B2B Marketing needs to Curate a Vibrant Community

B2B Marketing needs to Curate a Vibrant CommunityIf you ask the members of my leadership team – they will tell you I keep talking about how I think we have B2B Marketing backward.

Let me explain …

We focus a lot of energy on the acquisition part of marketing looking for new customers and getting them up the awareness to consideration to purchase cycle. The results being most of the time we get ambivalent buyers into the top of our funnel and we have to work hard to close them in order to prove value to the organization and contribute to growth.

But what if we focused on those buyers who have already purchased from us? Those already predisposed to buying our products and create a level of service and differentiation for them that is commensurate with their buying habits?

I think we owe it to our organizations to really take care of them. If you look at the interview I did with Sean Geehan –  he talked about the typical number of customers in B2C versus B2B and the high concentration we have in B2B that account for the most of the revenues.

My suggestion would be to create a vibrant community with them – one which is both online and offline, one where you can get instant feedback, one where their ideas matter to your research and development groups, one where they co-author thought leadership with you and one that rewards them for their loyalty to your firm.

This is something I am working on for FY11 and will be more than just a social network for our best customers. Stay tuned as I begin to launch this for next year.

18 comments to B2B Marketing needs to Curate a Vibrant Community

  • Hey Paul — Right on! I’m constantly amazed at how so many marketers focus most of their energy on finding new customers. A new report from CSO Insights, in fact, says that new customer acquisition is a top priority for 91% of marketers (B2C and B2B, admittedly), while cross-selling and up-selling is a distant third priority. But don’t we all know that it’s much easier to sell to existing customers than to new ones? Not to mention the other essential benefits of stronger customer connections, such as deeper market insight, collaboration on new solutions, etc., as you so rightly point out. Ironically, building stronger relationships with existing customers is probably the best route to getting new ones, too. The community approach is absolutely right, although certainly challenging. I’ll look forward to hearing more!

  • Thanks for commenting Rob – hope your summer is going well!

  • Paul – Could not agree more. It dovetails well with a concept we were discussing with a client recently about being curators of content — finding the ‘real’ content contributors in an organization and working with them to bring their insight and experiences to light. Typically, these are NOT the traditional product marketing or management types. Rather, they are the support or services team members with zillions of hours of experience working directly with customers.

    Your post take this forward another (giant) step, and I have to echo Rob’s point — stronger customer relationships lead to new clients. While I don’t have the stats handy to back it up, I would imagine that a new client that is won via a community/network/existing client referral is going to require less overall “effort” to win from marketing than a traditional lead gen approach. The new client is more likely to be a genuine, qualified opportunity; familiar with your offering; and within an industry you already service.

  • Alan – I agree I think those 2 concepts go together really well – the curation of content with the actual engineers and designers of your product or service is the way to go if you want rich content you can use for the community.

    Then as the more traditional new client wins happen and they do their research on your firm to qualify you in the space – they will find this wonderful collection of content that really speaks to their issues.

  • justin chiou

    Great idea. But not easy to create it.

  • Paul I think academic research on CRM (in both MIS and marketing field) would definitly agree that it is far more efficient to upsell and/or cross-sell than to acquire new customers.

    However,in my view there are two mandatory precondition for this approach to be meaningful and they are :
    1- be more than a one trick pony (in other words have multiple products or premium features), and
    2- have a critical size (> few!) client list.

    What are your thoughts?

  • […] B2B Marketing needs to Curate a Vibrant Community […]

  • Jijesh

    perfect timing on your comment – I just got out of a meeting discussing those 2 precursors – 1) threaded offers (so not a one trick pony) and 2) a mix of clients by revenue size and strategic nature – we didnt want to go only by size which is too limiting

    hope that helps

  • Great Dialog here…and a few comments:
    Rob: These numbers certainly tell us that B2B marketing has a ways to go in how they plan and budget to drive profitable growth.
    Alan: This is spot on…when you truly engage your customers, results will happen…they will guide your planning and they will help you grow your business. In the B2B arena, the key is not just settling with the users, but also engaging the other key stakeholders (Influencers and Decision makers).
    Jijesh: I mostly agree with your first point in that it’s easier, but if you are the best at only one thing, you can still be a huge success (Jim Collin’s hedge hog theory). On the second point, I’ve seen many companies fuel their growth and success on the backs of only a few Marquee customers. Marketers can contribute to this area significantly by targeting efforts to those companies that influence entire industries or spaces. Check out David Thomson’s Blueprint to a Billion and the chapter on leveraging Marquee customers.

  • Paul — another nice thread. An interesting issue in the mix is: what attracts customers to a community? The fact that they’re your customers isn’t enough. So what more is needed? Francois Gossieaux of Human 1.0 is developing some interesting research on this.

  • Bill- this is an important question. Many b2b marketers want to create a community but don’t put enough time and thought into how to create a community of mutual value to customers and to the company. To your point of what else is required, we find successful customer communities require several things: a clearly defined value proposition for the customer and the company; an clear investment of your company’s senior leadership to participate; co-creation of the community’s agenda, and careful management to exclude selling from that agenda. And finally a good customer community requires ongoing and systematic management to support and sustain engagement.

  • Olivia Jade

    That’s a great point Paul.. It makes so many things clearer while deciding a social media plan for a product. I also came across some simple tips on how to utilize Facebook well for marketing or branding at http://blog.socialmaximizer.com/14-tips-for-marketing-on-facebook/

  • @Olivia – thanks for the link and thanks for commenting!

  • Michel

    Paul, i don’t think B2B Marketers in your organisation are only focusing on net new customers, but that’s probably the perception management has because of the current metrics/tracking in place. It is easier from a system perspective to track leads to wins (leads from non existing accounts in your CRM) than to measure marketing influenced revenue (mostly from existing accounts). Marketing initiated revenue ususally accounts for 10-15% of total revenues whereas Marketing influenced revenue can go up to 60-70% of total revenues. The latter is hard to measure because hard to define. If everytime marketing “touches” a customer with a tactic and claims revenues for it, then 90% of your marketing budget will have revenue associated to it, but what is the return of those touches? Did our tactics really make that customer buy more? How much? and what is the profit against the investment (ROMI)? I believe many B2B marketers are executing on up-cross selling campaigns but hard results are difficult to prove.

  • @Michel – GREAT points – It is easier to see net new revenue since its new in our CRM system as opposed to touching the existing base and influencing their decision to buy and gauging how much. Great point thanks for commenting!

  • Stephen Acunto

    Paul — great post today. The 80/20 rule may evolve in the coming years as sales processes navigate all of the tools and channels available to customers and organizations. These days the cost of acquiring a new, engaged customer is higher, both in dollars and time spent. We reflected on the idea of a customer advisory panel. Thanks!

  • […] saw a very brief opinion-type post, “B2B Mktg needs to curate a vibrant community”, by Paul Dunay over on his Buzz Marketing for Technology blog, which set me thinking.  His point […]

  • […] saw a very brief opinion-type post, “B2B Mktg needs to curate a vibrant community”, by Paul Dunay over on his Buzz Marketing for Technology blog, which set me thinking.  His point […]

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