Some things are as true as time itself. One of those is that B2B sales is longer, and in many ways, harder than selling to the public. Cycles are months, if not years, long. And business budgets are subject to great scrutiny, especially if the market is volatile. But get B2B sales right, and your business will grow exponentially with happy customers, referrals, and a healthy pipeline. Expert communities are a proven way to get it right by putting influencers, customers, and prospects in one space.
It’s challenging to be a B2B company right now in the wake of the pandemic and as the world faces more change. Over 40% of sales leaders missed revenue targets in 2020. Yet, as the world reshapes what it means to run a business today, there is an unparalleled opportunity to build loyalty and trust among B2B decision makers. By understanding what your buyers are going through and closely aligning your services (and marketing messages) to this, you can stand out and make a clear business case for your product.
Delve into the right data
Communities are a goldmine of customer data. The discussions happening in your community will uncover customer painpoints that your product can solve (the same applies to any questions being asked). Likewise, popular topics can uncover trends that your sales and marketing teams can use for prospecting and generating leads. Content created for, and by, the community can be repurposed in sales and marketing. And your community is an engaged, available source of market research and product feedback.
Did you know that only 46% of sales reps say that they have enough data on buyer intent? Improve their closure rates by giving them access to first-party community data that provide insights on buyer behaviours.
Create consistent touchpoints
B2B sales cycles are long and they’ve become even longer post-pandemic, with 57% of B2B vendors claiming that their cycles have increased. Multiple decision-makers need to be involved, and everyone needs to be moved along the stages in a timely, yet non-pushy way. Enter: the expert community.
Inviting your decision makers to become part of a community before they sign on the dotted line can be a good way to highlight the value your company can offer them. It also introduces them to customer advocates who are already using your product (and hopefully singing their praises). With discussions taking place in the community organically, your sales team has an informal way of checking in with prospects, without coming across as pushy. And with other members sharing their thoughts and expertise, along with relevant content, you have an easy way of nurturing prospects and moving them through the cycle in a personal way.
Standing out in a crowd
Last year there were a whopping 319.6 billion emails sent and received every day around the world. Imagine being a sales rep trying to cut through that noise. Making sure your communications are targeted to exactly what a prospect needs, is one way to get their attention. Another way is inviting them to something that doesn’t come across as sales-driven at all — an online community of their peers and industry experts where they can learn best practices. In that community, you can target them with content that creates the case for your solution and shows them you care about their challenges. Again, it’s nurturing them, but in a less forced and awkward way.
B2B buyers a highly influenced by referrals. Indeed, 84% of them start their purchasing process with a referral and peer recommendations influence over 90% of B2B buying decisions. So why not create a space where those recommendations happen over the course of other discussions? Expert communities that unite current customers with prospects create a shared area where referrals are more likely to happen. Especially when you spotlight customers for the innovative work they’ve been doing with one of your products.
The best marketing and sales strategies respond to the times — and the message coming from B2B buyers is loud and clear, they want to go digital. Actually, the younger generations are starting to become an economic driving force. You might remember Millennials as avocado-eating interns, but 73% are responsible for making B2B purchasing decisions. Couple this with the fact that Baby Boomers are retiring in droves, and your new B2B buyer profile is most likely a digital native.
Online expert communities are ideal for younger generations. It’s well known that Millennials feel more confident interacting online compared to in-person. Having an online space for them to meet and network with peers can be a surefire way to get their attention and keep their business.
On a related note, Millennials also value different things compared to older generations, such as purpose and mission. Creating an expert community with a clear purpose can help to nudge them towards converting.
Worth the wait
Because the rewards of B2B sales are so high, the process is a lot more complex and time-consuming compared to B2C. The stakes, in many ways, are higher when you consider there are potentially tens of thousands to millions of dollars on the line. That’s why it’s vital to get your expert community in top shape, so it can do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to moving decision-makers along the sales cycle.
Learn more about how to manage your expert community in The Ultimate Guide to Community Management.
Or schedule a call with Zapnito’s experts to chat about your community strategy.