The marketer's perspective on the customer has changed significantly over the last decade. Brands used to gaze from above on a faceless sea of prospects; now, brands come face-to-face with customers daily in social and digital channels. Accordingly, we no longer talk at customers; we talk with them.

This new normal is changing not just how companies market but also how they bring new products to market.

At CMG Partners, for our latest CMO's Agenda research [email required], we talked with marketing and product leaders to find out how they use customer dialog to shape their process for new product development.

For the professionals we spoke with, it wasn't a question of whether they encourage customer input but, rather, how they choose to engage customers.

At a high level, there are two basic strategies for customer engagement:

  1. Crowdsourcing, large forums, and customer data capture
  2. Targeted, ongoing customer advisory groups

Intelligence Gathering on a Large Scale

Casting the widest net works well for consumer goods with millions of users to please. There is knowledge in numbers, and the collective intelligence of the crowd can support or even inspire innovation. The crowds rushing to fund Pebble on Kickstarter in February 2015 are modern examples of a direct and meaningful customer impact on a product's release.

1. Crowdsourcing

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image of Mark Chinn

Mark Chinn is partner and CMO's Agenda research lead with CMG Partners, a consultancy helping businesses grow through marketing strategy.

LinkedIn: Mark Chinn