Saturday, December 18, 2010

Are You Ready for the Mesh Economy?

As a result of the social media phenomenon, a new economy is emerging. Entrepreneur and author Lisa Gansky has written a book that not only introduces us to the new connected economy where access is more important than re-inventing the production process, but she provides easy-to-follow blueprints for building successful businesses.

"The Mesh is a major trend which will shape business in the next decade." – Forbes

In the new economy, according to Lisa Gansky, companies use social media, wireless networks, and data from every possible source to access products and services without the same financial burdens as in previous generations and without adding to the carbon footprint. In Gansky’s words, “The Mesh is reshaping how we go to market, who we partner with, and how we invite participation and engage new customers…If you embrace the Mesh, you’ll discover how your business can inspire customers in a world where access trumps ownership.”

An excellent example of a successful business in the Mesh economy is Zipcar. This car rental agency is nothing like the rental car companies of years past. Instead of visiting airports or agencies in downtown urban hotels, Zipcar locations are strategically placed around cities for quick and easy access. Customers are able to make reservations via the Internet and then either use a code to unlock the cars or a smartphone App to unlock the car’s doors. The company’s founders made sure that all cars were washed, serviced, and available in just the right parking spots so that they would be accessible to the largest customer base.

Upon further analysis though, Zipcar is more of an information business that shares cars. The company collects information about who uses the cars, for what purpose, and for how long. Zipcar is then able to tweak its business model and make its offerings more customized. For example, if a customer rents cars to go skiing, perhaps, there are partnership opportunities with nearby ski resorts, restaurants en route to the ski resorts, clothing stores near the ski resort, etc. The Mesh ecosystem evolves as each new partner is added. As Gansky explained, “Good Mesh businesses are smart about combining more frequent customer contact with enhanced information sources to create and refine superior experiences, partnerships, products and offers.”

Here are the characteristics of a Mesh business:

  1. The core offering is something that can be shared, within a community, market, or value chain, including products, services, and raw materials.
  2. Advanced web and mobile data networks are used to track goods and aggregate usage, customer, and product information.
  3. The focus is on shareable physical goods, including the materials used, which makes local delivery of services and products – and their recovery – valuable and relevant.
  4. Offers, news, and recommendations are transmitted largely through word of mouth, augmented by social network services.

There is no doubt that these concepts make sense, but you may be asking yourself, “Why the Mesh, now?” There are five reasons that make the Mesh economy viable:

  1. The economic crisis has bred distrust of old companies.
  2. The crisis has also encouraged people to reconsider what’s valuable and important to them.
  3. Climate change is forcing up the cost of doing business, including the making and selling of throwaway goods.
  4. The growing population and greater urbanization create densities that favor Mesh businesses.
  5. Information networks of all kinds have matured to the point where businesses can provide better and more personalized services exactly when needed.

So, is your company ready to join the Mesh economy? Here are some action items:

  1. Identify shareable physical assets.
  2. Identify a category, or a service or product, and go to market before anyone else.
  3. Define the market and your core offering.

The Mesh economy will not be a fit for every company, but it may make sense to consider aligning your company in some manner. In the book, an abridged listing of a directory of over 1,000 Mesh ventures is included (the full list can be found online) ranging from arts and crafts to books and writing to gardening to goods swap to health/fitness to technology. Check it out – you never know when or how your company might be positioned to join the Mesh ecosystem.

Check out the Mesh Directory:

Buy or share The Mesh (Amazon typically has the best prices) or visit your local library; also check out

Follow The Mesh on Twitter:

Follow Lisa Gansky on Twitter:

Connect on Facebook:

Watch Lisa Gansky at Web 2.0 Summit:

Watch Lisa Gansky discuss the power of the consumer:

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