With today’s emphasis on personalized individual interactions, building an active customer community could be a game-changer for B2B brands. According to The Community Roundtable's 2019 The State of Community Management report, over 50% of community programs are approved by a company’s C-Suite or board of directors because of their potential ROI, which the report estimated as nearly 6,500% on average.
With this incredible amount of potential value in mind, we’ve asked B2B marketing experts why they believe building a customer community is important and their best tips for brands looking to get started.
Why Build a B2B Customer Community?
“Community is essential for B2B brands for a multitude of reasons,” said Casey Hill, growth manager at Bonjoro. The three most obvious reasons for most brands are to improve customer success, gather direct feedback and foster customer loyalty.
Improve Customer Success
“First, communities in B2B often become secondary points of support,” Hill explained, “where active partners/customers chip in to help newcomers and save your company time and money.” If you build an active community, customers will have another place to turn to when they have issues instead of relying solely on your customer support representatives.
Receive First-Hand Feedback
“Next, B2B communities bring an opportunity for your business leadership to interact with customers and hear about frustrations first hand,” Hill continued. Setting a tone for transparency and openness can help your brand gain a better understanding of your customers. In the long run, you can take these insights and improve the product or service for future customers as well.
Without a community, agreed Julie Hogan, VP of customer experience at Drift, you lose out on the “opportunity for your company to unlock a new customer listening channel for feedback and engagement.” A B2B community, therefore, is an incredible way for your customers to feel like their voice is being heard.
Foster Customer Loyalty
“Happy customers can be your business' biggest assets,” said Dylan Max, head of growth marketing at Netomi. A community of satisfied customers can lead to loyal customers, and even brand advocates as well. “Not only can customer communities drive new business,” Max continued, “but they can also keep current customers from churning by bolstering your organization's customer support operations.”
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How B2B Brands Can Build Their Customer Community
If you’ve decided that building a strong B2B customer community is right for your brand, here is some advice for getting started:
1. Have a Purpose
“Often businesses focus on building a community to reduce support costs,” Hogan said, but if you focus there “you lose the opportunity to do so much more for your customers.” You need to start by determining your goal for starting a customer community, whether it’s to gather customer feedback or to empower customers to support each other when problems arise. Either way, Hogan continued, “A community is another opportunity for your customers to see value from their investment with your brand.”
2. Send an Invite
It may seem obvious that brands should actively invite users to join their community, but many marketers still fail to do so. “Whenever you get a new customer onboard,” suggested Hill, “try sending them a personal video welcome, inviting them to join your Facebook community (or wherever your community lives) and introduce themselves.” A clear and personalized call to action can go a long way towards getting new customers to join your community.
3. Ask Questions
Second, it’s a great idea to ask customers questions to actually get them involved. “Many B2B company pages are just product updates or sale pitches,” Hill stated, but she also warned, “That isn't community.” A strong community is a place where customers can share information, ask questions, and help each other out. That’s why it’s helpful for brands to get the ball rolling by asking interesting and relevant questions at the outset.
4. Provide Motivation
“People have a fundamental need to connect with something greater than themselves,” Max stated. That’s why the strongest B2B communities give their customers a reason to get involved. “The more your B2B business can offer something intrinsically inspiring,” he continued, “the more passionate your customer fanbase will become.” Some brands even see success by gamifying positive customer behavior, such as answering questions or sharing information.
“Everybody likes to say that they have the No. 1 product, but those words are so much more powerful when they come from your customers,” Max said. That’s a very good reason for marketers to build a strong community for their B2B brand in 2020.