Community marketing: why community is the future of engaging B2B customers

Community isn’t a new thing. It’s been there since humans first walked the Earth. But how can B2B marketers take the concept of community and apply it to their marketing strategies, in order to build trust amongst their audience and achieve cut-through?

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Social media has reached saturation point. Connecting with customers and building brand loyalty is no longer viable in this sea of noise. Brands that spent years building their communities on these channels have realised they are at the mercy of an algorithm, with no ownership of the relationships or rich data being created. Reaching even your own followers is increasingly a paid privilege.

The pendulum is swinging away from these broad social networks and towards niche, engaged communities owned by trusted brands. Marketing channels have multiplied over the last decade, and this fragmentation has led to disjointed, inconsistent customer experiences. Blogs, webinars, whitepapers, events and social media channels are just not enough to capture the hearts and minds of customers and prospects. It is time to move from the traditional funnel to a cycle of customer engagement and growth.

The pendulum is swinging away from these broad social networks and towards niche, engaged communities owned by trusted brands.

Community marketing is about creating a ‘home’ – a hub for content and community, where customers and prospects can learn, participate and be heard. Space to showcase all the things that make a brand unique – articles, videos, research, case studies and interviews – all the assets that live in disparate locations across CMSs, webinar tools, event tech, learning and social media channels.

Community marketing also gives a platform to the people within a brand. Buyers today crave a more human experience from their online environments. Delivering this means putting your people front and centre, and leading with empathy, to create an emotional connection with an audience.

Marketing has always been about influencing how people feel about a brand, with 95% of purchasing decisions driven by unconscious factors. Buyers want to feel heard, understood and valued, and it ultimately comes down to trust. Done well, community marketing means a participatory experience for customers that creates this trust. Rather than talking ‘at’ prospects or customers, they create a dialogue.

Events were always a crucial touchpoint to create an emotional connection. As they disappeared overnight, marketers struggled to create the same impact with virtual events. They were often treated as siloed, individual experiences. With community marketing, these virtual events take place in the same content and media-rich hub as everyday community engagement, allowing the conversations and interest to continue and grow beyond the one or two days of the event.

Community marketing takes a holistic view of the customer, from awareness right through to advocacy. Growth is not simply about acquisition – a leaky bucket is no use to anybody. Sustainable growth is about retaining existing customers, delighting and over-serving them. A community gives your most influential experts and customers a voice to market your products and services beyond just the internal teams. With community marketing, your most successful clients become your greatest sales asset.

Finally, two words to end with: data ownership. There’s a reason that social platforms keep data to themselves – they are able to understand what is driving your customers’ behaviour, what makes them come back, what resonates with which groups, and where the overlaps are. Reclaiming this data is crucial for understanding customers and embedding this into decision making.

With community marketing, your most successful clients become your greatest sales asset.

Community marketing is far from a fad or a phase. It represents the art and science of marketing, before social media made us think that ‘engagement’ was a like or a share and ‘followers’ were customers. Communities create real conversations and genuine relationships in one unified hub. It’s not a quick fix, but the returns on the investment are demonstrated with efficiencies in spend and an increase in lifetime value and revenue.

Download the full Community Marketing report here.

Charles Thiede

CEO and Co-Founder, Zapnito Ltd.

My background is in technology, professional services and digital media. I co-founded Zapnito due to a number of related observations from my time in these sectors: 1) the social web is creating a huge amount of noise 2) expertise that brands have built up over decades is being drowned out and hidden from those that need it 3) these brands are therefore losing their audience to often undeserving and unhelpful sources, and 4) people are finding it harder to access the expertise that they truly value. I therefore decided to create Zapnito, a white-label platform to help trusted brands reclaim their audiences via expert-driven knowledge networks.