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The Power of B2B Communities and How Brands Can Incorporate Them Into Their Marketing Strategies

A challenging economy, remote working and over-saturated digital channels are presenting more problems than ever for B2B marketers this year, with many finding it increasingly difficult to achieve the results they want for their clients.

With almost every B2B marketer following the same playbook, it's time to develop a new play. Community Based Marketing (CBM) can be that play.

Community is back in fashion, and CBM can be an ideal way of revitalising stale marketing techniques to win the attention, action and loyalty of prospects.

But what actually is Community Based Marketing and why should you be using it?

Building valuable relationships around a shared practice

You’ve probably heard of Account Based Marketing (ABM), but what about Community Based Marketing (CBM)?

A community is a group of individuals drawn together by a shared interest and bound by mutual support or benefit. People coming together to create something bigger.

From a B2B marketing perspective, CBM is about bringing professionals together around a common expertise or practice to create closer, and more valuable, relationships with prospects and customers. It becomes less about pushing your own message and agenda, and more about listening and interacting with your audience to create an emotional bond.

Why is now the right time?

The definition of madness is repeating the same actions over and over again but expecting different results. Marketing is no exception. Not only are current methods becoming outdated and ineffective, but often more expensive, during a time when the pressure is on in almost every sector. As a result, ‘community’ is very much set to thrive, and while there are several reasons why, a couple in particular feel very pivotal in driving this shift.

The impact of coronavirus has put a distance between us all, whether that be friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances, or customers. As well as having to socially distance, events and social activities are cancelled, and even daily interactions we once took for granted, such as idle office chit-chat, are a thing of the past. For many this has resulted in a growing need to feel part of a group, to fulfil that sense of belonging and it’s the same in our working lives.

Yes, we’re lucky to have the technology that facilitates remote working so effectively, but it doesn’t replace that feeling of being part of a team. B2B communities allow us to become more connected with our peers, to learn, swap ideas, get second opinions, and receive support and encouragement, playing into that desire to feel part of something bigger that so many of us are currently missing.

As marketers, it’s these emotions we should be tapping into, rather than blindly following the same channels and tactics that are becoming less and less effective. Dwindling click-through rates and increasingly expensive search and social ads mean it has become increasingly difficult to cut through the noise.

What success looks like in CBM and how to achieve it

Some of the metrics for deciding the effectiveness of community based marketing are undoubtedly a little softer than with other forms of digital marketing. Indicators of success might focus around product and customer insight for example, with conversations in your community helping to identify and address customer pain points.

However, there will be other measures that are more familiar, such as reduced client turnover as engagement grows, as well as improving your sales conversion as a result of a closer customer experience and deeper relationship with the brand.

So, how to set about achieving those goals?

Choose the right platform – Selecting the right technology for your community is really important. Not only do you need to consider usability (for yourself and your audience), but the popularity of the platform as well as security.

For example, while WhatsApp might be a familiar platform among your audience, it can be a risky choice for B2B. As well as established enterprise-level community platforms, there are open source software and ready-to-go mobile first platforms to bear in mind too.

Don’t be afraid to go smaller – it may be easy to assume that the larger the numbers, the more successful the community but this isn’t necessarily the case, especially when it comes to B2B communities. The value comes from meaningful interactions, and huge volumes just aren’t conducive to this. Naturally the size of your community will depend on a number of factors, but anywhere between 15-1,500 is considered to be optimal, and will help you avoid a group that becomes fragmented or impersonal, whilst still being large enough to achieve some momentum.

Select the right community leader – A community leader needs to boast a unique mix of skills, that can really make or break your group. In order to hold the kind of credibility you need to attract influential members, your host needs to be senior enough, well-connected and well-respected in your field.

There are softer skills to consider too. There’s a fine line to tread between steering conversation in the right direction and interfering. Knowing when to step in and when to step back is imperative, as is an approachable and perceptive personality.

It’s important to state that the concept of community isn’t new in marketing, but it is set for rapid growth in the coming months and years. It’s an approach that requires sufficient support and planning but the ability to get closer to your market and customers shouldn’t be underestimated.

Ashley Friedlein is the CEO & Founder of Guild, an app designed for businesses, professional groups, networks and communities who want the advantages of messaging – ease of use, immediacy, intimacy, engagement – but who also care about privacy, quality, legal compliance, and professional standards of support and service. As easy to use as WhatsApp, advertising-free and GDPR compliant.

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