For B2B companies, building a brand community is essential. By turning customers into brand ambassadors, B2B companies can both expand their market reach and build up their bases of super users. From an ROI standpoint, such investments are no-brainers.
But while it’s critical for B2B companies to focus on the breadth of their brand communities, they need to prioritize depth of engagements as well. While having a broad-based brand community of enterprise customers is certainly important, brands can also see significant returns on their investments by establishing multiple brand ambassadors within a single organization. When organizations take a deep dive into each ambassador organization, they can build relationships that last — and drive value. That requires a strategic and structured approach.
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The Benefits of Cultivating Brand Community, One Customer at a Time
When it comes to establishing a wide-ranging brand community, the advantages are clear and are the subject of much discussion. From strengthening brand evangelism to creating a launching pad for free contributed content, broad-based brand communities serve the pivotal function of augmenting existing advertising and marketing efforts. And there’s no shortage of companies — including Starbucks and Sephora — that have shown just how powerful a large brand community can be.
In their effort to replicate the success of consumer brands like those, it can be easy for B2B companies to turn their community-building efforts into a numbers game: Establish an ambassador at Enterprise A, then move on to Enterprise B. But there are some key benefits to spending more time with Enterprise A and building out the community within that one organization.
The biggest advantage to this more holistic approach is that it will create a stickier and more profitable engagement. Let’s say, for instance, that your company offers a modern SaaS platform for which success is determined by degree of use. If you limit your brand ambassador at a certain organization to one person in the IT department, you risk missing out on opportunities to expand the reach of your product to other areas of the business. But by establishing relationships across multiple departments, you can expand your product’s reach within the enterprise and earn more on the engagement. Similarly, expanding your focus within a single company will help you build a longer-term relationship, because having multiple brand ambassadors will create a stronger base of support.
Another benefit of focusing on single-organization community-building is that it can drive organic product adoption. By nurturing quality cross-departmental relationships, you’ll increase the odds of company leaders taking your product with them when they advance to new opportunities. If you build deep ambassador relationships with a marketing professional, a sales rep and an IT specialist at Company A, for instance, that’s three people who may introduce your product to new organizations when they move on to new jobs.
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Steps to Achieving a One-Customer Brand Community
Here are a few strategic tips for building a successful brand community within a single customer organization:
- Don’t just focus on the C-suite: Much of the time, B2B vendor companies will look to the executives in the C-suite to be ambassadors. But a top-focused approach like that can be misguided because the people in the C-suite often don’t use enterprise tools on a day-to-day basis. Instead, B2B vendors should take a more grassroots approach to community-building and focus on identifying ambassadors who are most likely to use — and share — their products. A more organic approach like that can significantly drive adoption of your products across a business.
- Give your ambassadors direct and immediate support: Effective ambassadors are willing to go out on a limb to endorse your product to their colleagues — and potentially the companies and customers they interact with. It’s therefore critical to make sure you provide those ambassadors with highly responsive customer service and informational support. Your brand ambassadors are doing your work for you, so make sure they have the resources they need.
- Avoid complacency: The work of building a brand community within a single organization is never finished. It demands ongoing and individualized engagement. Therefore, B2B companies should make a strategic effort to not only cultivate new individualized brand communities, but also nurture the ones they have.
While it will always be important for B2B companies to focus on the breadth of their brand communities, they should prioritize deep and involved engagements as well. Building a community is a key differentiator in a competitive marketplace. And when businesses are successful at community-building, their communities will begin to nurture and grow themselves.