PHOTO: “My life through a lens”
I’ve been thinking a lot about fellowship these days. In other words: I have thought a lot about how the model of generating demand for the sales prospectus seems to collapse and that the future of sales must help. And if I’m correct, it means that we, as B2B marketers, need to shift our approach from reaching audiences and generating demand to supporting communities and raising hands.
That’s a lot to unzip.
Tired of being sold?
Let’s start with why I think the sales model needs to change. Simply put, none of us like to be sold. For example, when we have a call with a sales rep before reading the whitepaper we just downloaded. Or we receive appointment emails that make us guilty of how disappointed the seller is with our lack of response. And don’t make me tell how salespeople hold us hostage through generic sales deck presentations without asking us any questions.
Is it any wonder that we no longer take calls from numbers we don’t know?
Too many of us now lean on our marketing channels to blow up our content, propagate our brand and hopefully ensnare potential customers in our closed forms. In addition, we are turning to the ever-growing pile of technology solutions in the hope of squeezing our demand generation through to sales process more and more. I’m not saying we don’t need martech – of course we do. I’m just saying that we should invest in the human side of things as well.
What do I mean by community? Your target contacts, your connections, your tribe that comes together to solve common problems, improve their game as professionals, and feel part of something bigger. In addition, today’s buyers want to do business with brands they like and with which they feel a human connection. Imagine how much easier your marketing work would be if you were one of these brands!
But does investing in a community pay off?
Just ask Salesforce, Atlassian, and Red Hat about the impact the community has on increasing customer lifetime value and reducing customer acquisition costs. And for startups in particular, a community of passionate early adopters of your product can become a strategic advantage even over the largest established market players. Remember: trademark attorney is much more valuable than brand awareness!
Related article: Apple isn’t hiding its community, so why?
Define your community strategy
Before you begin, you need a clear idea of what you want to achieve with your community. Answering these key questions helps:
- Which community do you want to focus on? You may have multiple buyer personas or sell to many different job titles. Look for similarities and weaknesses between these personas and job titles to develop the community you want to serve.
- How will you support this community? Notice that I said support, not yours. What is your mission when it comes to this community? What purpose will the community get excited about, and how can your brand help?
- When do they come together? How do you bring community members together on a regular basis to engage in the topics and conversations that are important to you and them?
- How will you promote communication between community members? Maybe a dedicated Slack channel, LinkedIn group, or Facebook group makes sense. Or just use social media conversations and email communication at first.
Related Article: 7 Lessons From Introducing the Asana Community
Your approach to marketing needs to change
Adopting a community-centric marketing strategy has a direct impact on many aspects of your approach to marketing, including:
- Event Marketing: Use virtual and in-person events as an opportunity to bring people together monthly, quarterly, and annually to discuss topics that matter most to the community.
- Content Marketing: Use your blog posts, podcasts, webinars and executive bylines as opportunities to share their stories with community members.
- Social media: Shift from a broadcast mindset to one that engages and expands your community by expanding member content, posting polls and questions to get feedback, and recognizing, thanking, and putting others in the spotlight.
As you go down the community building journey, you need to measure your progress. Here are a few ways to do this:
- House email lists: Don’t be obsessed with growing your database; instead, pay attention to your open rate.
- Social media: Make your north star the total engagement count.
- Search Marketing: Track the number of trademark searches.
- Number of community members: Calculate the number of people who have engaged with your brand (e.g., open emails and engaged in social media) over a period of time, such as the last 90 days.
- Lead attribution: Measure the percentage of leads and referrals that come from community members each quarter.
Do these numbers improve over time? If you do a good job with the community, they will.
Related article: How Customer Communities Improve the Customer Experience
Now it’s your turn
Do you agree to invest in a community growth approach to B2B marketing? What tactics are you using to grow your community?
Carter Hostelley is the CEO of Leadtail, a B2B agency focused on getting social media up and running for technology brands and startups. Carter is a tireless advocate for the importance of social media and influencer marketing to reach, engage, and influence buyers.