achieve tremendous value creation. Nothing bad comes from customers: even complaints are insightful opportunities for improvement. Customers are equated with value, they generate revenues for you, they lend credence to your brand and their input can change the course of your company.

Perhaps your product development team struggles to generate quality ideas for new products and services. Maybe your company has gotten into a bit of a rut with respect to innovation. Sure, you’re good at routinely launching feature improvements and new versions of whatever you’re offering, but when is the last time that you launched something truly new?

How to leverage co-creation effectively

Collecting customer input is essential. How it’s done can impact the value of the input collected. Here, technology can be leveraged to maximize the value creation you derive from a co-creation engagement.

Sometimes, particularly for “proof of concept” or refinements to mature ideas or products, a short burst of co-creation for a month or two is all that’s needed. Creating a “pulse community” can be beneficial for several reasons. Specifically, the exposure risk is minimal, so is the cost and the time that you need to invest in the effort.

On the flipside, particularly for co-creation sessions focused on generating new ideas for complex or new-to-world products and services, companies will be rewarded for being patient. It takes time for ideas to spring. To gestate. And to evolve. Rushing a customer panel through a one-and-done extended co-creation session is not the right approach.

Instead, consider a qualitative research campaign that includes a series of structured co-creation sessions, combined with communication through an electronic bulletin board or e-Forum group. This combination will yield higher value creation for you. Also, what’s important here is having a good curator who can guide the panel, help them to prioritize and sift through lots of ideas rather than simply a good moderator who can facilitate the discussion and manage the process. Of course, a good moderator is also essential to ensure that one opinion does not dominate and obfuscate the opinions of others and that the conversation keeps moving forward. Moderators can prod people with emotional and verbal cues that will help make them more comfortable and willing to share thoughts on what motivates them, why they like your brand, what’s missing from the marketplace and so on.

Qualitative research needs to be balanced with a quantitative research effort. By looking at things more broadly, such as total opportunity within a market, demographic and financial analysis of your target customer base, your business can benefit through an informed value co-creation effort. Additionally, quantitative surveys to establish price sensitivity, consumer preferences for A vs. B and other metrics will be essential to maximize co-creation value by pinpointing what is actionable first versus should be designated for a long-term vision board.

Trust your customers – and reward them

Your customers want to be asked. Again, everything is about value. You can achieve greater value creation from them if you show them that you value them. It’s a synergistic and co-dependent relationship worth investing in. Establish a sense of exclusivity or make it a contest-based approach where customers must earn the right to be on a co-creation panel. Gamification is a huge trend that’s now present in every industry. Reward customers for their value co-creation with early access, discounts or bragging rights on social media. The more that you do for them, the more that they will do for you.

The value of co-creation is right there. Ask and you shall receive. Your customers want to be part of co-creation, they want to be heard, feel valued and they want to contribute to brands they believe in. Taking a technology-forward approach to co-creation that leverages both qualitative and quantitative research will help you accurately investigate the market – so that you can avoid the #1 pitfall that SMBs face.

Foster