Home Online Business Blog Four Ways to Elevate Your Marketing Strategy With Customer Participation

Four Ways to Elevate Your Marketing Strategy With Customer Participation

31 Jul
Hands of three people collaborating at a table over graphs and tablet

The standard marketing plan focuses on the four “Ps” of the marketing mix: Price, product, promotion and place. Marketers must thoroughly consider these four elements to successfully sell a product or service. Based on this standard plan, the relationship between a brand and its customers is a transactional one, casting the customer as a consumer. The four Ps are the tried and true foundational framework. However, in modern marketing with the rise of digital platforms and social media, you’re missing out on an opportunity if you’re not leveraging the fifth P: Participation.

Take your marketing campaigns to the next level by promoting your customer from consumer to co-creator. Let’s explore four ways to successfully incorporate your customers into your marketing plan.

What Is Participation Marketing?

Participation is the fifth P of the marketing mix. In this new relationship between brand and customer, the customer provides input that in turn dictates how the brand behaves. As a co-creator, the customer takes an active role by giving feedback that can make a product or service better. And over the long-term, customers who engage in participation become advocates for the brand they help create, as well as members of a community that can serve as a powerful force for your marketing efforts.

Participation marketing necessitates a conversation between the brand and the customer. “You have to think about how you can invite your customer and your prospect to participate in your marketing efforts in ways that they never have before,” said Matt Williams, William & Mary Raymond A. Mason School of Business visiting clinical professor of marketing and faculty director of the Online Master of Science in Marketing program.

Participation marketing is covered during the Renaissance Marketer course early in William & Mary’s Online Master’s in Marketing program.

When executed properly, participation marketing allows customers to share how the brand, product or service can be better. Then, the brand can make adjustments, including:

  • Changing the product or service and give the customer credit for the change
  • Changing its behavior if necessary
  • Creating more relevant communications based on what customer want to hear about

The customer advocacy and community building achieved through participation marketing also offers a number of long-term benefits, including enhancing the lifetime value of existing customers and turning customers into a steady stream of business.

View Four Ways to Include Customers as Co-Creators

Review the four ways you can elevate your customer to the role of co-creator via this handy infographic.

See Infographic

How to Involve Your Customers in Your Marketing Efforts

1. Actively Collaborate With Your Customers

An affinity group around your brand is a great place to start your collaboration with customers. This community is typically already invested in your brand and knows what your brand is all about. They will be more likely to understand the idea of any new products you are putting in front of them, meaning they can give you meaningful feedback. With the advent of social media, your brand may already have an engaged community on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Find them, listen in on their exchange, and participate with them.

Take new product ideas to the group or use this community as a testing ground for products or services that are in the works. Ask questions and start a conversation. They may not like the new product or idea, but that's the point of asking the question.

Getting feedback from the group is the perfect way to answer the following questions:

  • What do they see in the product?
  • How does the product reflect the relationship they already have with your brand?
  • Is the product consistent?
  • Is the product somehow dissonant with the way they think about your brand?
  • Is the product something they'd be interested in?
  • Is the product something they would buy and advocate for?

The feedback you receive will help make your ideas better. And the process of collecting the feedback will make your relationship with that community even deeper.

2. Build Communities

If an affinity group around your brand does not yet exist, or if you want to build additional groups, find points of passion between your customers and your brand. Every brand has these passion points.

“If you’re an existing business, somebody in the world is paying their hard-earned money for what you sell and they have a good reason for it,” said Professor Williams. “Find out what that reason is and look for points of passion between your customer and your brand.”

Each passion point is an opportunity to build a community. Once you narrow down the communities you want to focus on, allow your customers to connect with you and each other via online social media platforms, forums or discussion boards. Because these customers share the same passion point, relationships will form that can lead to better brand recognition and reputation.

3. Empower Customers as Brand Ambassadors

Ask your customers to speak on your behalf. This will be something they are willing to do if the foundation for a positive relationship has been built. You can build this relationship through listening and acting on customer feedback if the foundation isn’t quite there yet. Once a customer feels close to your brand, they will be willing to share their feelings about the brand with friends and any social media followers.

Referral programs are the age-old way to empower customers. These kinds of programs existed before the proliferation of social media. Now, in the participation environment that has been fostered by technology and social media, these programs have rapidly grown. The reach of modern referral programs presents excellent opportunities to marketers. You can also use your power as a marketer to amplify the voices of your ambassadors. Brand loyalists love it when marketers use their reach to re-tweet, re-post, etc. their thoughts. You can give you advocates a louder voice—they’ll love it and you’ll both benefit from it.

Having customers step into a brand ambassador role means that they will naturally advocate for your brand because of that relationship you’ve built. It’s important to keep in mind that brand ambassadors are not brand spokespeople. “Michael Jordan is a spokesperson for Nike. He makes millions of dollars because Nike and Jordan have an arrangement of where they put his flying logo on a shoe,” said Professor Williams. “A brand ambassador is different…. You want to have both. Maybe if you can afford LeBron James or Michael Jordan, great, but every brand can afford ambassadors. All you have to do is find them and empower them.”

4. Provide Customization Opportunities

This participation marketing tactic requires a one-on-one conversation with the customer. This can present some issues when it comes to scaling, as most marketers do not have the capacity in their social media listening capabilities to have the one-on-one conversations and provide the customization.

To help make this scalable, use social media and technology to help customers customize your product on their own. If you find something in your interaction with customers that feels like a point of customization that you can build into your product, build technology that empowers individual customers to customize that product on their own without your involvement.

Learn How to Add Participation to Your Marketing Strategy

Participation marketing can make things easier, but sometimes it can present new challenges. In balance, however, this fifth P can make your marketing efforts better.

Learn more about how to effectively incorporate participation into your next marketing campaign with the on-demand micro-course, “Participation Marketing Strategy: Trends to Incorporate in 2023 and Beyond.” Professor Williams goes in depth on the fifth “P” of the marketing mix—what participation marketing is and why it matters, the industry shifts that are driving participation marketing, considerations for engaging your customers as co-creators, how to foster community building and much more.

Access the Micro-Course