It’s well-known that communities are highly beneficial for B2C companies.
Concepts like email lists and user-generated content have been used by companies to increase consumer engagement and curry brand loyalty while simultaneously maximizing the potential for future sales from this community.
The same idea holds true for B2B organizations.
In fact, a B2B community is just as important to the company as it is to the customers that do business with that institution. More than 85 percent of Fortune 500 companies rely on their communities to identify customer needs.
It’s a win-win that helps the customer experience, but also funnels valuable information back to the company.
However, building a B2B community is easier said than done. Popular avenues such as social media can be effective, but they also result in an outside company owning everything about that community.
What if you want to build a community that’s owned solely by your organization? It’s possible — if you know what programs to use.
With that in mind, here are four tools you can use to build a B2B community of your very own.
The cultivation of this group will allow all of the members of this group to take pride in your company, prompting them to recommend your community — and your business — to others on a regular basis.
1. Salesforce Community Cloud
Salesforce allows businesses to bring their brands to life through the use of fully customizable forums and online portals, making your company’s site a one-stop shop for information and industry discussion. If you want your community site to be a place where people from other companies can gather to discuss the issues they face at their respective jobs, you can do that. You can also use Salesforce’s tools to communicate important company information, such as new product announcements and industry commentary. Getting started is a breeze; it’s as simple as using one of Salesforce’s templates and customizing it to the exact look and feel you want your B2B community to have.
2. Higher Logic
Higher Logic is a customer retention tool with all of the features you’d want as you build your B2B community. Polls and forums are just the tip of the iceberg on Higher Logic. You can also utilize gamification in order to make community engagement a hobby that everyone will love. One factor that separates Higher Logic from the other tools out there is its ability to automate customer retention, using an automated advocacy manager to make sure your entire community is getting as much out of your site as possible.
Another option for building a B2B community is Hivebrite, a software package that prides itself on full customizability to help businesses cultivate their ideal communities. Among Hivebrite’s options is the ability to customize sign-ins, letting companies choose whether users will join their network by using their email addresses, a social media profile or a proprietary set of login credentials. Hivebrite also streamlines potentially problematic issues such as membership payments, and it can even assist with event management.
Although there is significant overlap between the tools we’ve discussed so far, our last community growing software, QuestionPro, offers something that none of the other tools provide — an option for free usage. Recognizing that communities vary in stature and depth, and realizing that all communities start somewhere, QuestionPro begins with a free mode that allows businesses to distribute surveys. From there, those companies can upgrade to either a more robust survey package or a full-fledged community suite similar to our other three options.
As the makers of BONDAI, we’re biased.
BONDAI is an AI-Powered Engagement Platform that helps drive leads, loyalty, and advocacy for larger-sized companies.
We built BONDAI over many years due to several reasons:
- Building and deepening relationships is a key business driver, and this needs to be done throughout the customer lifecycle
- As colleague Sam Fiorella recently blogged about, brands should building “owned social communities” that they can own, better manager, control, and engage in as opposed to building them on 3rd party social media sites like Facebook or LinkedIn.
- Marketing touch points such as blogs, newsletters, and emails are great, but they don’t necessarily result in sustained engagement, loyalty, or advocacy.
- Companies have lots of technology and data (e.g. CRMs, Marketing Automation Software, Email, etc.) but there needs to be something that connects all the dots and gives you a full view of your customers.
- AI is something of increasing importance for identifying both business threats and opportunities throughout the customer lifecycle.
BONDAI helps address all these problems.
It integrates with your current technology ecosystem to build a branded, owned community where you can invite customers, prospects, partners, influencers and/or employees.
From there you can:
- ENGAGE your audience with value-added content, forums, special events, games and contests that create real stickiness, and real loyalty.
- REWARD your audience by selecting from a range of exclusive offers, discounts, or other gamified experiences that will keep your audience coming back to your community and build more brand affinity.
- ANALYZE by monitoring community engagement and combine the metrics with your existing client profile data or third party demographic data. Together with BONDAI’s A.I., identify key opportunities for relationship building, brand advocacy, or new business opportunities.
- INFLUENCE. Use your data to identify your strongest brand advocates and engage them to drive new referrals or increase lifetime value. As well, invite prospects into your community to engage with existing brand advocates and Influencers to nurture leads and drive conversions and sales.
No matter your company’s situation, there’s no shortage of tools you can use to build your B2B community. And now is a great time to get started doing exactly that.
Not only can you gain valuable insights into your customers and the businesses you work with, but you’ll also establish your company’s site as the place to be for industry news, advice and information.
If nothing else, it’s a fantastic way to separate your company from your competition; for that reason alone, any of these tools will help you to get a leg up on your competitors.