by: Yann Gourvennec

It occurred to me in the past few weeks that there was some kind of missing link in the evolutionary state of the twenty first century corporation towards interactivity.

As expressed in an earlier article entitled “15 golden rules for web 2.0” there is a strong requirement for large enterprises to launch interactive marketing initiatives - be they called 2.0, pinko marketing or anything else for that matter - not just because of the buzz word but because there is growing consciousness of the need to engage in better, less top-down discussions with one’s clients. The whole world is awash with concepts like wikinomics (link to past posts on this subject, click here) and co-marketing, but the real issue is not about whether this is required but in actual fact, how to make the rubber meet the road.

And that’s where the missing link is to be found. There is the concept and even the urgent need on the one hand and on the other hand, there is a handful of complex, esoteric tools which managers have heard of but rarely grasp. At the end of the day there is nothing really complex about a blog or an ideagora, but you can’t blame someone whose responsibility is business, who has never worked on an interactive website to come up with clear answers about questions he only discovered a while ago. So this is where we have a role to play, where our ability to bridge the gap between IT and business can actually make a difference.

A friend of mine who is also in charge of a large enterprise portal - his is for a large National retail bank but the issues are really similar to a large extent - was telling me about blogging in his bank. At first, there was some sort of fear, or even disbelief that blogs could lead to anything concrete for the Bank. But one day the General Manager listened to a program on the national radio and he grasped that there was something happening and when he came back to the office, he asked his people about their current plans for using blogs at the Bank to initiate discussions with its clients (and mainly its young clients). His question was echoed all around the top floors until it came all the way back down to the shop-floor and my friend was in a position to do something about it. Actually, not everyone liked what they saw, because client conversations can sometimes be very direct and to be worthwhile, even - or even mostly - not so good comments have to be retained (he had to teach them that and quite a few gnashed their teeth about it). Indeed, they are often the ones which can lead to the most interesting product/service improvements.

But not all corporations are ready to face that music which such good humour and besides, I am not really in favour of big bang approaches to change. There is so much resistance to it in all countries and all sectors that I believe it’s much easier and more effective to apply a staged-approach to change and interactivity. This is why I designed the following interactivity matrix. It was very useful to me and instrumental in selling - smoothly - the idea of expert Corporate blogging. As a matter of fact, this is a first step towards interactivity. It can serve as a test for more interactivity and more adventurous ventures. It can also be beneficial in terms of visibility and traffic gain.

As far as B2B is concerned, there are even areas where interactivity can be instilled for a much lower price and risk-free. This is what I have entitled shared extranet collaboration spaces on which client user groups or even extended sales teams (ie teams including clients’ and partners’ representatives) can exchange files, share information on wiki pages, and even initiate discussion threads in forums. To that end I implemented an online version of Microsoft Sharepoint which enables such teams to collaborate on the web, freely but securely (we even have a SSL connection implemented to enforce data encryption). Extended teams are quite enthusiastic about this, there is no risk at all and management is also very supportive of the idea. I think this is a great step towards interactivity. Ideagoras and full interactivity with clients is of the course the ultimate goal, but they also require maturity and learning curves. The reason why this matrix was so useful is that it helped me fill the gaps which needed to be filled urgently and it helped me buy more time to better implement more ambitious initiatives in the future.

Original Post: http://visionarymarketing.wordpress.com/2008/04/15/interactivity/

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