As the end of the year approaches, I've spent some time reflecting on 2008. For me, this year has been one of the most memorable years in my career at Walker and the adventures that have made it memorable started in May during the SAMA (Strategic Account Management Association) annual conference.
The SAMA conference was jam packed with relevant and interesting workshops. One of which was titled, "Using Web 2.0 to Drive Sales Effectiveness," led by Anders Gronstedt, President of the Gronstedt Group. During the workshop Anders shared examples of how large, multinational organizations use podcasts, video series, and virtual worlds to connect with their associates, partners, and customers. He invited everyone who is interested in learning more about virtual worlds to attend his weekly meetings in Second Life called "Train for Success." Since his session, I've become a regular at his weekly meetings and continue to see the application of this medium for businesses. I'd encourage you to attend one of his weekly meetings in Second Life to learn more. I'd be happy to help you get started. Just let me know.
Shortly after the SAMA conference, Walker set out to create an online community that is dedicated to bringing our peer network together, enabling an ongoing discussion about customer strategies. We created a steering team and a working team, but at the time it was fair to say that none of us on the team had direct experience. We learned a lot over the course of a couple months as we created Customer Connection.
We started by exploring how to create a "sense of community." One of the articles that helped guide our development is titled, "Psychological Sense of Community: Theory of McMillan and Chivas." In this article the authors offer four elements to consider:
1 - Membership: Including boundaries, emotional safety, a sense of belonging and identification, personal investment, and a common symbol system.
2 - Influence: Members need to feel that they have some influence on the group and some influence by the group.
3 - Fulfillment of needs: Members need to feel rewarded in some way for their participation.
4 - Shared emotional connection: A shared history or shared interests and identification.
It wasn't until the day that we were scheduled to launch Customer Connection when my friend and colleague, Amanda Loyd, and I realized that we missed another essential element to creating a sense of community. That being the element of fun, which is one of the things Anders promoted during his SAMA workshop.
In between learning about virtual worlds and building Walker's first online community, I've embraced the world of social media and have become a regular user of LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media tools, like Delicious, YouTube, various online communities, etc. I still have a lot to learn, but I'm convinced that social media tools are powerful methods that we can use to maintain a constant connection with our customers.
As we move into 2009, I am excited and optimistic about the opportunities we have to learn more about our customers and grow our businesses through a constant connection with our most valuable asset ... our customers.
Happy Holidays and New Year to you and yours!
Note: This post was originally published in Customer Connection on 12/18/2008.