Online communities have profoundly changed the way businesses build relationships with their customers. That said, many B2B executives have shunned them for years, dismissing them as something for the spotlight-grabbing B2C world. After all, B2C communities tend to be places of entertainment, characterized by talk about shared interests, unlike the ho-hum of business-focused communities.
Given its more serious tone and greatly increased emphasis on professionalism, a B2B community is a very different beast. But there is still some overlap. For the most part, these communities serve as a place for professional discussion and peer-to-peer support. They also tend to be smaller and more exclusive, built on collaboration and the sharing of valuable information.
The fact that B2B companies rely on close and lasting customer relationships should be reason enough to develop a robust support community. But there are several other important reasons to build an exclusive support community for your customers.
#1. Maximize Customer Lifetime Value
Most businesses invest a lot into building their customer base and reaching out to the right target audiences. However, while important, this should never come at the cost of paying less attention to your existing customers. That’s why it’s every bit as important to focus on your customer lifetime value, and that means keeping existing customers for longer, increasing sales to them and lowering the cost of serving them.
Online support communities can be tremendously beneficial for B2B businesses that want to offer their customers the opportunity to be a part of something that ultimately helps them get more out of your products and services. Giving them the ability to exchange ideas, solve complex business problems and take advantage of contextual support will all go towards maximizing your CLV.
#2. Improve Your Products and Services
B2B communities tend to be much more focused than their B2C counterparts, which means they’re often dedicated to problem-solving scenarios. They’re places where professionals go to seek out mutually beneficial relationships with other customers, as well as your company. That’s why they’ve become such an important component of product development.
Support communities don’t just help your members solve problems. They also help you develop better products and services through instant access to valuable feedback. From feature requests to business process suggestions, your B2B support community serves as your first port of call for research and development.
#3. Reduce Workloads on Support Teams
B2B organizations are under constant pressure to provide an impeccable level of customer support. To that end, they’re often bound by contractual commitments to respond to issues and solve problems within given deadlines. Keeping your side of the bargain, however, is much more difficult when your customer support team is inundated with open tickets.
One of the best ways to speed up support ticket resolution is to prevent them from being created in the first place. That’s one of the primary purposes of a peer-to-peer community support forum, where your customers can go to find answers to the more common questions or concerns they may have. With an active community forum, you’ll eventually build an extensive knowledge base that will empower your customers to solve their own problems before turning to live support.
#4. Empower Your Brand Advocates
B2B communities are changing rapidly from quiet peer-to-peer support portals to something much more. As many businesses make the move towards subscription-based payment models, especially in the B2B sector, there’s an increasing emphasis on the importance of customer engagement. This trend is fuelling the shift towards advocate communities in which your best customers become some of the most vocal and influential members of your community.
A B2B support community is the ideal platform for rewarding and empowering your most valuable customers with a voice. These are the people who are passionate about sharing their knowledge with others and inspiring loyalty to your brand. And a B2B community is the best environment for that to happen.