When I look for advice and information on how to drive change, I turn to the smartest and most reliable people I know: my friends. If crowdsourcing is about fast, inexpensive answers, friendsourcing is about trust.

What's friendsourcing? Well you've heard of crowdsourcing; crowdsourcing is going to the crowds, going out to everyone and asking the universe their opinion. It is a shotgun approach to obtaining and spreading information, but it isn't the most effective marketing approach anymore. Friendsourcing is pulling in information or input from a trusted group of peers who are willing to assist your mission, spread your message and help you grow.

Friends listen to friends when it comes to buying products, using services and trying new things. What's the first thing you do when you try a new product or service? You tell your friends about it. It's the greatest word-of-mouth advertising you can get because it's coming from a trusted source.

Let's consider for a moment the kinds of friendsourcing opportunities that stem from transactional printing, for instance: from receiving discount coupons from the local cinemas at the top of your home phone bill to graphically personalized notices from your car dealer reminding you that your vehicle is due for a service. Marketers love this because customers love this. Imagine all the friends they'll recommend you to because you impressed them with some personal attention and recognition!

I asked my friends, "Where do you get your inspiration for change?" I got the answers I expected: the Internet, books, magazines and newspapers, trade shows and journals, speeches, Red Bull, Diet Mountain Dew—whatever. But what source of inspiration excited the change agents I surveyed more than any other? Their people. So, change agents have to do several things when it comes to people.

  1. Find them. Find the people you are willing to pay more for to bring you solutions rather than whine about the problems. Miles S. Nadal, chairman, founder and CEO of MDC Partners, Inc., says, "These people will ensure your organization is influential and can enable progress rather than avoid it."
  2. Make sure you find them on every level. Don't spend so much time on the managers and executives that you forget the frontline people. Every new person has the opportunity to drive change — both positive and negative. Don't just look for managers and executives.
  3. Make sure they have what is needed for the situations they will face. Sarah Fay, an independent board advisor in the emerging media space and the former CEO of Aegis Media North America, said, "We needed to have a culture of change—people who could deal with a shifting landscape; people who could deal with ambiguity."
  4. Train them. Jeff Cleary, owner and managing director of Catalyst, told me, "When restructuring the entire agency from the ground up, we missed the cultural challenges of change. We woefully overestimated our organization's ability to adapt to change." Stay personally involved and provide more hands-on training.
  5. Actively manage them. Take on the crucial task of managing investments of human capital—namely, talent—to build the strengths and capabilities of your people.
  6. Retain them. Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5W Public Relations, says, "Realize just how hard it is to find and retain really good, strong people. Growing (and retaining) my nearly 100 employees is more important than any individual action I can take."

Friendsourcing is a powerful tool in the documentation industry—a unique niche for marketers to tap into data differentiation. It extends beyond customer satisfaction to customers reacting so positively that not only will they become repeat purchasers, their friends become new customers. TransPromo is about smart, savvy and stylish marketing communications that really speak to your audience.

JEFFREY HAYZLETT is a global business celebrity and former Fortune 100 C-suite executive. He is a well-traveled public speaker, the author of the bestselling books, The Mirror Test and Running the Gauntlet, celebrity editor to one of the largest circulation business publications and one of the most compelling figures in global business.


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