Growth Lever Your Marketing Team Is Not Thinking About
Today business-to-business (B2B) buyers rely less on traditional marketing channels, and rely more on their network, friends, and social circles for open, honest, unfiltered and unmonitored advice on purchasing decisions. What’s turning decision makers to their communities for advice? The overwhelming, generic content such as “10 trends” or the self-promoting content.
In 2022, we surveyed over 86 B2B buyers, authority figures at medium sized companies in the US with multi-million dollar budgets, and here are some consistent things we’ve heard:
- 70% of B2B buyers trust their networks, social circles MORE than paid review sites like G2, Gartner, etc.
- 100% are aware of existing technologies that try to facilitate community-like experiences, specifically calling out LinkedIn groups, Slack groups, Discord, Reddit, and Clubhouse.
- 5% were able to find relevant groups via digital platforms, though most highlighted that it was through “a lot of trial and error” and the research experience was extremely daunting, specifically “entering/existing groups until I find the right group dynamic + relevant, consistent, unfiltered information that’s relevant to my role”.
Originally LinkedIn served as a community building and networking platform where professionals could network, discuss current topics, share trends and more. Fast forward almost 20 years and the experience on LinkedIn has shifted to focus less on the community and more on the individuals. Think about all of the unlimited self-promotion, cold + spam InMails from people we don't know and don’t trust that persistently request our time or our money, or both! It’s a no-brainer why many professionals no longer trust existing forums or use them for relevant insights.
As the need for connectedness grows, b2b buyers are searching for unbiased communities of relevant thought leaders that actively share unsponsored, relevant and actionable insights, reviews, opinions and experiences.
B2B companies should build communities
Today, there are over 2,000 Slack Groups and Communities all over the world that range from generic and miscellaneous topics to niche topics such as guide to AWS, etc. Similarly at Discord, there are +6.7 million active servers on Discord, a growing number of which are not gaming related. While it is known as a community platform for gamers, Discord has broadened its coverage, with a growing number of developer, fintech, crypto servers, in an effort to compete with Slack groups. In 2020, Clubhouse’s user base skyrocketed as it quickly gained popularity for its audio-only casual conversations… and due to its exclusive, ‘by invitation from a friend you actually know’’ allure, i.e.marketing strategy. By 2021, Clubhouse registered over 10million users. Imagine if that was a community you built via existing tools like Slack, for your B2B startup. Now imagine if within the same span of time, 1 year, only 0.01% of that organic 10 million user base on which you spent zero marketing dollars to acquire, that carries a negative CAC converts into paying B2B customers for your company. Across the board, marketers would be the heroes and on a fast track to the CEO seat.
There are many ways to build a successful community and our intent here is to not advocate for how to build a community. Our goal with this quantitative and qualitative data is to bring awareness to an uncommon growth hack that all b2b companies should evaluate and strongly consider as part of future marketing capabilities.
The #1 challenge with building communities
If it was easy then everyone would do it and we would all be on an island, watching the money pour down from the sky, while sitting a delicious adult beverage of our choice. However communities are white space for B2B companies and marketers. There isn't an existing playbook or leader to mimic. Moreover the level of effort, investment and dedication required to try is beyond what most B2B companies and startups are willing to devote.
Let’s say you magically convince everyone within your company to get behind this play, the main inhibitor to building, growing and maintaining an engaged community is lack of relevant, unsponsored, actionable content and delivery. The tools that can “host” your community are mostly free, i.e. Discord, LinkedIn, Slack, Facebook, Reddit, etc. The number one barrier to scaling a successful and engaging community is the lack of consistent and relevant, fresh, unique, differentiated content that would naturally intrigue engagement from users.
Other challenges with building communities
Another challenge, specifically for B2B companies, is the lack of dedicated resources to own, manage, post, promote, engage, develop unique and relevant content for the community group. Remember this is all white space for marketers. One miss can create the wrong experience for members and wipe out a significant portion of the user base that your team worked so hard and invested so much time, effort, and tradeoffs to build. There are a lot of tradeoffs to consider in this whitespace:
- Playbook on successful community building for b2b companies doesn’t exist
- Marketers, across the board, don't have experience building and scaling successful communities
- Marketing discipline, across the board, over-indexes on optimizing existing tactics and capabilities via new technology tools
Marketers need to be more future-focused and identify and articulate the future of b2b buying behaviors and their plan to deploy new channels, tactics, etc. to align to new buying patterns.
Building Your Community
While it may seem easy, fostering a community, as a startup, isn’t exactly a walk in the park. So what can you do?
Developing a successful, dynamic, and rich community requires focus on developing authentic and meaningful connections with all members from day 1. Sounds simple right? Wrong. Consider the following elements as you're thinking about building a community:
No doubt that human-centric communities are a wave of the future and today’s marketers do not have the skills to build these type of constructs in a repeatable, scalable, effective way that ties to results and impact on brand reputation, product feedback and future roadmap development, voice-of-the-customer (VOC) and customer sentiments, leads, referrals or the #1 thing your CEO cares about … revenue.
More and more B2B buyers are leaning into their professional and personal networks versus paid review sites like G2, Gartner, etc. to receive unfiltered, unmonitored, unsponsored feedback and advice. If you are interested in learning more about building effective communities or just passionate about this topic and want to chat, then let's connect!