10 Reasons Why Every B2B Company Needs a Community
Written by Regan George
If I had a pound for every smug marketer who mistakenly assumes that communities and fan pages are the same thing… well. You’ll have heard me say this plenty of times before, but a real community isn’t just a group. It’s an engaged, passionate, interactive group: people gathering together in the pursuit of a common interest. It’s somewhere people come to discuss thought-leadership, trends, innovations, challenges, and aspirations within their niche. A niche that they’re deeply passionate about.
Done well, communities deliver exceptional tangible results for the marketers who leverage them… and yet 44% of businesses aren’t using social communities at all.
Step away from your tumbleweed-strewn Facebook fan page or twitter handle. Here are 10 compelling reasons every B2B company needs to build a proper community.
The way businesses communicate has changed dramatically, and people expect authenticity. Business is, perhaps now more than ever before, a relationship game. And you can only build relationships on genuine connections.
A Community Manager (a real person) with the interest of their members as their number one goal gives you a human-2-human (h2h) platform to make and nurture this connection in an authentic way, moving away from cold transactionalism, and into warm human conversation.
Communities are built on give and take: you’re giving to your members, in the form of interesting, insightful content that sparks conversation, and they’re giving to you in the form of horses-mouth insights into your audience.
Building a community allows you to keep your finger on the pulse. Communities are one of the best ways to conduct genuine market research – because you have a (hopefully) large group of your potential customers right there, and they’re already warm and engaged. Fertile grounds for audience insight: what do they want? What are their problems? How can you better meet their needs with your product or service? A thriving community can help you answer these questions.
The age of outbound marketing is (thankfully) mostly over. Inbound is the new buzzword and with good reason: pulling your prospects and potential buyers to you by offering them something they want is much more effective than relentlessly shouting at them and hoping they can hear you.
That’s the central principle of inbound marketing: give your prospects something they want, when they want it. Let them come to you. Building a community means feeding members content they’re passionate about – that means unbranded industry news, insight, and innovations, so that they’re more receptive and engaged when you share branded content with them. An 80/20 ratio works well for us, but whatever proportion you use the principle is the same: more unbranded and member focussed, less branded.
A big marketing buzzword for you right there, but amplification isn’t just a fluffy concept. Building a community genuinely does allow you to amplify – read: spread – your message more quickly.
Imagine a community like a megaphone – because you’ve built your community on the unbranded vertical content rather than branded content, the best of your branded content gets shared and engaged with both inside and outside of your community, with members of other social networks.
5) Saves Money
Marketing spend can quickly reach jaw-dropping figures, and we seem to have somehow collectively become OK with the fact that a lot of it doesn’t deliver actual, tangible ROI. Enough! In the digital age your results should be measurable. And by investing more of your marketing spend in community building and less in “throw it and hope it sticks” or “they’ve got one so we should too” campaigns, you’ll find yourself spending your money more efficiently.
By creating an unbranded or near brand neutral vertical group, you’re establishing yourself as a thought-leader within that vertical. Your community is the ‘place to be’ for people within your industry. You’re it, kiddo. The hotspot. Number 1 place in town.
People are turned off by salespeople. That’s not new news. So why do so many marketers (B2B, I’m looking right at you) forget that? No one gives a flying whatever about your latest piece of thinly disguised propaganda. What people care about, and what gives you credibility by delivering, is high-quality, interesting, innovative, conversation-starting pieces that are, if at all, only tangentially linked to what you sell.
Once you have credibility, then you can feed in some well-placed branded content, and it’ll be viewed with, dare I say it, actual interest. In 2015, sales is all about not selling.
7) One stop shop
As it grows, your community will increasingly become a one-stop shop for your leads, as passionate industry professionals flock to you, lured in by engaging content, great conversation and scintillating wit.
Your community makes it easy for you to identify, segment and nurture these leads in a highly-targeted way, highlighting exactly which leads could be most valuable to you, and hold their hand all the way through the sales funnel.
Communities are a Catch-22 – the good kind. If you own a community that your niche loves and engages in, you can leverage that by putting on an event for that niche. Your members, already engaged and interested, are much more likely to attend, and in turn, your brand reputation and credibility will grow, and so will your community.
An event can be the holy grail of lead generation, giving you a captive audience to promote your brand to, within the context of an event they’re already hyper-engaged with. Communities make events more successful, events make businesses more successful. It’s a no-brainer.
The more content you create, the better optimised for search your brand is, and the more visible you are online. The more visible you are, the more new prospects will be able to find you, and the more sales you’ll make. Building communities is like a snowball – once growth starts, it won’t stop.
10) Own your space
With a well-positioned, well-managed community, you can completely ring-fence your niche or vertical market.
By creating an engaging, (almost) brand neutral, value-add community, you’re creating a destination for your potential prospects: a place they’ll naturally want to join, hang out and engage in.
Once they’re there, they stay there – as long as the quality of the group is high – and even better, people tend to commit to only one professional community. They might belong to twenty LinkedIn groups (which can be communities if managed well), but only one community. So if you make that community yours, you’ve instantly shut your competitors out in the cold.
Say I’m an IT Widget specialist. I join and quickly become an active member of an IT Widget community, getting stuck into discussion and sharing content and. Then the time comes that I’m considering buying some new IT Widgets. Who do I go with? That unknown retailer, or that company that runs the community I’m a passionate member of? That company who I have a relationship with and trust? It’s not a difficult choice.
So, there you have it. Ten compelling reasons your B2B company needs a community. And not just any community, but one that is ‘virtually’ brand neutral, and focused on a niche or vertical. A hub. Communities like that really work – and they’re absolutely people-centric and inbound at their core, based on the simple observation that people don’t like being sold to, and people will always flock to what they’re interested in. Capture people’s passions and tie your brand into that, and you’re onto a winner.
Regan George is Founder/CEO of The Social Effect, a B2B social agency dedicated to building social communities and creating great content for B2B’s and Technology Companies. If you want to chat about communities or content some more, drop me an email.
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