The Network Is Your Customer: Combining Strategy and Technology

If you’re still looking for ways to make sense of the overwhelming amount of information and feedback that’s coming through on social networks, then The Network Is Your Customer: 5 Strategies to Thrive in a Digital Age may have some answers and insights for you.

This is a book I was eager to read because it focuses on how technology intersects with real life strategy.  The first thing I did was look for the book’s website.  I find that’s an easy way to get an overview and start developing an opinion.  I also love it when books have blogs because the blog provides updates and new information that may not have made the printed version.  However, I think you’ll find The Network Is Your Customer to be extremely current.

The Network Is Your Customer is a practical book with an academic twist.  That’s because the author, David L. Rogers (@David_Rogers),  is a teacher at Columbia Business School and the Executive Director at the Center of Global Brand Leadership.

The practical part of the book comes from Rogers’ observations during his BRITE conferences and smaller leadership summits that “brought together innovative companies and nonprofits with cutting-edge entrepreneurs and big thinkers to share ideas about the ways that innovative and emerging technologies are changing business.” Rogers noticed that many of the best and most innovative technical ideas weren’t coming from technical companies.  He’s taken these experiences and distilled them into the five srategies that will help you thrive in a digital age.  I call that the academic twist because Rogers uses his experience and skill in synthesizing information and then delivering it in a way you can learn from and adapt into your business.

It’s Not About the Technology or the Networks – It’s About Behaviors

If you’re still wondering how you are going to leverage all the social media and technology tools to help you achieve your objectives, then you will breathe a sigh of relief when I tell you that the core message of this book is to focus on your customers’ behavior, not the technology or the social media tool.

Rogers has distilled five behavior strategies that small business can focus on in order to leverage networked customer behaviors to create happier, more loyal customers.

1. ACCESS: Be Faster, Be Easier, Be Everywhere, Be Always On

2. ENGAGE: Become a Source of Valued Content

3. CUSTOMIZE: Make Your Offering Adaptable to Your Customers’ Needs

4. CONNECT: Become a Part of Your Customers’ Conversations

5. COLLABORATE: Involve Your Customers at Every State of Your Enterprise

Building on Layers of Context

I’ll admit that I’m a little biased against books written by academics.  Maybe I’m biased for the same reason that you might be: the impression that they don’t live in the same world as we do.  Academics have the reputation of thinking big thoughts, interacting with big companies and not really understanding small business owners.

In this case, Rogers’ academic experience is a real asset to the reader who is trying to tie together an overwhelming number of disparate ideas to actually create effective strategies.   He does an outstanding job of giving a contextual overview, then focusing on each strategy and then providing specific real-life, familiar examples that you can look at.  As I read through the book, I found myself thinking, “Oh, look at how they did that!  I had no idea!”

Take the “Customize” examples here:

  • Offer a vast menu: Take advantage of the Web to offer a huge range of products, but pair them with a useful set of filters to help customers find what they are looking for.  (Think Netflix)
  • Customize your playlist: Provide a steady stream of content that adapts to the preferences and feedback of your customers.
  • Mash up your products: Let customers modify your products or services to express their individuality.
  • Make the choice personal: Put a human face on the choice you offer customers, so that by choosing, they connect with real people.
  • Create a platform for choice: Find or build a platform that allows others to create more products or content for your customers to choose between.

It’s Evolutionary

The Network Is Your Customer is to overall marketing strategy what Groundswell was to social media.  These two books focus on slightly different aspects of networking.  Yet, they both do something that few business books can do: help you get your arms around the technology and the strategy in a way that actually makes sense and helps you take action.

I’m glad I have this book on my shelf, and I intend to get some more copies to pass on to clients and colleagues who want to get smart very quickly about how to best integrate technology with sound marketing strategy.

Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is the Book Editor for Small Business Trends. She is responsible for directing the site’s book review program and manages the team of professional book reviewers. She also spearheads the annual Small Business Book Awards. Ivana publishes DIYMarketers, where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is co-author of "Excel for Marketing Managers."