It's human nature to want to belong, and unlike loyalty that doesn’t always stick long term, a sense of community is something that comes naturally to us. We all want to be a part of a tribe if you will and more and more companies over the recent years have come to realize the importance of it. Not just B2C but B2B businesses are creating and building online communities as part of their sales and marketing initiatives, easily and inexpensively.
Unlike a few years ago when organizing, launching and managing an online B2B community involved major expense in terms of human resources, software and tools, today, it can be done at a fraction of a cost thanks to SaaS (software-as-a-service) and fast.
But what is a B2B online community anyway?
An online community comprises a group of individuals - customers (both current and prospects), users, partners, employees and contributors that businesses can bring together on a shared or an owned platform for the purposes of sharing, collaborating and learning purposes.
In today’s on the go , always connected online world, forums, groups and online communities are a way to deliver superior Customer Experience, build Brand Loyalty and increase Revenue for b2b businesses. It's a cost effective way to keep in touch with your audience.
Let’s see how building a b2b community can help your business grow and why you should include it in your sales and marketing strategy -
1.Generate Leads - Even though communities and forums have been around for a while, since the pandemic, more businesses have seen a rise in customer participation. If you are new and thinking of getting started, know that building an online community allows your prospects to discover you. Unless you are a big established name, prospective customers may not know you exist or the kinds of solutions you provide for their problems. Starting an online community can help you get in front of them and with the help of various types of engaging and interactive content, you can educate them on your products and services while moving them along their customer journey.
2.Increase Customer Engagement - If you have been in business for a while, you are more than likely using your social media accounts to connect and engage with your customers. An online community takes this one step forward. How? You see customers look for like minded individuals, a place where they can express their views and passions freely while engaging in meaningful conversations. An online community can provide a safe place for both current and future customers to gather in one place to discuss what matters to them pertaining to your industry, brand or product/service. This results in higher customer engagement.
3.Improve Customer Success - Businesses use chat, email, phone and social media to serve their customers - questions, support, service - as well as to gather feedback. And now you can add an online community as another effective direct channel to the list. A community can help you improve customer success and give your customers a chance to self-serve while reducing costs. How? Through user-generated content. Users can answer questions, share best practices and how to use the product or service, which in turn helps others.
4.Improve Product - Looking to add new product features? Or improve product user experience? An online community where customers share user experience can help you know what is working well and what is not. They can provide valuable insights to help you shape your product roadmap as well as suggest creative use cases. You can also ask for feedback and testimonials, which in turn can help you develop marketing materials, sales and buyer enablement content.
5.Enhance Customer Understanding - Community analytics can help you gather customer data, in turn give you insight into customer behavior and preferences. You can also learn what your customers value and need that can help shape your marketing strategy.
Managing an online community platform successfully requires taking a cross-functional approach. You want support from your Product, Sales, Marketing, Rev Ops, Customer Success and Human Resources team to nurture and keep members engaged. You also want to monitor the community.