Customer Engagement
Creating a Customer-Centric Company Culture

How (and Why) to Start Building a Digital Ecosystem

Chaitra Vedullapalli
March 30, 2016

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Chaitra Vedullapalli, CMO of Meylah

Chaitra Vedullapalli, CMO of Meylah

As a CMO, you can only do so many campaigns for a company before you run out of fresh ideas and short-term ways to increase revenue. However, by building a strong digital ecosystem, you can elevate your role and value as a CMO within your organization – and your organization as a whole – giving the brand relevancy for the long run.

Done correctly, an ecosystem will give brands customer loyalty, global reach, the ability to scale exponentially and, as a result, a sustainable revenue stream. To put it in place, though, you must first be willing to challenge your existing mindset and be multi-dimensional in your approach. Put community in the center of your business model and then build, outsource or subscribe to solutions available for your customers.

During my career, I have witnessed several very successful digital ecosystems and have identified four things a brand must do to realize success:

  1. Offer a product

One of the best things about a digital ecosystem is that it begins to take on a life of its own. One of the best ways to do this is by offering an amazing product to your customers that they can build and extend – even becoming a revenue stream for them.

Apple does this well through their app store. They’ve created a marketplace where every company and individual can build and sell their products or services via an iPhone. They effectively leveraged their loyal customers to bring companies and buyers together in a powerful, long-lasting way.

Likewise, Amazon has become so obsessed with creating a seamless marketplace experience for merchants and buyers (knowing they are frequently one in the same), that they have driven innovation to new levels and completely rewritten the customer experience standard in the process.

  1. Provide Purpose

Your customers become brand advocates when they understand and live your brand’s purpose. Listen to their reactions and understand how they interact with your company or product. Then, by aligning your mission with theirs, you have the ability to create a strong sense of inclusive community where members contribute and feel recognized.

When I think of this type of purpose-driven and passionate community, I think of the Seahawks fans and their fan community, The 12s. Their website says they “are the best fans in the NFL;” they have their own flag and you can unmistakably identify them when they are in their gear. More than just a fan club for their favorite team (or brand), it’s a movement driven by a collective vision and mission.

  1. Use Technology to Empower

The key to an engaging and successful digital ecosystem is having one that is simple for your customers. Develop or invest in technology that allows members to discover, learn, communicate, network, collaborate and transact with ease.

Create a solution for them, and then put the power in the hands of the consumers.

Think about how Uber does this in a two-fold way: As a B2B brand, Uber connects capable drivers with customers who need their services, helping them achieve financial freedom and solve the problem of lead-generation. On the consumer-facing front, the app gives individuals the power to solve transportation issues, literally putting in the palm of their hand.

  1. Invest your Resources

Building a community is hard work and almost never looks perfect at the beginning. That is why I am adamant about making the commitment to nurture a brand’s community-powered business model for at least three years.

This is the key point that I frequently see companies have a challenge with – they underinvest or underestimate the technology innovations, new products, planning and time needed to put in place an ecosystem strategy and see it to fruition.

But I urge you to take the risk – and that’s what it is, a risk – to elevate your brand’s engagement, community and revenue to new levels. The future of your brand depends on it.

Chaitra Vedullapalli, CMO of Meylah, is a published author, TED contributor, Top 100 Small business influencer, patent holder, and youth mentor. She currently leads the marketing operations at Meylah, an enterprise-ready turnkey native commerce marketplace hosting platform.

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