Are you a B2B company looking for a robust channel to engage customers and transform the channel as a growth driver as well? A branded b2b online community is your answer. An online community is really powerful since it integrates across the customer lifecycle and touches various departments of a company.
Businesses initiating community programs are improving customer retention, generating insights for better product management, strengthening culture, boosting loyalty, and driving customer advocacy. Since these are some of the most challenging and eternal business challenges, solving them by building a community is the perfect approach.
The reason being, communities transcend human evolution as well as technological innovations such as the internet. Communities have been available on the web from the very beginning -- from email groups and IRC channels to forums and modern branded communities. These are practically digital manifestations of real-world communities.
Why B2B online communities
Customer experience has already become the key battleground for companies to win market share. According to research by Salesforce, 64% of the customers have indicated that customer experience holds more weightage in comparison to pricing. And Gartner's report shows that 87% of the companies are looking to compete based on customer experience.
Moreover, according to research done by Walker, by the end of 2020, customer experience will surpass both price and product as the key brand differentiator.
Although a large part of the customer experience in the lifecycle is influenced by your customer support and success team, looking into CX holistically and driving concentrated efforts to deliver an amazing experience at each touchpoint gives the real edge to a company. Since customer experience improvement requires various departments in your companies to collaborate, an online community for your customers is valuable.
This looks complex and rightfully so -- however, a powerful way to solve this is to create a community where your customers can connect with peers as well as your team and brand. This approach adds a powerful human touch to your brand.
The exact reason why a b2b online community is such a potent weapon for companies is that it solves critical challenges by fully integrating into the customer touchpoints. Starting from content amplification and brand visibility via SEO, prospecting inside the community to customer self-service, customer engagement, feedback collection, and advocacy.
As you can see from the illustration shown above, an online community empowers various teams within your community to come together and improves the experience with a unifying approach. One of the key benefits is the ability to provide a platform for your customers to share knowledge, learn from each other, forge valuable connections, and deliver help.
This results in a robust channel for customer self-service and at the same time offers practical insights to your team via candid conversations.
It is amazing to learn about the various benefits of an online community; however, building a thriving community takes careful planning and consistency. In the subsequent section, we explain how a company must approach the community project.
Building a customer community
At Bettermode, we have worked with a large number of B2B technology companies and helped build engaging online communities. Based on our experience, given below are the three key pillars of any B2B community.
1. Community objective
This is the very first step in your community strategy -- although a community connects with several departments of your community and solves some of the complex challenges, you need to start with a laser-focused objective. Brainstorm on what you would select as the goal of the community based on the business objective.
Given below are some of the most frequently used goals:
B2B companies are looking to scale the customer support and at the same time deliver a compelling customer experience. When your community hosts a knowledge base along with peer-to-peer discussions, your customers are empowered to find solutions from the community. Also, expert customers are generally inclined to help others and build valuable networks.
This approach helps with deflecting support queries.
Better customer engagement (and retention):
Acquiring new customers is five times more expensive than retaining customers and increasing retention by 5% can boost revenue by 95%. Hence, it is absolutely critical for B2B companies to leverage the online community for better product adoption, education, engagement, and conveying the value of the product.
Your community also acts as a powerful source for identifying superusers and potentially working with them to craft an advocacy program. This helps you tap into the referral network of your most engaged customers and activate a growth flywheel.
Actionable customer insights:
Companies are looking to build products that make customers successful. This requires an in-depth understanding of the challenges and goals of the customers. Hence, there is a slew of solutions for feedback collection. This is critical for product management and building a future-proof roadmap.In an online community, the conversation is naturally candid in nature and this allows a free flow of ideas. Your team can leverage this to learn more about customers and potentially select certain conversations for in-depth study. Also, a great place to recruit power users and set up one-on-one meetings.
Check out our case study on how WebinarNinja built a thriving online community of customers and positioned itself as the go-to brand for entrepreneurs. Apart from help customers with self-service, the community is serving as a great channel for feedback collection and recruiting beta-testers.
Hence, your community objective is critical since it drives the presentation of the community components in your design.
2. Allocating internal team and ensuring accountability
You launched your online community with clear guidelines, content plan (preferably with a calendar) based on the business objective. Now you need to ensure that your internal team is fully onboarded with the platform in terms of the domain knowledge and the technical knowledge of the community platform.
At Bettermode, we are big proponents of the DIY approach and implementing the best practices derived from popular social media sites (since people are already familiar with navigating and networking on social networks). We empower the brands to customize the community in terms of design and integration (API, Webhooks, and developer platform). The cost-saving from the community software can be utilized in developing the community and investing in the members.
Your team must work with a playbook for handling the community operations. but at the same time, they must have the flexibility to take actions for the benefit of the community based on their own understanding and common sense. A set of automation for community moderation as well as member-powered issue-reporting would boost the efficiency of the moderators.
3. Integrating the community with customer success operations
A brand community will not replace your existing tools for customer support. However, the online community can host both a static knowledge base as well as dynamic customer conversations for building a powerful knowledge repository for self-service. And above all, it must integrate into your customer success process.
That means, it must connect with help desk platforms such as Help Scout, Freshdesk, and CRM solutions like HubSpot. Tight integration with the customer experience management technology stack would ensure that you have all the data you need to offer meaningful social touchpoints.
For example, when you are converting a conversation to a ticket in your helpdesk solution, your success team would have access to the entire context behind that ticket. Similarly, a prospect recorded in your CRM might be looking for pre-sales questions in your community. This type of integration can help you deliver an amazing experience before and after sales.
With Bettermode, you can create a knowledge base and a space for customer discussion in your B2B online community. This central knowledge repository allows you to serve customers with both self-service and a proactive approach.
Create your B2B online community
As your community grows, ensure that your company is completely aware of the value that the community delivers by scoring the success of your community. This is done by clearly defining the key community metrics for different departments and reporting via a dashboard.
Now you are aware of the benefits of a B2B online community and some of the best practices for building a community. It's time for you to get started with community initiative by keeping the customers at the center and execute the strategy. This way you can add immense value to your customers as well as your business.
Director of Marketing, Bettermode
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