One of the hardest business problems to solve is "demand." We know about demand from economics class as the "The willingness and ability to buy a range of quantities of a good at a range of prices, during a given time period." It is a problem startups and growing businesses face all the time — how much should I make, or how much would people buy if I make it? But what if your customers could tell you how much they wanted in advance? What if they could tell their favorite band "Play this arena and you'll sell out" or tell an author "200 of us will be at your book signing in Topeka, if you schedule one."
That's the business model behind the "Demand" service from Eventful.com. If you're an artist, comedian, musician, or literary talent, you need to understand this service. Bookstore owners, gallery owners, movie house managers, and club promoters should also play close attention. I believe there's a bit of business model in there for the rest of you as well.
Jordan Glazier, CEO of Eventful, told me his company helps people discover what events are happening in their local market, via the Eventful.com site, and by supplying syndicated material that's used by newspapers, Yahoo's Upcoming service, or other websites via services developers can tap into. The company helps venues like clubs, bookstores, and others promote their events and get them in front of local consumers. There's also a social component, where the sites' 9 million registered users can track friends and share events.
Eventful's Demand system is a bit of the other side of the coin. Fans of bands, authors, artists, and even independent films and actors can "demand" that their favorites come to town and perform, read, or display. Glazier told me that over 100 thousand events have taken place because fans demanded them. When NY Times Best Selling Author Scott Sigler did an 11 city tour for his last book, Contagious, his publisher wanted him to do signings in NY, Seattle, and a few traditional markets. Instead, he let the fans pick where he should go, and the popular vote via Eventful's widget on his website set his tour. When he showed up in Houston 65 fans greeted him, and in Dallas the next night he found 73 at the bookstore. Scott communicated to his email list and mentioned the vote widget on his podcast. Demand helped him make people aware of the tour, and gave him exposure as fans passed along the vote to friends. As a second-time author, Scott averaged 65 people per event (which exceeded publisher's expectations by a huge amount.) Scott told me "Just ask your customers and fans to tell you— you don't know what the customers want — the fans know." (Scott just announced that he picked his next book to publish based on a fan vote.)
Maybe your business doesn't work like rock concerts or book signings. But would a poll widget on your web site help you figure out what customers need? Will a forum or Facebook page where your customers can give you feedback help you anticipate trends, or find potential problems? Eventful took an interesting turn on the promotion of events by letting fans be in charge.
How can you put your customers first, and help them demand what they need from you? Please weigh in below in comments.
Last updated: Mar 12, 2009
HOWARD GREENSTEIN is a social media strategist and evangelist, and president of the Harbrooke Group, which specializes in helping companies communicate with their customers using the latest Web technologies. @HowardGr