When the Customer Becomes the Partner

A music producer contacted me yesterday about a new project.  He was reaching out for assistance in launching a new recording. I then found a voicemail from a dear friend updating me on an investment venture we had undertaken a few years back. A group of us had pooled our savings to invest in an independent film starring a pair of teen idols with a global following.  Seemed like a no brainer at the time. It looks to have some potential now that it is an entry in the Berlin Film Festival.  My fear so far has been that they would be young adults before the film came to market.

I was intrigued by network marketing in the mid nineties.  The idea that  a customer could be an affiliate partner and derive an income from recommending the product had a certain merit to me.  It still does. But in the days before Web 2.0 this type of networking quickly turned into a game with little return for many and huge profits for some. Now, with Facebook and other social platforms being embraced by network marketers I can see a more realistic approach for those choosing this career path. Social platforms have expanded the scope of affiliate marketing. All that aside, what triggered this column was another email from one of my groups discussing crowdsourcing.

The concept of companies harnessing their customer base to research and develop new products or launch new campaigns has so much potential. Idea Bounty is a social platform that has developed this concept tot he delight of corporations and non-profits looking to find a creative way of interacting with their customers and donors.  Looking through their website I am astonished at the scope of projects that are benefiting from this customer involvement.

The logical evolution of crowdsourcing is crowdfunding. In the spirit of our little investment group, why not use crowdsourcing platforms to raise capital for investment projects?  Sellaband has captured my attention. The plan is simple.  You are a musician.  You want to create music. You need capital. Use your fans.  Bands register on the website. Fans sign up to receive news. fans invest in their favorite groups.  When enough capital is raised, the music is produced. Profits are split between the artists, the investors and the corporation. Its an excellent opportunity for the young and not-so-young fan to become vested in the process, perhaps with financial returns.

Exciting for me as an event marketer is the ability to use these platforms to build lasting social relationships.  Will the young investor be a more avid fan, creating ways to encourage friends and associates to discover these artists?  Will the new product developed by a company based on ideas espoused by creative thinkers thinking outside of the corporate box captured the attention of a new customer niche? Will non-profits who have traditionally limited their audience to a real time audience of donors, service providers and clients or audience members be able to use these services to revitalize their missions and expand their reach?

The reality is that there are caveats to any new enterprise – some challenges that need to be addressed. We need to ask ourselves how far we trust crowd mentality? There is a certain social consciousness that needs to be addressed.  By the nature of these platforms, I believe that those attracted to these opportunities are those that think outside of the mainstream. Creatively, that is very good.  However, how do we build in the need for expert guidance?  There is a caution to be made for relying solely on intuitive reasoning or mass appeal in making business decisions. Finding the balance is key to the long term success of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding.  I look forward to their futures.

Brenda is the force behind Gemma Event Marketing Associates. She launched Oh!! Gemma to highlight how her buddies and associates are using event marketing to extend their conversations with their clients and customers.

  • http://www.growvc.com Valto

    Great post and topic. Have a look at our site, and let me know what you think, I think you are going to like it 🙂

    Would be also great to have you join us as an “growdsourcing” expert for new startups.