There’s a saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, now it also takes a community to build your business.
Today’s business customers—the B2B buyers are bombarded with 100’s if not 1000’s of messages daily across numerous platforms, channels, and devices as product and service providers compete for their attention. Much of these messages are delivered under the guise of content, aimed to provide direction, insights, and guidance to help the B2B buyer achieve their objectives.
However, as Neha Ahuja, Senior Principal at Gartner reports in one of their B2B Sales strategy reports:
“The sheer volume of high-quality information presents a problem for customers. First, there is too much of it and second, customers find that information from different suppliers is often trustworthy but contradictory.” (Source: Why B2B Sellers Need a Sense Making Sales Strategy, Gartner, November 2019.)
As a result, these time-poor B2B buyers are often confused and overwhelmed.
At the same time, B2B buyers often hold leadership roles within their companies and are trying to:
- Deal with the operational day to day issues of working IN the business AND
- Grow the business in conditions of uncertainty and volatility that they have never encountered before
Juggling both of these important roles can be an enormous challenge even for the most seasoned business leader. However, there is a way forward often overlooked by many operating in B2B—community marketing.
What is community marketing?
So, why is Community Marketing Needed in B2B?
Community marketing is needed more than ever as a result of 3 key factors:
- With limited opportunities for in-person interactions combined with the volatility and uncertainty that exists across many industries and geographic markets has resulted in B2B buyers wanting to learn from others’ experiences, challenges and perspectives.
- The purchase behaviour of B2B buyers involves more online self-education and research with Word of Mouth and Peer to Peer engagement becoming important parts of the process.
- B2B buyers are increasingly seeking input to help them make sense of the vast amounts of information as well as to navigate the complexity and uncertainty that exists within today’s business environment.
Creating your B2B community
The key to effective B2B Community Marketing is to provide useul, practical resources that helps members identify and use to solve their specific challenges.
When doing so, it is important to keep the following considerations in mind:
- Content that is being provided should be aimed at “sense-making”. In other words, helping your members to clarify and simplify that large amounts of information they continually receive thereby enabling them to make decisions and take action.
- B2B Community marketing initiatives should also:
- Answer questions
- Share experiences
- Be transparent about past mistakes
And finally, B2B Community Marketing at all times should adhere to the fundamental “Golden Rule” which is NO SELLING!!
Benefits of B2B community marketing
There are significant benefits that Community Marketing provides including:
- Gaining an in-depth understand of the needs, priorities and challenges of your clients and prospects
- Opportunities to gain detailed insights regarding future product or service introductions and/or improvements
- Providing a platform for your clients and prospects to engage in dialogue WITH you thereby enabling them to establish trust, rapport, connection and relationship with your company
- Clients are drawn to your company with much higher intention and interest in those communities that are delivering true value through knowledge sharing, peer to peer engagement, access to experts as well as opportunities to collaborate
- Increased customer retention, loyalty and advocacy by delivering ongoing customer education, insights, engagement and feedback
To establish a community for your company, consider undertaking these steps:
- Assemble relevant leadership/team members to discuss the creation of your company’s community
- Determine who the community is actually for. Be sure to state—who’s in and who is not!
- Talk to some of your current customers and prospects (and be sure to get feedback from both a decision-maker and user perspective)
- What are their goals, priorities and challenges?
- What kinds of resources, support, tools would be beneficial in both helping to decide the product or service as well as to solve problems and challenges
- What kinds of content could be created by or in collaboration with your customers and prospects?
- Determine what’s the right technology to serve as the “hub” to engage and support your members
- Identify the key accounts, clients, prospects, suppliers and other members of your industry that you wish to invite and be involved with the community
- Develop a marketing plan to the content, engagement and events you will provide members
Establishing trust is critical to business success and it is extremely hard to gain. Furthermore, there is now a heightened need for a sense of belonging and to connect with like-minded people that you can both learn from and support each other. Community marketing can help your company meet these key challenges in the ever-changing world of B2B.