The expectations of B2B customers and the complexity of problems they are trying to solve have grown dramatically in the last decade. While your customers' businesses have become more multifaceted, the solutions that you have created to help them solve their problems have also become more intricate. This is one of the major reasons that online customer communities have evolved into the platform of choice for many B2B companies to maintain high customer satisfaction levels and collect data from their market.
I want to share with you a presentation recently published by Vanessa DiMauro, CEO of B2B online community consulting firm, Leader Networks. It outlines how B2B firms utilize online communities for their customers, how to determine if your business needs an online community, and how to build a thriving B2B online customer community.
Below are a three of the foundational concepts that I pulled out of the presentation to assist B2B executives who are just beginning to explore the impact that an online customer community can have on their business.
Though much of the community management talk online is about keeping members engaged, growing the community, and handling community management challenges such as conflict between community members, it is important to remember that both B2B and B2C businesses develop online communities to create value for their customers "“ before, during, and after the purchase. This value comes in the form of:
Vanessa does a nice job boiling down the reasons that B2B firms launch online customer communities into 6 categories, which I have further placed into 3 group. It is important to keep in mind that online community software is designed with the flexibility to address all or some of the reasons listed below.
Some companies launch online communities for customers to tackle their most critical of these challenges and then later expand their customer community into additional areas to furthercreate value for their customers and business.
The following slide reinforces our approach to private social networks, where it is less about networking and more about helping your customers solve their problems. Though "social networking" gets the lion's share of the buzz right now, helping your customers do their jobs is the fastest way to create value and build a successful online customer community that keeps your customers engaged.
As you see from the presentation, B2B companies are using online communities to increase sales, create profitable product offerings, and exceed customers' expectations of the support and value they get from your products and services.