In today’s over-saturated online world, getting the attention of and engaging with a target audience is difficult. We’ve become so jaded to a lot of online content that it’s hard for any marketer, much less a B2B professional, to truly engage and develop a relationship with an audience.
This is why many are turning to digital industry networks (DINs) to engage and interact with their audience. DINs are online networks made up of “conversation zones” and other communication channels that lets members talk about a specific topic of interest.
B2B marketers are using DINs to create and nurture a highly-targeted audience, from which they’re finding prospects and customers. DINs let you create a “tribe” for your company. Since relationships are the lifeblood of any B2B business, this type of rapport-building can be an important catalyst to move clients along the B2B sales pipeline – from interested observer to prospect and, ultimately, paying customer.
Who are DIN members?
They’re a highly-targeted audience for a specific topic who want to share with other like-minded people. DINs are similar to LinkedIn groups, trade association special interest groups, or the old-school bulletin board systems of decades past, but more plugged-in. For instance, SAP has developed a community network on a dedicated site, featuring forum threads on almost every vertical imaginable in the company.
What can a DIN do for a B2B firm?
There are a number of positive outcomes for a B2B company using their own DIN, including brand awareness, thought leadership, demand generation, and lead nurturing.
B2B marketers can lead discussions on topics they’re interested in, discover other tidbits that their market is discussing, and can use it as another way to engage and keep in touch with their industry.
Your finger on the pulse of your market
It’s a less sales-y way of keeping tabs on the latest news and pain points, while giving you more of that human touch that B2B businesses always need to foster. Why not show off your human side?
Note that DINs are often lead by a single brand evangelist, who’s in charge of everything from group access to conversation moderation and overall discussion catalyst.
Also important: the evangelist should NOT, repeat, NOT be a sales person who’s trying to get members to purchase the B2B product. The whole idea of the DIN is to foster a non-sales environment where they can talk about whatever they like without being sold to.
Keep up with the pace of innovation
High-growth B2B companies often have difficulty keeping pace with the rate of innovation, simply because they’re often so large that they can’t move quickly. A DIN allows them to keep pace with trends in the marketplace, give them a venue to test out their own ideas, and see what’s going on.
What exactly happens in a DIN?
- Peer conversation
- Subject matter expert question & answers
- Sharing of non-promotional content
- Low-level customer support
Members share ideas and questions, and are lead in discussions by a brand evangelist/thought leader.
DINs are a complement to existing online communities
While a B2B firm may already be active in online social and professional networks such as LinkedIn or their own online community, DINs are different. They are an online hub that’s laser-focused on a high-value market topic that provide a credible and trusted resource for that community.
Establish them quickly
That laser-focus lets B2B marketers establish DINs much more quickly than online communities developed by HP or Cisco, which took years to develop, mainly because they were centered around broad topics. A DIN makes it easier to create a community with like-minded professionals who are motivated to talk about that particular topic. They’re interested in it, and most often impacted by issues and obstacles in that topic area.
Generate content quickly
As a DIN owner, you’ll find it easy to generate content and foster discussion, simply because the DIN is closely focused on a particular topic. DIN members will create new content for you as they share ideas and obstacles, help each other out, and react to content items posted by your evangelist.
Ignore SEO changes
Creating content around the what Google or other search engines “like” means you’re constantly playing catch-up with your website. Concentrating on your B2B company and building strong content output on your industry will always be rewarded by Google since you’re focusing on quality and creating content that’s independent of search engine algorithms.
Convert members elsewhere, and only when needed
If you sense that a DIN member is ready for conversion, take the conversation off-line. Remember, the DIN is a sales-free zone, where members should feel comfortable talking about whatever they want without the pressure of any sales.
That said, there may be times when you see that a member is looking for sales information, so don’t miss that opportunity. Just talk about it elsewhere.
More information on DINs
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