Creating community the eBay way

According to Catalog Age, there's a lot you can learn from the eBay model, regardless of what "product" you're selling--including, I would argue, meetings, booth space, sponsorships, and hotel rooms.

For example, begin with an acknowledgement that people, including the customer (attendee, exhibitor, etc.), "are basically good," says Debra Ellis of Barnardsville, NC-based Wilson & Ellis Consulting. "If you want customers and prospects to trust you, you need to trust them." This sounds a lot like what I mentioned yesterday in response to Katherine Stone's Fast Company blog about creating a community mentality by showing your clients you care about them by giving them space to connect both with your organization and with each other. Ellis says eBay excels at this with its forums, meetings, and chat rooms. "All participants are members, part of the 'in' group, instead of customers."

The article continues, "Encourage feedback and--assuming you offer stellar service--post it for all to see. 'The eBay community is training folks to look for feedback,' says Ellis, but 'it must be realistic to have credibility.'" I'm guessing this means going beyond the usual testimonials by creating a place where people could go online and give feedback on the various parts of your programs or facility--individual breakouts, general sessions, expos, guest rooms, meeting space, etc.--for all to see. Yeah, it's a scary thought (there's always those folks who hate everything), but think of the trust you'd create if you were willing to be totally transparent in your evaluation process, just like eBay or Amazon, or this blog, where you can comment for everyone to see if you think I'm totally full of it.

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