In this digital era, one concept is slowly making its way into the B2B landscape: online communities. Brands like SAP, NASA, Starbucks, and Oracle have paved the way and are now reaping the benefits of building more ‘human’ relationships with their prospects.
Over the last couple of years, an increasing number of firms of all sizes have followed suit. By investing more time into researching the online customer journey, they have come to understand how vital branded communities are.
“Community is important because it brings people together. Community keeps people loyal, makes them feel like they matter. It also lets the company show how much they appreciate their customers,” says Mary Green.
Mary is an expert at community building. Her love story with digital marketing dates back to 2003, when her extensive research led to her realizing its link with psychology. Since then, she has worked with a dozen HubSpot partners and spent two years as Inbound.org’s Community Manager. “My role was to keep people interested in coming back by building relationships and helping them connect with others.”
And keeping them interested is what she did. During her time with the network for marketers, memberships increased by more than 300 percent, and monthly visits by 700 percent!
When I asked her what her secret was, she mentioned a solid team and a stellar leader. “Sam Mallikarjunan was awesome at meeting goals and encouraging everyone to use their talents to exceed. We also did a lot with email to help people find the content that they would enjoy. Being focused on what members wanted and needed helped us grow more than anything.”
Mary approaches community building in B2B in a straightforward fashion. To be successful, you must be genuine and seek out conversation. You also have to be willing to educate yourself and others, and to walk the talk: “Find great sources of information on digital marketing and social media and read everything you can. Implement what you read.”
In a way, it’s very similar to what is done in the B2C space because, “you are dealing with people. Help them feel included and important and they’ll be much happier to be part of the community.”
Unfortunately, too many B2B (and B2C) brands continue relying on old-fashioned marketing tactics. One-way conversations are still rampant. According to a recent study released by Sprout Social, only 11 percent of consumer messages on social media are addressed. And brands send 23 promotional messages for every response!
“I think most companies don’t put in the necessary care,” Mary adds. “They don’t connect with enough people and make them feel heard and appreciated. They should seek out opportunities to talk to as many members as possible and be present. They should be dependable. Every little activity contributes to the success of the community.”
One way to reverse the status quo is to leverage content marketing through creation and curation. Content does not just help your firm stand out. The way your community shares your message and helps shape its impact also play major roles in the overall results of your strategy and campaigns.
“Brands and influencers can make great content, but the phenomenal stuff comes from the discussion. User-generated content is gold,” Mary continues.
Sticker Mule’s new Content Marketing Manager is confident about the future. B2B firms are showing signs of improvement; they are paying more attention to customer retention. “Onboarding, customer success and NPS will continue growing, as companies realize you have to work to keep people happy, not just get them to pay you once.”
Photo credit: Jon Evans
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