Customer experiences are so important to the world of modern branding and marketing that they must be put at the forefront of any growth strategy. Long gone are the days when your job was done the moment you completed a sale. Today, it’s all about building lasting relationships, and in no case is this more true than it is with B2B companies seeking to maximize their customer lifetime value.
The social and ubiquitous nature of the internet has irrevocably transformed the way businesses and their customers communicate with one another. It’s now the go-to medium for support, providing feedback and sharing information. That’s what makes your online community among the most valuable branding assets of all. After all, a modern brand is more than just a nifty logo – it’s your entire community.
Let’s explore some of the ways online communities improve customer experiences.
#1. Create a Sense of Belonging
The explosion of online communities over the last decade serves as a testament to the fact that everyone wants to be a part of something. Facebook already has more than 2 billion members, and other major social networks have populations greater than some of the biggest countries on Earth. On top of that are countless smaller, yet specialized communities for people with shared interests.
Brands also have their own private communities where people can come together and experience that same sense of belonging, in a far more meaningful and intimate way than on a massive social network. As such, a branded community doesn’t just serve as a place for your customers to hang out – it’s a club where strong relationships are made and brand advocacy is born.
#2. Build Industry Authority
There’s no shortage of snake oil on the internet and online scams are more frequent than ever. This has led B2B customers in particular to be more discriminating about who they do business with. This is the reason why they’re so attuned to signals of trust and authority. They want to know why they should trust your business, and they want to see proof.
What better way to convince prospective clients to work with you than by having another customer recommend you? Your online community is the number-one place where happy customers turn into brand advocates, thereby becoming your most valuable marketing asset. They’re the proof you know your industry in a world where word-of-mouth recommendations are more important than ever.
#3. Provide Scalable Support
Prospective customers are coming to you in the hope that your company will make their own businesses better. They also often come with important and complex challenges, which means they need consistent support they can depend on long after they’ve made a purchase or signed a contract. That’s what makes customer support the single most critical driver of B2B growth.
Many B2B firms invest vast amounts of money and human resources into providing impeccable customer support, yet it still isn’t scalable. Online communities aren’t an end-all solution to that problem, but they do allow your members to contribute a wealth of tribal knowledge to help solve common problems. Although that’s no substitute for traditional customer support, it will vastly reduce the workload involved.
#4. Develop a Better Product
The B2B world is driven by the inexorable march of technological evolution and customer experiences, and businesses are under constant pressure to innovate and improve. It’s often said that every company is a technology company, hence the need to adapt to the rapidly changing times. Today, a product isn’t just something you release and be done with – like technology, it needs to evolve and improve.
Online communities serve as the ultimate space for testing and feedback in which customers share their experiences and raise awareness about issues you may have yet to identify yourself. Armed with this invaluable feedback, you’ll have everything you need to improve your product and maximize customer retention.