Building Communities in the B2B marketing space has become a hot topic of late, as it’s transforming into a powerful method of impacting the customer lifecycle at every step of the buyer’s journey.
On one hand, leads can turn to these communities to find answers to their questions, read reviews and hear first-hand experience from active or past customers of your product or service.
On the other hand, customers are able to communicate and build relationships with people who share their interests. These spaces empower users to share opinions and ideas and even influence prospects’ buying decisions.
Finding where these communities are forming and interacting with them can help boost your brand and the overall customer experience. But how do you find these communities (if they even exist)? And once you do find them, what’s next?
We went straight to a Community-Building expert to break down the ins and outs of the strategy and the benefits of building B2B communities. Victor Coisne, VP of Marketing at Strapi, walks us through:
Why Communities are important (especially now)
The 5 steps to developing B2B communities
Tactics for establishing these valuable relationships with community members
The impact of community building on your brand
Tune in now – Victor’s framework and insights give you everything you need to start building your communities and forming those relationships with your loyal customers and with your leads.
CAROLINE: Hi, welcome to Growth Marketing Chat. Today, I am here with Victor Coisne. Victor is really good at building B2B communities and it’s something that a lot of us B2B marketers want to do but it’s not really easy to do. He is also the VP of Marketing at Strapi. Victor, thank you so much for being with me today.
VICTOR: Thank you for having me, Caroline.
CAROLINE: Oh yeah, and he’s French just like me. Great. So, thanks again for being here today. You know, I have a simple, but pretty broad question of how should B2B marketers go after building successful B2B communities?
VICTOR: Okay. So, if, if I may, before going into “how,” I’d like to speak a little bit about the “why.”
CAROLINE: I love that.
VICTOR: Why should you care about building a community? Well, the first reason is that it usually requires a lower budget, and it has a much higher conversion rate than traditional marketing, because then you enter a mode where your community becomes your biggest advocates. And as we know, third party endorsement is really can what can make a big difference in terms of convincing your prospects to become customers. If I tell you “Strapi is great,” you’re not going to believe me because I work for Strapi. Whereas if Caroline tells you Strapi is great you’re more likely to believe her. So that’s the first reason.
The second reason is because it’s a really good, competitive advantage. It’s actually quite hard to copy. It’s hard to build a community, but once you have it is one of your biggest competitive advantages because it’s going to take a lot of time and effort for your competitors to build one. They can copy features, it’s much harder to copy community.
And last but not least, it can really help you offset your R&D and support costs. When you know your community answers each other’s questions, other members of the communities’ questions, on the forum or Slack or wherever your community gathers, then, you know your support team doesn’t have to do that. So, you, you save a lot of time on support and same thing with product development. When you have that feedback loop that is enabled through like the community, then you’re more likely to build a better product quicker and make sure you build a product that really delights your customer because that feedback loop is really working. So that’s the “why.” The “why now” is the second part of the answer.
And so why now is, is because we are in the world of mass era. Nowadays, I feel like people… the way people buy is they go on comparative websites, maybe G2, they see the reviews, but even better they go to their trusted friends or groups, peer groups, whether it’s on WhatsApp or wherever like community on Slack, LinkedIn, even just a group of friends and asking, what do you use for that specific? What tools do you use for that specific purpose? And then that’s what your friend’s advice give you is usually what you will go with. You trust them.
Why now? Also, because the pace of innovation is accelerating, and companies have to stay up to date with new technologies coming all the time. And so, a community is a really good way to help companies stay up to date and enable mentoring. So, the expert in the community become the mentor of the newbies. And so, you have that kind of like flywheel of enablement and learning. So now back to your question about the “how.”
The how I usually break it down into five steps. Step one. So, understanding where the community is gathering that’s the first step. So, you can really just understand if you don’t have a community for us go where your community is gathering outside of your own properties, understand what they like about it. And then little by little build a presence there. And over time you can bring them over to your properties or keep engaging within an existing community. So that’s the first one, understanding where people gather.
Step two. Meet the most active members or leaders of that community that you want to build. So, understanding who they are, asking questions, listening, listening, listening is super important.
Step three. Understanding what are the rules of engagement? So, you want to be a good citizen when you build a community, right? And it’s about providing value. You want to, you want to give before you get So how do you build that true, like, you know, relationship? It’s kind of like building friendship, same concept. So really understanding the rules of engagement how to be a good citizen.
Step four. I want to gather as much data as possible. I think every leader will agree with me. I think it’s important to get data and then like a baseline to improve upon and so understand what is hard and what is hard to measure, what is not being measured is I think the first step towards improving. And so that’s, that’s the rule. Step four.
Step five is then defining the swim lane for participation. So, this is where you go from, okay, putting your community in motion and that’s, this is where you have to kind of understand what is important for the business. Like what, what are the goals and how do you align the goals of the business with how the community can contribute to these goals? And it’s about building together. I think it is the last concept I’ll say it’s like accepting to lose control for the companies that the most difficult thought often to accept that loss of control and allow people outside of the company to build together with you and then match those swim lanes, those contribution swim lanes with whatever your community members are interested in. So, they like blogging. Okay, you have a blogger program. They like public speaking, you have a speaker program and so on and so forth, depending on your, on your business.
CAROLINE: I love this. I love also how, you know, like you need to listen, really understand your community, right? And then your business goals. And then the swim lanes are kind of like guides, right? Like to align with this goal and to align with this kind of interest of the community then you can create a swim lane and it really needs both, right, to be able to work.
VICTOR: Exactly. Absolutely.
CAROLINE: Great, well, Victor, that was really, really helpful. I think it’s an amazing framework for people to get started with this. And it gives a good starting point in like you need to… you need to be okay with not having full control, right, over what’s happening, but at the same time you do have some control, right? And that gives really specific steps that we can all take towards building these communities.
VICTOR: Yeah, exactly. I think it’s, it’s about the, it’s a pull motion more than a push motion. You, you don’t want to push things on people and, you know be that annoying person, like, you know, can you do this? But more like, okay, like I want to understand what this person what is it that this person wants to learn? Or what is it that this person wants to get out of being a member of that community? And what is, what does like sense of belonging mean for that person? And then just once you know that, then it becomes, you know a lot more of a pull motion where they feel like more attracted and interested in coming back. Cause that’s the, that’s the hard part is like, okay like maybe their first step is they learn about your community, but the hard step is are they going to come back over and over and day after day, week after week? And so that pull motion is, is super key.
And so that’s where you have to be genuinely interested about the people you have to really like you know, it’s the recognition it’s about recognition more than reward. One more thing I’ll say is that you don’t want to kill that intrinsic motivation of people, you know to participate in the community by introducing too much. Gamification, I’m personally not a fan of gamification because it’s killing that intrinsic motivation. I’d much rather give recognition. So, saying thank you, giving shout outs on social media putting the spotlight on your community member and giving them the mic, giving them a stage for them to be the one broadcasting the message, you know, cause at the end, like I would argue that your brand is what your community says your company is and it’s not your brand is not what you say it is. You can obviously build the brand. And, but at the end of the day like the brand is truly the perception of the people. And so yeah, that, that pull motion is very very important in community building.
CAROLINE: Right, right, right. And I love the concept of recognition because, you know you want people to stay excited about your brand and what you’re doing for them and not the piece of swag that they just got. Like, unless the piece of swag is going to be a kind of a… if it’s going to feel like recognition for them, then it’s very different.
VICTOR: Right. I think the element of surprise is super important. It’s not like if you do this then you’ll get this t-shirt is more like out of the blue, you see, oh that person is doing an amazing job at contributing and adding, creating so much value for others. I’m going to go out of my way and send that person like a special note and give them, you know a nice piece of swag that that’s good because the unexpected, it’s a surprise. And it’s going to be so much more appreciated than you know, the gamification aspect where a t-shirt when you share on social media or something.
CAROLINE: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah. It’s all about making people feel special and feel heard and having a space to exist, right?
VICTOR: Exactly. That’s exactly what it is it’s really about building the relationship. And one way I measure the house of the community is the amount of link between the members because that’s what makes a powerful community. And it, and I often ask like the people in the community I’ve been involved with, I asked like what is the number one thing you love about being a member of that community? And often enough it’s not the relationship with the company. In that it’s the relationship with other members of the program because they actually build friendship together. And that’s really what they, that sense of belonging and just the friendship that come out of it frankly is amazing. So, it’s a good proxy for actually trying to measure the community trying to understand like how many people are talking on a like amongst themselves on a regular basis. I think that’s a really good way to measure if you have a strong community going.
CAROLINE: That’s pretty amazing. So now we just made a video about how to make your business more successful and reach our business goals by helping people make friends.
VICTOR: Yeah. I guess that’s a good way to summarize it.
CAROLINE: You have a great job.
VICTOR: I love my job.
CAROLINE: Awesome. Well, Victor, thank you so much. It was really insightful. Thank you so much for being with me today.
VICTOR: I appreciate it. Thanks for having me.