Your online community is made up of your brand’s most avid fans. They are there because they use and love your products and services and want to network with other customers just like them.
Let me repeat that, “...they use and love your products and services.”
Meaning, they’re already using them.
There’s no need to continue to pitch product and service offerings. There is a time and place for that, but save those marketing messages for your dotcom site. There’s an unwritten rule and a common understanding between members and community teams; online communities are a safe-haven from marketing messages. Break this rule and members will go running for the door, never to return (See also Should you sell to your online community?).
Community members participate in your online community because it provides value to them in the form of support, content, and social connectedness. Always make servicing members’ need your community’s top priority. Then, and only then, will you earn their trust and begin to foster and cultivate a long-term relationship.
Here are some tips to help build trust:
- Be part of the conversation - Show that you care by offering help. Point them to a good resource or connect them with them with someone who you think would know the answer.
- Do your research - Find out as much about the member by visiting their profile. This will help strengthen your relationship as you correspond with them.
- Be open and transparent - Provide access to information and let members digest it on their own. Allow them to ask follow up questions.
- Collaborate on a project - Join forces with members for the networking and learning benefits.
- Give it away for free - Provide valuable information to members even if there’s no financial gain.
Once trust has been established, you can start to think about introducing other products and services your members might benefit from at the appropriate time, without the hard in-your-face selling pitches (See also Social Selling: Supporting your B2B Sales Team With an Online Community).
PTC Community is a destination for passionate product developers to showcase the work they create with PTC software, network with peers, and inspire others with their designs. The community is free of marketing messages. So they rely on soft-selling techniques in their community to upsell prospects.
Access to Insider Information to Key Members
Every sub-community is staffed with a respective product manager or community manager. They’re in there corresponding with customers, gathering feedback, and crowd-sourcing ideas to enhance their products. They are in the frontlines, forming relationships and being part of the conversation with customers and getting new ideas or product feedback.
They’ve built up a status in the community as a trusted source and therefore can make recommendations on other products that may enhance or expedite a company’s design process.
Try Before You Buy
PTC is an enterprise software provider, which means you’ll need a license to use any of their products. That’s a pretty big barrier to participate in the community if you’re required to make a purchase. But for just a few bits of information, you can download a free trial of the software to test it out. This is a win-win in that:
- It helps out your lead gen team by giving them a qualified lead;
- It eliminates the barrier to participate in the community.
Just by the virtue of showcasing what they are creating with PTC software, customers themselves are doing the selling. They are demonstrating to others customers and prospects what’s possible, something that's more credible and believable than any messaging coming from corporate marketing.