Customers: Leaders and Followers

Often when we discuss the idea of leadership, we apply it to our own organizations. We think about the various echelons of leaders – from the first line managers through the senior ranks to the role of the chief executive. But it is also important for us –as leaders within our businesses – to characterize and understand the leadership aspirations of different classes of stakeholders who are just beyond the reach of our business boundaries. Think, for example, of your best customers. What can the language of leadership tell us about their experience? What can the lens of leadership reveal about the motivations, interests and level of engagement of your customers and how can this impact your own leadership style? Customer Leaders – Innovators and Early Adopters Just imagine for a moment that you have a group of customer leaders. This is a group who are very closely aligned with your business. You have deep reciprocal relationships across your businesses and leaders at all levels are in regular contact. Quite possibly you have extensive co-innovation or co-marketing arrangements. What’s more, these customers expect to be in the advanced guard of any new innovation that you produce – and they work with you closely to preserve a competitive market advantage. In this way they are what Everett Rogers in his book Diffusion of Innovations calls “innovators.” Following closely behind the innovators are the “early adopters”. These are likely to be your upstart customers – more recent, ambitious customers. They can see the opportunity that close engagement represents and they are open to playing with moderate levels of risk. They engage...

Getting off the Social Media Starting Blocks

“Have you joined the conversation?” This is a question often asked in relation to social media. These days, I hear it in executive meetings, in team meetings, at conferences and of course, at the coffee shop. It seems everywhere I look, people are blogging, tweeting and updating Facebook. The content seems, at first glance, to be indiscriminate – about what people are eating, who they are meeting, where they are visiting and so on. There are links to websites, interesting articles and pictures. But closer inspection reveals another pattern – people using social media are building “social connections” by linking, sharing and updating people with whom they are connected online. Much of what we see is personal – but with a professional flavor. There are updates from meeting rooms, from telephone calls and conferences. Sometimes there are details, sometimes not. Certain things gain currency, being picked up, copied and “retweeted” – shared amongst ever larger circles of connected people. But for leaders, social media presents some unexpected challenges – the written word seems to carry a certain authority. A word or a phrase can be taken out of context, amplified and spread across the web with blinding speed. Now, this isn’t particularly new – we’ve all seen how quickly news can spread within our organizations. But social media puts it “on the record”. Our challenge, as leaders, is to balance discussion and silence, participation and privacy. As Chris Dixon suggests, you need to use social services to understand them. That’s been my intention here with this blog and also with my experimentation around LinkedIn and Twitter. I am no...

Check Out MyVenturePad.com and SocialMediaToday.com

Recently, I had an opportunity to talk with Brian Roger of Social Media Today and its sister site MyVenturePad.com.  Brian writes for these online, B2B social communities on topics that help companies use social media to connect with and build deep relationships with customers and prospects.  Brian and I had a great discussion about leadership which can be heard on MyVenturePad by clicking here.  In addition, I was fortunate enough to be named "Blogger of the Week" on Social Media Today and that article can be viewed here. Many thanks to Brian and the others at these two sites for showcasing for all of us some of the great ways that social media can be used to foster dialogue, build awareness and relationships and ultimately drive business. Nina Nets It Out: Be sure to learn about social media tools and the capabilities they can afford you in connecting with customers, partners, employees and the like. As I’ve always said, communication is crucial in business and these technologies empower all of us to be able to communicate in more ways and hopefully more...