There was once a time when most of us were listening to music on cassette tapes, when brands interacted with consumers only in focus group facilities and information was gathered via phone surveys. Today, the options to engage with customers are boundless. Technology’s rapid growth birthed a new wave of advancement. Everything from our dog’s collar to our refrigerator is “smart” and while technology continues to advance, it begs the question, “Are brands any smarter in the way they are growing their bottom line?” The truth might hurt some.

When it comes to today’s mothers, the tactic for engagement with the greatest return on investment can be found in consumer communities. These groups may conjure up images of brand ambassadors or in-house research panels, however, what I am referring to is a community of moms with each one screened for influence, brand enthusiasm, social reach and interest in contributing to the growth of the brand. Its members socialize with each other as well as brand representatives in a private online community and provide more than just insights or sales support. These women are an extension of the brand. They are available for insights whether the request for input is coming from engineers, retail designers or product development teams. They earn exclusive sneak-peeks and product previews and some even receive flowers from the brand on their birthdays.

Moms in the consumer community actively support the goals of the brand by posting about new products, bringing PR opportunities to the company and most importantly defending the brand among their peers if crisis management is needed. Brands such as Chick-fil-A, HP, Disney, LeapFrog, Children’s Claritin and Medtronic have benefited from consumer communities created and managed by BSM Media.

HP, for example, has seen such overwhelmingly positive results that they currently have consumer communities to engage with Millennials, Moms and Gen Z influencers. During the 2016 holiday season, the HP Sprocket Photo Printer sold out after tweens and moms in their communities contributed ideas and feedback on the handheld photo printer and then promoted it to friends and peers when it launched.

Here are five ways a consumer community can boost your bottom line:

  • Increase speed to market: A consumer community allows engineers and product developers to obtain quick user input and reduce the time and money loss in generation two modifications. HP was able to cut 6-8 months of development time off of two recent products- HP Sprocket Photo Printer and HP Social Media Snapshots. Moms in their HP Smart Mom Panel provided design input to engineers and eliminated the need for timely focus groups and revisions.
  • Expand innovation to include consumer product ideation: Let’s face it, no one knows more about a product than the end user and having access to an entire pool of end users can produce ideas at a lower cost to the development process.
  • Amplify product marketing: With a committed team of brand enthusiasts who feel vested in your product’s success, your marketing dollars stretch a whole lot further. Chick-fil-A uses their Chick-fil-A Mom’s Panel of 1,000 influencers for input on their Kid’s Meal prizes each year. The benefit is not only do they learn what moms and their children want but when the prizes appear in the Kid’s Meal a year later, the Moms feel a sense of ownership to the process and are happy to share the news with family and friends.
  • Higher engagement with social media influencers: Because you screened moms for reach and influence, you eliminate the cost of re-engagement with influencers each time you need them for marketing programs. LeapFrog was paying high agency fees every time they wanted to execute a blogger outreach campaign for a new product. By creating a panel of moms who loved the LeapFrog brand, they were able to engage with these women over and over again. Posts were authentic because their relationship with the brand was long term.
  • Deeper insights about your products and brands: Allowing consumers to have conversations among themselves in a safe community gives you and your team a “fly on the wall” perspective on their opinions. HP learned so much about the user experience associated with their HP Instant Ink subscription program and printers, that they inserted a customer service representative into their HP Instant Ink community and later used the process to enhance customer support on a wider level.

As brand leadership continues to look for ways to get more out of their investment, we will see an increase in brands creating consumer communities. When done right, it provides easy and direct access to insights, deeper relationships with social influencers and cost-savings to bringing innovative products to market.

BSM Media designs and manages consumer communities for brands based on your goals and objectives. All community members are screened and recruited for influence, brand enthusiasm and channels of communication with peers. For more information, please email Maria Bailey at maria@bsmmedia.com or call BSM Media at 954-943-2322, ext.1. Additional information can be found at www.bsmmedia.com.