Community Based Marketing for B2B SMEs

Community Based Marketing for B2B SMEs

Ashley Friedlein explores the concept of community based marketing and shares tips on how to create your own community as a B2B SME

By Ashley Friedlein

Remote working, consumer fatigue and over-saturated digital channels are just a few of the challenges facing B2B marketers in 2020. If you’re finding it more difficult than usual to get prospects to engage with your campaigns, you’re not alone.

Community Based Marketing (CBM) can be the answer to shaking up stagnant marketing campaigns, gaining the attention, action and loyalty of prospects, as well as playing into that desire to feel part of something bigger that so many of us are currently missing.

What is community based marketing?

A community is defined as the bringing together of people by a shared interest, held together by mutual support or benefit. In a B2B marketing context, CBM becomes about uniting professionals around a shared practice or area of expertise to create closer and more valuable relationships with prospects and customers.   

The emphasis is less on pushing out a one-way message, and instead drawing like-minded people in for meaningful conversations and interactions on digital forums, networks and apps.

The global pandemic has forced us into a new way of life that fundamentally isolates us from each other. Daily interactions we once took for granted, such as a chat at the water cooler, or a throwaway comment from an acquaintance in a lift, have all been removed. For many, this has resulted in a growing need to feel part of a group, to fulfil that sense of belonging. Professional communities enable us to become more connected with our peers, to learn and share ideas, spur creativity, and receive support and encouragement.

It makes far more sense, as marketers, to tap into these wants and needs, than to blindly follow the same channels and tactics that have been steadily declining.

How to start your own successful community 

Knowing where to start can feel a little overwhelming, but thinking about your various different audiences can help to inform your decision of where to go next. You may have more people you can reach out to than you thought – for example, a physiotherapist may be able to identify relevant individuals in local running groups and sports clubs. It doesn’t have to just be about potential clients either. A digital marketing agency, for example, might want to tap into local talent by connecting with recent college or university graduates.

Don’t feel pressured to work towards a big launch date either; this is rarely a successful approach when it comes to new communities, as these tend to develop naturally over time. To get your group off the ground, identify a handful of loyal advocates you can rely on to get conversation going and send them a personal invite. Letting them into your project makes them personally invested and is a good way to gain some momentum before you cast the net wider – after all, you want to make a good first impression on those who aren’t already familiar with you.

Once conversation is flowing freely, always consider how you could invite new people and encourage new members to invite their own contacts too. This will be at the heart of sustaining and growing your community.

Tips for creating a B2B community

Here are four tips to help you create a successful and rewarding B2B community:

1. Choose the right platform

Your success hinges upon your community strategy but the technology you choose will play a role in determining how easily you get there. Some platforms lend themselves better than others to developing and sustaining successful communities.

For example, a platform like LinkedIn can quickly feel anonymous due to the sheer number of connections people have. Those in niche areas may want to explore specialist models such as Substack for writers, or Patreon for artists, but remember you’ll also need a platform recognisable enough to draw the numbers you need and get your community off the ground.

2. Don’t be afraid to go smaller

Don’t feel pressured to chase big community numbers to show success. Much of the benefit of community marketing in B2B is in the value rather than the volume. Anywhere between 15-1,500 is considered to be optimal, although this will hugely depend on your business offering and industry sector. Any larger than this though and you risk a group becoming fragmented, impersonal or noisy.

Select the right community leader – having the right ‘go to’ person to steer your group is possibly the most important thing to master. This individual needs to have the right skills, experience and personality to play host, admin, and entertainer all at the same time. Choosing a leader who is senior and influential enough lends you the credibility you need to get your community off the ground and make it a success, but they also need to be perceptive enough to understand people’s behaviour and tread that fine line between when to step in and when to stand back.  

A resilient and assertive nature can also be helpful when it comes to enforcing ground rules or getting involved in lively discussions.

3. Allow your community to gain its own momentum – as much as it’s important to have a host, the most successful communities out there are those that feel like they are ‘owned’ by the community itself. Don’t be afraid to steer conversation, or prompt discussions when needed, but do avoid the temptation to dominate conversation. One of the most rewarding things about building a community of like-minded people is watching different individuals come forward, share ideas and build connections.

4. Be consistent – much in the same way as it does for a new website blog or social media channel, consistency of posting in digital communities can be a big part of its success in the early days. Having dedicated days of the week for welcoming new members, posting on specific themes, or holding interviews can help to get a rhythm going. Conversely, long periods without any posts can make people doubt the long-term success of the group, whilst sporadic surges of activity can be difficult to keep up with and commit to. 

Building your own B2B online community requires considerable support and planning, but the ability to get closer to your market and customers cannot be underestimated.

About the Author

Ashley Friedlein is the CEO & Founder of Guild, an app designed for businesses, professional groups, networks and communities who want the advantages of messaging – ease of use, immediacy, intimacy, engagement – but who also care about proper privacy, quality, legal compliance, and professional standards of support and service. It's as easy to use as WhatsApp, advertising-free and GDPR compliant.