I remember having a note pinned to my shirt by my kindergarten teacher to make sure it made it home to my parents. (They don't do it anymore, probably because of liability issues--they used straight pins for goodness sakes--can you imagine all the things a five year old can do with a straight pin on the bus ride home?) What I don't remember is my teacher having to pin my artwork to my shirt. She didn't need to. It was always the first thing that got to my mom's hands-- "Look what I did!"
Nothing has changed. My kids do the same thing. We never see the notes from the teachers but we do see their artwork. And it doesn't change with age either: people are more likely to be excited and want to talk about something they helped create. What does that mean for your business? The more you invite your customers to be involved with your business, the more likely it is that they will tell others about your business.
In addition to the higher likelihood of talking about your business, depending on what you invite your customers to do, you can also gain valuable knowledge and insights.
For example, one of the simplest ways to invite your customers to get more involved is to ask for their feedback. Not only does customer involvement go up, but the content of their responses can help you improve your business. If you take the time to thank the customer for their response and mention how you are using it, their sense of "ownership" in your business will increase and with it their desire to tell others "Look what I did!"
Asking for feedback is perhaps the simplest and quickest way to get customers more involved but is certainly not the only way. American Express has encouraged customers to create 15 second commercials around their "My Life My Card" theme. Kodak sponsored a "create your own commercial" site that allowed users to upload their own photos which were then inserted in a Kodak commercial.
Just like every great idea, there are some potential pitfalls. Chevy sponsored a "Make your own Tahoe commercial" contest and ended up some that will certainly not win the contest.
Also, don't expect all of your customers to immediately begin to participate. Data is building that suggests that for every 100 people online, 1 will create content and 10 will then interact with it. The remaining 89 will just view it. Read more.
Neither of these pitfalls should keep you from thinking of ways to invite your customers to get more involved and give them the opportunity to say "Look what I did!"
Here is a final example of a company giving their customers a way to get involved and doing it successfully. This came from a post on Brains on Fire.
The company is Fiskars, the one that make scissors. Did you know there are Fiskateers? Yep, ambassadors for crafting and for Fiskars. They have a blog, a message board and gallery. Check out the community album. Any doubt those folks are saying "Look what I did!" to family and friends?