Recently, marketing and community leaders met online for the first in a series of webinars that Zapnito is hosting to increase knowledge of communities, community management, and the ROI of communities.
To sign up for the next two webinars, click here.
In this first session, Richard O’Connor, CEO of B2B Marketing, Neil Berry, Global Head of ABM at Atos, and Karien Stroucken, Strategy Director at Zapnito, discussed the role of online communities in helping brands stand out and the importance of community management. We’ve summarized their key points below.
Fill out the form to watch the webinar.
The current state of play
Let’s face it, the market is noisy. In fact, there were 44% more magazine launches in 2021, all vying for an audience’s declining attention spans. Couple that with the fact that younger demographics such as Millennials are gaining influence in purchasing decisions (and the spending power to match); plus the decline in association membership in 2021, and you can see why online communities are becoming popular for knowledge brands.
As Richard O’Connor pointed out, “B2B Marketing found itself at an inflection point during the Covid-19 pandemic and we approached our readers to understand what they needed at that stage, as all businesses changed. The resounding answer was networking, to bring them together with others, all of the time. That was the genesis of our community, Propolis.”
Understanding members’ needs
Communities can often come about through a recognized need in an audience or a market shift that necessitates a sea-change in everyone’s thinking, approaches, and knowledge. Two drivers that B2B Marketing reacted to in creating its expert community.
Therein lies a fundamental building block of a successful community: understanding what members need. Start with the unique value that your brand delivers to customers and then ask them where your organization can address their challenges. “Don’t make assumptions about what people need,” advised Richard, “ask them.”
“The fact that we were approached and asked, that built a lot of trust in the community from the start,” explained Neil Berry, who is a member of Propolis. And that brings us to another important characteristic to build in your online community: trust.
How to build a trusted space
Trust is in dwindling supply these days and people recognize that. Public forums aren’t just cluttered and noisy, but they can be open to exploitation and fake news. Something that Neil elaborated on during the panel, saying, “Having a place to go, a safe environment to work in was really valued when so many marketers had to pivot.”
“As an 18-year-old brand, we had real responsibility. People expect you to behave in the right way and to be at the vanguard of how you represent the industry. We continue to lead the industry to be bold, we have to mean something and be rooted in trust,” added Richard.
Five steps for community growth
Richard then took the panel through B2B Marketing’s five-step strategy for building its community.
- Know our business and purpose: a brand blueprint exercise to understand the business your want to be (and not what you do).
- Understand our market: know your customer groups and their needs. See where the common threads are, and where your community can meet those needs. “If you can provide your customers with a consistent place to go, that really helps your brand to stand out. You need to give customers a sense of belonging throughout everything,” advises Neil.
- Have a community strategy: understand where a community ties in with your business goals and what customer offering it delivers. Looks for ways to unite your community with wider efforts — Propolis was publicized at in-person events, for example.
To learn more about how to create and implement an online community, read out Definitive Guide on Community Management
- Ongoing community management: community management is an active role that requires constant attention. You need someone accountable (and thinking) about the community experience. You can get out of date really quickly if someone is not actively engaging with members and tweaking content to new needs.
- Analyze, report, tweak, and repeat: the important point here is that there is a cluster of metrics you need to measure, to really understand what’s happening in your community. Not everyone wants to type in responses to questions, but that doesn’t mean they’re not learning from others. Stickiness is a metric that really matters to B2B Marketing because this means people are consistently returning — currently this stands at 40% more than the average closed community.
Think about the future
Having a North Star to point your community plans toward can help guide you when deciding on new features or integrating further with your marketing plans. “We want to continue to build out our value proposition for member groups and further integrate the community with our physical events, education, and training. Propolis will be even more at the center of what we’re doing going forward,” Richard explained.
To watch the event in its entirety, it’s available on-demand.