B2B audiences are online, but they’re increasingly more difficult to reach through saturated channels and overtaxed attention. The pandemic has exacerbated a problem that was already growing steadily.
Community-based marketing offers a fresh angle to stir up your marketing mix, allowing B2B marketers to capture attention in a new way while ramping up brand loyalty among prospects and customers. With audiences dispersed in home offices around the world, now is a great time to harness their yearning for a sense of community.
What Is Community-Based Marketing?
Community-based marketing gathers professionals together, uniting around a common struggle, professional background or business goal to develop connection and relationships. When community members connect over a shared interest and support one another, a community becomes an ideal forum for meaningful interactions.
Why Try Community-Based Marketing?
The circumstances we find ourselves in now make it an ideal time for online communities to thrive. With most of us working from home, there’s a void in the social interactions we’ve become accustomed to in our daily lives that used to come between emails and Zoom calls. Online communities can help facilitate the conversations we’re missing among colleagues and peers, providing a forum for ideas, support and feedback.
As a marketer, communities offer you a window into what people are thinking about and struggling with in real time, providing you with valuable insights about trends in your industry and among your customers. You don’t always need to shell out for pricey focus groups or customer research when you have a direct line to what your audience cares about. A strong community can give them a voice in how you steer your brand, and what products and services they want.
How to Develop a Valuable Community
As the leader of a community, members will turn to you as the expert on that field or topic. Every response should add as much value as possible, whether that’s with educational articles, tips or “how to” steps that both highlight your expertise and benefits community members. It’s an opportunity to develop long-term relationships in which your customers feel important and listened to. People are more likely to do business with people who offer them a strong sense of connection, support and service.
As much as you can, allow the members to drive the conversation. What you want is a fluid exchange of ideas and the ability to genuinely help people answer questions and surmount obstacles. Participate actively in the conversations and do what you can to get to know the members on an individual basis.
Keep an eye on what your community responds to. They may find videos more accessible than lengthy blog posts—or vice versa. You don’t have to read their minds either; you can ask them directly or toss in an occasional poll to find out what they like and what they’re interested in. Follow up by delivering what they ask for.
It’s absolutely appropriate to work in some occasional sales messaging—particularly things like subscription offers and exclusive members-only discounts. But the vast majority of your posts should be useful thought leadership and educational content.
Invite your favorite clients and raving fans. They can sing your praises in their conversations in ways that won’t feel as overtly promotional.
Get community influencers on board. These don’t need to be social media superstars with hundreds of thousands of followers. Find the people who others turn to for credible information on the topics that are relevant to your community.
Remember, you’re not trying to build a mammoth audience. The reason communities can be so successful at cutting through marketing clutter is that they’re incredibly focused on a niche area, so members can network in an environment where they feel heard and where everyone is attuned to their needs.
The future is uncertain, and the communities you develop today can be a productive forum to talk about what’s happening now and what happens next as we continue to adapt to evolving circumstances in our industries, our job roles and the world we’re all working in together.
Read How Advocacy Marketing Supports B2B Strategies for more on how to leverage the power of your happiest customers.
Holly Celeste Fisk is an accomplished marketing pro with 20+ years of experience in B2B and B2C. She’s responsible for Content4Demand’s internal marketing efforts, managing everything from content creation and email marketing to events and sponsorships, blog publishing, website management and social media presence. When she’s not working, you’ll find her sliding into third at softball, buried in a book or practicing her Italian.