The digital age has affected every facet of our lives, whether it’s personal or professional. When it comes to B2B relationships, online communities are clearly on the rise. In addition to increasing connectivity, an online community also enables businesses to build long-term relationships.
In recent years, brands have begun to develop purpose-built online B2B communities to engage their customers throughout their relationship lifecycle. This development was partly driven by COVID and people’s need to congregate outside of work, and partially to provide a safe environment in which people can help one another.
What is a B2B Community?
The B2B community refers to a well-organized group of customers of a business-to-business company who are able to interact with one another. Each of these communities shares the characteristic of being customers of the same business product. The trust they have in the brand or product is what binds these individuals together.
Establishing an online community allows a company to connect with its customers. Members of the community can answer questions, tag staff members in discussions, and post comments. The brand has direct access to its customers in an informal yet respectful environment, enabling them to build strong relationships with them.
7 Reasons Why Every B2B Business Needs An Online Community
B2B communities can provide much more than support when properly integrated into business strategies. Having a thriving online community offers members a unique and valuable experience, and brings value to every department.
Businesses can focus on and address their customers’ most urgent and pervasive problems early on. It helps them differentiate themselves, form strong customer relationships, and recognize potential losses early.
Additionally, customers can share creative ways to address issues and innovative ways to use your product, improving the value of your product for every customer who reads it. It creates a relationship of personal accountability between customers and the company, which is hard to develop anywhere else.
Businesses benefit from online communities across many departments, including marketing, sales, customer service, and customer success. Here are the top reasons why every B2B business needs to build an online community.
1. Increase Brand Loyalty and Cultivate Brand Advocates
Building long-term, meaningful relationships is the key to B2B success.
The ad-exhausted (B2B) customer of today will not respond to one-way promotional communication. Brands should engage them in dialogue and build an authentic connection.
The power of online communities for building relationships cannot be overstated. In addition to connecting people around shared passions or purposes, they encourage members to interact with each other and the brand meaningfully, thereby improving retention.
Growing your community and strengthening your relationships will bring you greater advantages. It is through building an engaged community that you cultivate brand advocates – people who genuinely believe in what you do, support what you do, and tell their friends and peers about what you do.
For any B2B company, brand advocates are invaluable; beyond bringing high-quality referrals, they boost retention rates and help improve products.
There are many ways to delight members and convert them into passionate advocates for your brand, such as:
- Offering access to higher levels of company decision-makers, participating in new product and feature surveys, and influencing the brand’s direction
- Organizing exclusive networking events, free publicity, or speaking opportunities at company-sponsored events
- Recognizing, rewarding, and elevating advocates
2. Enhance Marketing Efforts
Customers are constantly being sought out by marketing departments. As organic and insightful conversations play out within the community, marketers gain unique insights into customer challenges, expectations, and desires.
By keeping an eye on emerging trends, hot topics, and customer challenges, marketers can refine their marketing strategies.
Additionally, an online community offers a treasure trove of user-generated content that can be repurposed to drive traffic, generate leads, and nurture prospects.
Your brand can also be positioned as an industry thought leader and reference by joining a community. Your online community can serve as a source of exclusive content, rich exchanges, motivation, and support (and potentially reduce your ad budget).
3. Inspire Product Innovation Inline with Customer Needs
Authentic feedback can also be gained from an online community. As a result, these insights can serve as inspiration for new features and guide the product roadmap. You’ll also have a pool of potential beta testers in your community.
The purpose of online communities is to start conversations about your business and its products. By tracking customer complaints, confusion sources, and new features, you can make the most of that opportunity. Your product can be improved in all of these areas to make it more efficient and appealing to your market.
Whenever you make a change based on customer feedback, let the community know about it. It is gratifying when people’s suggestions are taken seriously and lead to action. As a result, you may even gain more loyal customers.
Your customer advocates can provide you with valuable feedback on your products. Since they use your products often, they can identify key areas for improvement since they are passionate about them.
4. Build a Competitive Advantage
Organizations seeking competitive advantage must provide an outstanding customer experience as products become less distinguishable by brand or price. You can create a standout experience with your B2B brand by integrating online communities.
As well as engaging members, thriving online communities cultivate a sense of belonging-a need that is deeply rooted in every individual. It is easy to increase loyalty, advocacy, and investment in your success when members feel a sense of belonging in your community.
Your products and services may be copied to some extent by competitors. Although it’s almost impossible to copy the relationships, content, and experiences of a community of passionate brand advocates.
5. Increase Upsell, Cross-Sell, and Add-On Revenue
Through awareness, engagement, and data-driven sales enablement, an e-community can increase customer lifetime value by increasing upsells, cross-sells, and add-on purchases.
- Product Awareness – Create an awareness of your products by seeding the community with documents about all your current offerings. Describe how upgrading to a higher service level or adding an add-on product improves results. These documents will help customers learn more about your company’s full array of offers and what additional products will increase their value.
- Customer Engagement – Engage your customers in discussions about your products and services, such as by providing feedback and sharing unique ways they’re using them to solve problems. Cross-selling will become increasingly attractive to them.
- Data-Driven Sales – Customer engagement can be enhanced by collecting activity data from your customer community. Enable your sales team to track which pages customers are visiting, which files they’re downloading, and which discussions they’re participating in. If they find a customer who is regularly visiting your product pages, they can proactively reach out to them via phone or email to help them choose the right product.
6. Boost New Customer Acquisition
Building a B2B community for your customers and business can help you gain new customers in three ways:
- Be Discovered – Using discussion forums, articles, and updates, communities with public sections generate tons of user-generated content which are indexed by Google. As prospects search for solutions to their problems, your community will appear in the results, increasing brand awareness.
- Persuasive Content – To educate prospects on your solutions, include answers to frequently asked questions, documentation on best practices, and benefits of your products. Include customer-generated content, such as testimonials, from your most successful advocates. People are more likely to trust their peers’ experiences with a product or service than what the company says, so this content will typically become your most effective.
- Reduce Risk – With peer-to-peer support forums, easy-to-access documentation, help guides, and other support content, you can reduce the risk of making a new purchase. It’s clear to prospects that you’ve established an “always-on” location to support them and ensure their success, regardless of when problems arise.
7. Reduce Support Costs and Support Pre-Sales
Online communities allow customers and prospects to ask, answer, and share questions, ideas, and best practices. The community also helps your support team by reducing the number of issues customers have to resolve.
B2B communities are on the rise as more and more companies become aware of their benefits. It is better to launch a community early, but it is never too late!
Almost any B2B company can benefit from creating a community. But keep in mind that for your community to shine, you need to fully integrate it into your business strategy.