Everywhere you look, the Participation Economy is all around us.
- When you have issues with a business or product, you don’t just sit around and quietly vent. You use Twitter or Yelp or Facebook. You reach out to businesses and get answers, provide feedback, see what people are saying, or voice your displeasure (like some President we know).
- If you have a new product, it’s probably connected, so you’re actively engaged with the product, not only seeing what you’re doing day after day, but seeing what others are doing too.
- Customers are shaping and participating in business models too, whether it’s AirBnB, Uber or Yelp, these companies exist only because of customer participation.
- And customers are taking things into their own hands. 3D printing and Etsy are just a few examples where customers are designing, making and selling their own products.
These are just some examples of how technology is making customers much more engaged and active with businesses. And this shift isn’t just for B2C companies — the same attitudes we have in our own personal life are carrying over to the B2B world as well. Customers in all industries are now shaping product designs, promoting brands and raising product issues.
Customers Expect to Participate in Every Part of Your Products
Customers, products and companies now work together very differently. Customers now expect a completely different experience when they’re engaging with you and your products.
- First, customers expect companies to know everything about them. Which products have they purchased, what’s been repaired, when did they buy their products?
- They also want to have much more direct input into the product — what are the requirements, what do they want to get out of it?
- As products are being designed and manufactured, customers want to see the latest information, especially in the B2B world. What’s the latest design look like, how much does it cost, when will the product ship?
- When they’re ready to buy, customers expect salespeople, distributors and channels to have the latest and most accurate product and pricing information.
- And finally, when they have issues, customers expect companies to respond quickly with immediate resolutions as well as long-term design enhancements.
Lack of customer involvement and transparency can have disastrous results. There are examples all around us of what happens when you do nothing. Uber vs the taxi industry, iPhone vs Blackberry, Kodak vs digital cameras, the list goes on. But it’s not just a bunch of anecdotes and stories, there are real financial impacts for not engaging with customers.
The Participation Economy Requires a New Approach
The traditional way of thinking about products is focused on linear and internal processes: Design, Plan, Make and Sell. And each of these steps has its own siloed systems and processes. Engineers have their CAD tools made for engineers. Operations has their supply chain and ERP tools. Sales teams have their CRM and sales tools. And many of these systems and processes are rigid and hard to adapt to new business models.
Instead of being product and internally focused, companies that want to be successful need to have a customer focus.
- You need to think about the entire product — software, sales collateral, pricing
- And your product needs to encompass more than just engineers — how do you get sales, marketing and other partners engaged and understanding how to make your product successful?
- And you have to be flexible enough to keep up with your customers and your competitors
Product Lifecycle Management for the Participation Economy
That’s why we built Propel. We’re a cloud Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software solution that places your customer in the center of your product strategy.
We help your customers — and everyone else — work more closely and participate in every step of the product lifecycle:
- We make it easy for you to capture either a collection of ideas from a large number of customers, or specific requirements tied to a specific sales pursuit
- You can also flexibly define everything about your products — hardware, sales collateral, services information, quality data — and make it accessible to the right people
- Of course, things change, so you have an easy way to share, collaborate and approve product updates — no matter where you are. And more importantly you can see which customers are impacted by the latest product updates
- But it’s more about just products, we help customers, developers, sales teams and partners get their work done by tracking all the activities related to your products, as well as making it easy to see the latest status of everyone’s work.
- As you’re getting ready to sell your product, we bring customer-facing teams like sales, marketing, and distributors on board so they have the latest product and pricing information
- Finally when your products are in your customers’ hands, we tie customer service to engineering, QA and marketing, so you have a full inbound and outbound closed loop to resolve issues in the field
All this is built on a robust cloud platform, which makes it possible for everyone to have one unified and integrated place to see, share and collaborate on everything related to your customers and products.