Marketing to business to business customers, or B2B customers, has historically been done offline via sales representatives, cold calling, mail adverts, and door-to-door sales. As the world becomes increasingly digital, B2B marketing has shifted to online advertising, social media videos, and email blasts.
The differences between B2B and B2C customers have narrowed, and the buyer’s journey is now their own, free from the control of brands. It’s plain to see that the consumer holds more power than ever before in history, with information available at their fingertips. In fact, a recent industry survey found that 68% of B2B buyers prefer to conduct research online, and 60% prefer not to interact with a sales rep as their primary source of information.
To make matters more confusing for marketers, B2B purchasing is now done by various stakeholders, and the end-user may not be the primary purchaser. Luckily, there are still ways to engage the elusive B2B consumer by creating a central hub for sourcing, extracting, and collecting data. Let’s dive in.
Why & How To Start A B2B Community Online
B2B customers are the most potent source of data for sustaining and growing your business. To tap into this resource, you need to create a platform, or online community focused on understanding and communicating with your customer in a valuable way. The best ways to start your community are:
- Email distribution lists
- Links to weekly email updates
- Internal client intranet
- Internal HR pamphlets
To ensure your online community’s success, you will need to make sure that all business departments are dedicated to nurturing this space. Your online community will need holistic support from your team, including the sales, HR, marketing, and product development departments.
An all-hands-on-deck mentality is the key to a thriving online community. In addition to team support, your community must also appeal to its members. The most successful online communities serve as a trustworthy source of product, content, and customer support for their end-users. Fuel Cycle’s B2B communities have high activity rates (around 80%) and even higher participation rates (85%). These participation rates are higher than average and are a good indication that our B2B communities experience a rich amount of engagement from their customers. Your B2B online community should be a safe space where customers can provide honest feedback that will be translated into visible action. Live chats, surveys, member forums, and direct interaction are crucial to the community’s success.
In return for feedback, customers must receive value back in the form of incentives and exclusive content. Incentives such as gift cards, charity donations, conference tickets, special CEO luncheons, and insider product information are ideal ways to get customers on board with your community.
The Power of CX
In 2021, you can no longer afford to ignore the power of CX in the B2B space. Investing in voice of customer programs, specifically online communities, should no longer be an ad hoc project but a main business concern and objective.
Want to learn more about how your team can best motivate and engage B2B consumers? Download our free whitepaper, The Buyers’ Guide to B2B Online Communities.