Harvard Business Review published a fascinating article (free) written by Scott Cook, the co-founder and Chairman of the Executive Committee for Intuit. In it Scott explains his trepidation at user contribution, but now fully embraces the impact it has on business. The title of the article is “The Contribution Revolution: Letting Volunteers Build Your Business”. [Interesting Note: the Bazaarvoice tagline is “Help  Customers Build Your Business”].

Cook gives several examples of businesses who are benefiting from [what he calls] a user contribution system, such as Honda, Procter & Gamble, Hyatt, and Loblaw. He also cites experience Intuit has had with it’s forum community and the reviews platform that we power for them.
He describes the user contribution system in this way:

The users can be customers, employees, sales prospects—or even people with no previous connection to the company. Their contributions can be active (work, expertise, or information) or passive and even unknowing (behavioral data that is gathered automatically during a transaction or an activity). The system is the method, usually internet-based, by which contributions are aggregated and automatically converted into something useful to others. Although the company retains control of the system and may choose to modify its design, the system converts inputs into useful outputs in real time with little or no intervention by the company.

Such a system creates value for a business as a consequence of the value it delivers to users—personalized purchase recommendations, connections between buyers and sellers of hard-to-find items, new personal or business relationships, lower prices, membership in a community, entertainment, information of all kinds.

He also cites the revolutionary potential of business benefits from user contributions:

  • Cost advantage
  • Scalability advantage
  • Competitive advantage
  • Customer service
  • Marketing
  • Employee support
  • Capital resources
  • Design and development

I encourage you to forward this article to your CEO, CFO and senior executives of your company who need to be informed of the benefits and impact of user contributions. In a world where companies succeed on word of mouth, where marketing and advertising are largely ignored, and where customers (90%) actively seek out recommendations from people like then, tapping into contributors (influentials) should be THE priority, especially during difficult times. It’s no longer a nice to have.

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