What is a community? Simply put, a community is a group of people with similar interests, characteristics, or sharing common goals. It is a place where people are able to discuss relevant ideas with one another and know that they will be understood and possibly even have their problems solved.
So what does that have to do with Business-to-Business, or B2B, marketing?
Traditional B2B marketing is rooted in a single goal: getting leads at all costs. Leads fuel the sales cycle, which, in turn, leads to a healthy revenue pipeline. Unfortunately, outside of outbound outreach, the typical sales team will look to marketing to feed their pipeline. That leaves marketers with a huge gap to fill; so much so that 78% of a marketer’s success is measured by how much they influence the overall sales pipeline.
To fill this gap, marketers turn to the traditional strategies used over and over again in B2B marketing: account-based marketing (ABM), research-based marketing, and nurture campaign marketing. However, community is somewhat of an untapped resource when it comes to B2B marketing.
Introducing Community-Based B2B Marketing (CBM)
Don’t worry about new acronyms, this one is exactly what it sounds like. A B2B community is simply a group of people or businesses that have a common goal, focus, or problem that they are working on. When it comes to B2B marketing, a community can span from people with the same job titles that have run into similar problems and communicate through a group on Linkedin, to a TikTok community that is learning how to DIY home projects from a business that provides the services. The point being, all of these people have a problem they are facing and they lean on their community to find solutions.
B2B community marketing can come in all different forms. Communities can happen via Slack, Discord, TikTok, or Whatsapp, or even in person at panels, lectures, and events. However they gather, B2B companies that are looking for new ways to penetrate their market need to insert themselves into the conversation wherever their community is.
What are the benefits of a B2B Community for the business?
- Fosters lead generation and upsell: When you build a community that has current clients, potential clients, or even cold audiences, it’s an opportunity for the business to help the clientele understand the value of the product. Rather than selling a product directly, you allow the community to lean on each other and learn about the product from one another.
- Help the audience: Most consumers looking for a B2B solution have a problem that they need solving, this is the opportunity to be helpful. Rather than simply selling a product, take this as an opportunity to educate the potential customer on the benefits, and upsell current clients on what’s coming next.
- Easy way to gain insight: B2B businesses need to turn to NPS surveys, customer interviews, or even incentives to get real data from their customers. Communities are a way to gather intel about the client challenges, goals, and product information.
What are the benefits of a B2B Community for the consumer?
- Knowledge: Communities take the opportunity to gain knowledge from one another. If a community is fostered specifically around a product or a business, the people in that community will likely turn to gain knowledge.
- Networking: In the B2B world, networking is crucial. People with similar interests, job titles, companies, etc. always want to network and “be in the know.” A community, especially an online community, helps people to be able to network with whomever and whenever they want.
- Innovation: Communities thrive off of ideas. Sharing ideas within the community allows the participants to innovate within their own respective roles.
Traditional B2B Strategy vs. Community B2B Strategy
To understand the power of community in B2B marketing, let’s remember the basics:
What is lead generation in B2B?
The goal of B2B lead generation is to allow other businesses to remember your brand, understand the value it can bring to their business, and convert them into customers. Marketers want to be able to reach decision makers who have the power to act, drive engagement with those audiences, and build relationships along the way.
Traditional B2B Strategy:
Traditionally, B2B marketing has relied on a variety of strategies to reach potential customers and promote products or services. The traditional marketing and sales funnel tracks the various stages of a revenue opportunity, when someone becomes a lead, an opportunity and eventually either a closed/won or closed/lost deal. The marketing team focuses on getting as many qualified leads as possible into the top of the funnel. The typical strategies to get leads through the funnel include:
From Linkedin to Google Search, B2B companies will pour hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars into digital advertising every year in the hopes of gaining a healthy pipeline. Though it can be successful, it takes months of experimentation, targeting refinement, and creative A/B testing to get a cost per customer acquisition down, and revenue up. Most companies will likely have to hire outside agencies to be able to compete.
Drip or Nurture Campaigns:
B2B marketers will send nurture campaigns to leads that have gone cold to get them to turn into paying customers. Though email marketing might be considered the cornerstone of B2B marketing, companies would need to build teams around email marketing specifically to become successful.
Expos or Trade Shows:
Trade shows and exhibitions are a popular way for B2B companies to showcase their products and services to a large number of potential customers in one place. However, trade shows are a huge expense and don’t often lead to many qualified leads.
The bottom line is, these things all take time and money.
In 2022, $26 billion was spent on US-based B2B marketing and by the end of 2023, that number will be over $30 billion. So, short of spending millions of dollars to compete, how will B2B companies compete?
Community B2B Strategy:
Community B2B marketing is a more recent approach that focuses on building and nurturing relationships with potential customers through online communities and social media. This approach emphasizes engagement and connection with potential customers, rather than simply promoting products or services. Potential customers are tired of being sold products, they want to understand value
Before purchasing a product, 27% of potential customers use dedicated brand communities to research the product.
Some of the key strategies used in community B2B marketing include:
Many B2B companies are now using online communities, such as forums, TikTok, LinkedIn groups, and Facebook groups, to connect with potential customers and answer their questions, offer advice, and build relationships. Community B2B marketing can be a cost-effective way to reach and engage with potential customers, especially if you are targeting a specific industry or geographic region.
B2B companies are also using social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to engage with potential customers and build their brand. Online communities and social media platforms have a much larger reach than traditional B2B marketing tactics, making it easier to connect with a wider audience and get better engagement.
Community B2B marketers often use content marketing tactics such as blogging, podcasting, and creating videos to provide valuable information to potential customers and build relationships with them. By providing valuable insight, brands can build personal relationships with potential customers.
What steps should you take to Build a B2B Community?
Now the fun part, how to actually build a B2B community:
Figure out the “why”:
B2B communities need to have a purpose and be relevant. The community needs to bring value, be engaging, and keep your audience hooked. Figure out what you want the community to gain by joining. Is it an educational TikTok channel that shows people how to do something? Is it a Facebook or Linkedin group that helps solve work-related issues? Whatever the purpose is, a clear one will leave participants always wanting more from the brand.
Understand the goals:
Sure, a community is fun, but at the same time it is built to not only educate an audience but to drive sales. So, when building a B2B community it is important to keep KPIs in mind. What should the community achieve? It can be as simple as email signs up, but the goal has the be clear in order for the company to gain value as well.
Pick the platform:
Where is the conversation going to take place? Social media, podcasts, blogs, and forums are all options. The first thing to look for is where your potential customers hang out online. From there, build a relationship on that platform which can later expand to other platforms as well.
Invite the champions:
The best thing about building a B2B community is inviting the people! You can invite current clients, ideal clients, potential clients, and more. Create a profile of who the ideal member is and recruit the right prospects. This way, there is already a pool of potential customers to help marketing efforts.
Driving engagement is the most important thing about a community. Creating one and never engaging isn’t an option. It is up to the brand to engage with the community, answer questions, drive innovation, and become a go-to in the industry.
Inviting members, asking for referrals, and engaging influencer marketing are all a part of promoting a B2B community. Incorporate the community into the brand and help drive community growth. A community can act as an asset for the brand, so it’s important to leverage it throughout the marketing funnel.
Layering B2B community marketing into an existing marketing strategy can set any brand up for success when it comes to lead generation. B2B communities are an essential way for businesses to connect with their target audience, improve customer engagement and acquisition, and actually bring value to their customers. Growing a B2B community helps brands gain first-hand feedback, retention, and an understanding of their user base. At their core, community members are brand ambassadors that will fuel your B2B lead generation!