The case for community-based marketing in 2021
It would be easy to blame the pandemic or the resulting reduced budgets for the weak B2B marketing efforts, but the uncomfortable truth is that traditional marketing tactics are becoming outdated and ineffective and need to be updated.
When every B2B marketer is following the same game book, it's time to create a new game. Community-based marketing (CBM) can be that game.
Digital communities have seen an upswing in the past few months. Introducing CBM into your strategy can help you attract the attention, action, and loyalty of prospects and customers.
What is community-based marketing and why is it now?
We are now all very familiar with the concept of account-based marketing (ABM). So where does CBM fit in?
Community-based marketing leverages the common connections you find in a professional community. People in these communities are brought together through a collective practice or area of expertise, and CBM leverages these connections to build closer and more valuable relationships with prospective clients and customers.
At a time when we all suffer a little from human connection, both in our personal and professional lives, the need to feel part of a group is stronger than it could otherwise be. Digital communities are an opportunity to share ideas, ask questions, get support, and build relationships – at a time when it is so important.
When you consider how busy channels like email, social ads, and paid search are, you can easily see why it's time to explore a new road. And as it gets harder and harder to get the click-through rates you want, ad spend gets more and more expensive.
Where in the marketing funnel does CBM fit?
The stages of interest, consideration, and desire of the marketing funnel are particularly good for community-based marketing.
CBM provides the opportunity to continue engaging with potential customers who have already expressed an interest in your offering, and to build your expertise, authority and credibility with your target audience.
Part of it is true to scale. Although B2C community marketing can work well with larger numbers, relationships in B2B are generally lower in volume but more valuable. It's important that your community has enough members to give it a natural impulse, but you should avoid getting them too loud or anonymous.
There is also the option of introducing CBM in the loyalty and advocacy phase. Identifying your key accounts and providing "concierge" levels of service and support can encourage customers to stay with you for extended periods of time and lead to referrals.
Make your CBM strategy a success
Several factors play a role in the success of your CBM strategy. Here are some areas to focus on.
Choose the right group host
The importance of choosing the right community leader cannot be emphasized enough.
To attract and retain the right community members, as well as foster the right types of conversation, you need someone older and influential. But don't overlook softer skills. Your administrator should be resilient and confident while also showing a lot of empathy and knowing when to step in and when to step back.
It's also a good idea to choose someone who is familiar with the technology you have chosen, which brings me to the next point.
Choose the right platform
There's no such thing as a proper platform, but factors to consider include your industry, the size of your target audience, the size of your business, and the type of culture you want to cultivate.
Large platforms like LinkedIn, for example, can feel anonymous and impersonal, while companies in niche areas may want to investigate specific models like Substack (for writers) or Patreon (for artists).
For communities that are in between sizes, open source software and ready-to-use mobile-first platforms offer a risk-free, low-cost option to get your B2B community off the ground.
Curate, not dictate
There is a fine line between a well-organized and a suffocated environment. The most successful communities feel "possessed" by the community itself. It's okay to control the conversation when needed, but it's important not to try to dominate the conversation.
This equilibrium happens over time, not overnight. With the right people, you should begin to see your community members bring 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, if you dedicate certain days of the week to certain posts, greet new members or conduct interviews or discussions, you can provide good impetus.
With long periods of drought with no content, new members could question the longevity of the group, while sudden spurts of activity could feel overwhelming to busy professionals struggling to keep up with new news.
Above all, perseverance is a tool that you will want to keep in your armory. It can take a while for a group to get started because you need to build trust and make people comfortable and confident enough to open up.
When you invest that time and energy, a truly valuable community will emerge – both for you and your members.
More resources on community-based marketing
How to expand your professional network in the digital-only era
Effects of COVID-19 on B2B tech marketers' channel strategies in 2021
Five tips to improve the B2B customer experience to generate more sales