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How B2B Companies Use Online Communities to Convert Leads Into Customers

Written by Joshua Paul | on February 23, 2012 at 8:30 AM

How would your company and career be impacted if you found a way to convert 2X more leads into customers? Recently, I have heard several business-to-business companies report that their lead-to-customer conversions jumped 200-400% when integrating a social business strategy into their lead nurturing process.

How have these businesses done this? They extended their online community to leads or qualified prospects. Online communities in a B2B enterprise typically focus on collaboration between customers, employees, and partners. You can also use your company's online community platform to increase your new business win ratios.

Convert More Leads Into Customers Using Online Community Software

When a lead converts on one of your marketing offers, such as downloading your latest ebook, and enters into your lead qualification process, invite them to join your online community. Based on the information you collect about the lead, your CRM and online community systems will know that they are a lead and where they are in the buying process.

Tip: Just like any lead nurturing campaign, make sure that your leads' experience in the community and with the communication coming from the community is primary educational and includes an interactive calls-to-action, like asking a question, viewing a video, or participating in a discussion on product specs.

How Online Communities Convert Leads

The following are some of the ways that companies are converting more leads into customers by creating online communities and groups specifically for the needs of organizations in the their sales funnel .

  • Social Proof. Though they won't have access to the full community (i.e. customer and employee areas), the lead will be made aware of the extent of the support and community behind your offering, as well as your bustling (and seemingly successful) customer base.
  • Relevant Information. You can set up prospect-oriented blogs, file and media libraries, and discussion groups where leads can ask questions and get information relevant to their stage in the buying cycle.
  • Partners. If you have a strong partner network in your online community, your partners can build awareness of their services and cement a positive impression of your company's ecosystem by providing helpful information to prospective customers.
  • Credible Answers. Prospects can access special "Ask a Customer" discussion groups where designated members of your customer base can address prospects' questions. The knowledge base of answers is also archived to benefit future leads.
  • Lead Nurturing. Your marketing and sales teams have a lot more lead nurturing tools with which to work, including highlighting documents, videos, discussions, and blog articles that prospects would find valuable.
  • Lead Intelligence. Your marketing and sales teams can both further qualify leads and proactively address questions by monitoring the activity of prospects in the online community.

Active Online Customer Communities Dispel Risk

Risk is one of the biggest reasons that B2B customers have trouble pulling the trigger on a purchase. They want a glimpse into what the outcome with be for themselves and their organization. This is why social proof, like testimonials and free trials, are so effective in marketing.

Bringing leads and prospects into your enterprise online community enables you to remove risk by showing, and empowering prospective customers to participate in, the active community of customers, employees, and partners that comes with doing business with your company.

Online Community Takeaway

Whether it is a top-of-the-full conversion (like a white paper), middle-of-the-funnel offer (like a product tour or demo), or a bottom of the funnel lead (like a request for a proposal), using an online community software platform to know where your leads are in their buying process and monitoring their level of engagement enables companies to provide the relevant information to leads that moves them through the sales funnel.

Topics: B2B Communities

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