In WWGD, Jeff Jarvis addresses a number of principles (he refers to them as laws) that have enabled Google to become so dominant so fast. His first law is: “Give the people control and we will use it; don’t and you will lose us”. He speaks of it primarily in the context of the media business – where the fence between journalists, editors and the readers/consumers was tall and inviolable until the advent of the Internet and the rise of the Blog (not the “Borg”).
If you think about it, it also applies to many other industries. Henry Ford’s old adage that “people can have a car in any colour they want as long as it’s black”, which held sway for decades, is no longer. Companies that give their customers choice (read control) engender their audience’s trust and this translates into increased revenues and profits (see Google and Craigslist).
How can you apply this to your business? Engage your customers in the areas that are most important to them: product development and customer service. For powerful examples, see – My Starbucks Idea and Dell Idea Storm. My favorite Starbucks idea: coffee ice cubes – brilliant!
Please share your experiences and post any questions you may about how to apply this to your business.
Side note: Jeff Jarvis first came to prominence due a critical blog post of an experience he had with Dell and which ultimately led Dell to pay attention to blogs and to begin engaging their customers. Check one of the posts here – http://www.buzzmachine.com/2005/08/17/dear-mr-dell/