It would be easy to blame struggling B2B marketing efforts on the pandemic or the reduced budgets that have resulted from it, but the uncomfortable truth is that traditional marketing tactics are becoming stale and ineffective, and they need refreshing.
If every B2B marketer is following the same playbook, it's time to develop a new play. Community-based marketing (CBM) can be that play.
Digital communities have undergone a resurgence in recent months, and so introducing CBM into your strategy can help you gain the attention, action, and loyalty of prospects and clients.
What is community-based marketing, and why is now the right time for it?
By now, we're all well versed in the concept of account-based marketing (ABM), so where does CBM fit in?
Community-based marketing makes use of the shared connections you find in a professional community. The people in those communities are drawn together by a collective practice or area of expertise, and CBM uses those connections to create closer, more valuable relationships with prospects and customers.
In a time when we're all a little starved of human connection, both in our personal and professional lives, the need to feel part of a group is stronger than it might otherwise be. Digital communities provide somewhere to share ideas, ask questions, gain support, and build relationships—at a time when doing so is so important.
Moreover, when you consider how saturated channels such as email, social ads, and paid search are, it's easy to see why it's time to explore a new avenue. And as the clickthrough rates you desire are becoming increasingly difficult to achieve, ad spend is becoming more costly.
Where in the marketing funnel does CBM fit?
The interest, consideration, and desire stages of the marketing funnel lend themselves particularly well to community-based marketing.
CBM offers an opportunity both to further engage with prospects who have already proved their interest in your offering and to build your expertise, authority, and credibility within your target audience.
Part of that comes down to scale. Although B2C community marketing can work well with larger numbers, relationships in B2B are generally lower in volume but higher in value. It's important that your community have enough members to gather a natural momentum, but you'll want to avoid their becoming too noisy or anonymous.
There's an opportunity to introduce CBM during the loyalty and advocacy stage, as well. Identifying your key accounts and providing "concierge" levels of service and support can encourage customers to stick with you over longer periods of time, as well as lead to referrals.
Make your CBM strategy a success
Various factors play a role in the success of your CBM strategy. Here are some areas to focus on.
Select the right group host
The importance of selecting the right community leader cannot be overstated.
To attract and retain the right community members, as well as encourage the right kinds of conversations, you'll need someone senior and influential. But don't overlook softer skills. Your admin should be resilient and assertive while showing a great deal of empathy and knowing when to step in and when to step back.
It's also a good idea to opt for someone comfortable with the technology you select, which brings me to the next point.
Choose the right platform
There is no one correct platform, but factors you should take into consideration are your industry sector, the size of your target audience, the size of your business, and the kind of culture you're trying to cultivate.
Large platforms such as LinkedIn can feel anonymous and impersonal, for example, whereas companies in niche areas might want to explore specialist models such as Substack (for writers) or Patreon (for artists).
For communities that are in-between in scale, open-source software and ready-to-go mobile-first platforms offer a risk-free and low entry-cost option to get your B2B community off the ground.
Curate, don't dictate
There's a fine line between a well organized environment and a stifled one. The most successful communities feel like they are "owned" by the community itself. It's fine to steer conversation when needed, but it's crucial not to attempt to dominate conversation.
That equilibrium happens over time, not overnight. With the right people involved, you should begin to see your community members offer up their own ideas, questions, and opinions.
Be consistent and persistent
To get into a rhythm, post consistently in your community—especially in the early stages. For example, dedicating certain days of the week to specific posts, welcoming new members, or holding interviews or discussions can be good ways to build momentum.
Long droughts without any content might have new members questioning the longevity of the group, whereas sudden surges of activity could feel overwhelming to busy professionals struggling to stay on top of new messages.
Above all, persistency is a tool you'll want to keep in your armory. It can take a while to get a group off the ground, because you must build trust and make people comfortable and confident enough to open up.
But investing that time and energy will create a truly valuable community—both for you and its members.
More Resources on Community-Based Marketing
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