When you look at the most successful B2B marketing campaigns over the past few years as measured by leads generated and revenue growth, there is a very noticeable trend.
None of them focused on generating sales-qualified leads. Instead, they focused on creating a community – a resource for like-minded people packed with educational information designed to help the members rather than generate sales opportunities.
HubSpot created the category of inbound marketing and filled it with partners, content, a conference and an academy of training courses all designed to educate people who one day might buy the HubSpot software.
EOS®, the Entrepreneurial Operating System, created a community of people interested in EOS by providing business owners with books, tools and everything they need to self-implement EOS. At the same time, EOS recruited and organized implementers for those companies that can’t or don’t want to self-implement.
Sales Hacker, the website community for B2B sales and revenue pros, has done a wonderful job monetizing their community while still keeping it focused on education, support and networking.
Today, community building is one of the best ways to grow your audience, leverage your database, build your brand and grow your company.
Let’s learn more about how to leverage community building as part of your revenue generation system.
Today, the world is all about experiences. People crave them, share them and make purchase decisions based on those experiences.
But you can create an entirely new and almost separate experience with a community. This new experience is going to position your company and build your brand. It’s going to create demand for the products and services you sell, but it’s going to do it in a more indirect way that today’s buyers are much more comfortable with.
If you had access to thousands of fans of your business, product or service, how much information could you get from them to help you improve your product, add new services, outflank competitors or hire the best people? Yes, this would be a serious and sustainable competitive advantage.
Companies with communities have this competitive advantage, and they leverage it frequently. They create user groups, do surveys and hold open ask-me-anything sessions to access their members’ thoughts, ideas and insights.
Communities are a fast track to data. By asking community members to share information about themselves, you gain a huge database of information that can be used for targeting purposes and personalizing campaigns. It can even be monetized to provide industry and market data.
If you want to really lean into the idea of community, just think about your own feelings. Would you rather work with a company that has a community that you’re part of where you interact regularly, or would you prefer a company without a community?
The choice is so clear. Community wins every time when it comes to retention.
The cost to get a new customer is four to five times more than the cost to keep a current customer. It pays to invest in a community to keep your customers happy, keep them excited about working with you and keep them buying from you year after year.
Just consider these two scenarios. Company A has a small database of prospects and needs to drive more leads for the business, so they purchase a list and start marketing. In addition, they create a demand generation campaign to get their message in front of potential prospects. They have to invest a significant amount of money to get their message out, and they have to sustain that investment month after month.
Company B has a community of active participants who generally fit the target persona for their best prospects. They regularly reach out to the community members, and because of the value they provide, those community members communicate often about how they might be able to help. This produces a steady stream of inbound leads that is predictable, repeatable and scalable. Company B never has to worry about where leads are coming from.
Which scenario sounds better? Yes, Company B is in a much better place from a lead generation perspective. Plus, their access to that audience is highly valuable to partners and other non-competitive companies that reach out to Company B so they can do some co-marketing.
Leads are one thing, but new customer revenue is something else. Guess what – communities are going to help drive revenue too.
Again, consider the company without a community that reaches out to you. Even if you do need what they, it might take you a month or longer to get to know them, coordinate with everyone who needs to be involved, negotiate the contract and check references. It might take 90 days to close a deal.
But if your prospects are already part of your community, they know, like and trust you. They might be ready to buy from you in a matter of days. They won’t need to check references. They won’t need to negotiate contracts or haggle on price. When they say yes, they’re going to be excited to work with you.
That’s the sales process you should want for your company, and the community building program delivers it.
This item might feel a bit out of context with the others, and I considered not including it, but it’s more important today than ever before.
Marketing is about to get a lot harder.
The mitigation strategy here is to build your own first-party database and then leverage that to do your demand generation marketing. But without your own database, you’ll be seriously hampered.
The community is the best way to start building that list. Create the content first, then expand it into a community, and everyone who signs up is now part of your database. If you deploy some proper privacy protections and segment the database strategically, you’ll be able to navigate the new cookie-less regulated world of marketing.
I hope it goes without saying, but if you deliver an amazing customer experience, hold on to your customers longer and build a database of fans, your company is going to grow, and revenue growth isn’t going to be one of your challenges.
Most companies come to us wondering how to get the attention of their prospects and lamenting at how difficult it is these days. With an active and thriving community, you won’t have these issues.
Once you get the attention of your target prospects because they already know, like and trust you, you’re ready to unlock a collection of low-cost ways to drive revenue.
If you want to consider this a two-step sales process, that’s fair. Yes, you’ll have to be patient while you build the community. But once it’s built, your company will be able to leverage that community to help you grow revenue in a scalable way.