In the new world of non-bubble spending and slower economic growth, organizations must invest their time, people, and budgets very carefully.
The combination of increased internet usage, maturing of web marketing, and explosion of online content means that the questions isn't where to I put your resources - offline or online. The question has become, "of the many ways to develop my business online, which should I choose?"
Both the qualitative and quantitative research suggests that building community is a wise investment to grow your business and in crisis - in boom times and in sluggish months - in for-profit businesses and for nonprofit organizations - in your start-up stages and for established companies.11 Reasons to Keep Calm and Build Community
There are very few approaches to business that can serve as many organizational objectives as your online community strategy. Here is why online communities just might offer the smartest long term business strategy ever.
Efficiency & ROI
Reason #1) Online Communities Are Living, Breathing, Sustainable Things
Online communities are neither a campaign nor a tactic. Communities exist to serve all of its parts and rely on all of the different types of people in the community to survive. Unlike outbound marketing or customer satisfaction campaigns, online communities can grow even when a participant in the community falls away for a period.
Tip: Online communities still need food to grow. Make sure that exclusive content is always being pumped into your online community.
Reason #2) Online Customer Communities Build Upon Themselves
When you launch an online customer community, you are laying a foundation to help make customers more successful with your products or services. In providing this platform, you are asking your customers and partners to join your organization in this effort. Online communities augment the enthusiasm, support, and knowledge that your organization brings to the market with that of your entire ecosystem.
Reason #3) Private Online Communities Create Advocates
Building understanding of your company's vision, solutions, and customer-centric philosophy through helpful content and proactive support goes a long way toward creating a mini-arms of supporters that can help your organization spread ideas, bring new products to market, and build your brand.
Reason #4) Online Customer Communities Close Sales Faster
Opening up specific sections of your online customer community to prospects and leads to provide resources and answer questions can significantly shortens sales cycles and provide critical social proof to differentiate your offering in the eyes of your prospective customers.
Reason #5) Community Engagement Leads to Event Attendance
Engaged online community members are more aware of, and more likely to attend, in-person events.
Reason #6) Online Communities Create Profit for Channels and Partners
Bringing partners into your online customer community in a way that they can provide value to your customers helps position your organization as an invaluable resources, as well as makes it easier for your partners to educate, sell, and solve customer problems.
Reason #7) Online Communities Improve Marketing
Online communities build relationships with prospects and create brand advocates from customers and partners. By keeping customers or members engaged, companies also increase upsell and renewal rates.
Reason #8) Online Customer Communities Increase Customer Satisfaction
Though peer-to-peer support and by proactively connecting people with questions with those with answers, customer support teams can increase customer loyalty, net promoter scores, and retention.
Reason #9) Engaged Customers Are a Public Relations Asset
It is much easier to get through a crisis or ask forgiveness from your customers if you have built up a stockpile of trust, credibility, and overall humanity in your online community.
Creating Profitable Product & Services
Reason #10) Online Communities Provide Access to Market Data
Online communities create a consistent stream of market data from which product managers can listen for market problems, spot trends, and identify people with which they should have further in-depth conversations about their needs.
Reason #11) Customer Communities Help Product Development Teams Deliver Better Products
Most product development teams would kill to have an easily accessible feedback loop from their target market. Online communities allow developers to more easily test features and prototypes in the market so that they can make adjustments earlier in the development process and create more helpful products.
Online Community Takeaway
Not all businesses, associations, or user groups will use online customer communities the same way. However, there isn't another platform out there that can be used for such a diverse array of strategies across an organization and have such a tangible impact on business-level results. From prospects to customers to employees to partners, online communities produce the engagement that fuels concrete revenue increases, customer satisfaction, and the development of more profitable products.
So, in good times and in bad, build your online community. Start small, but know that by investing you community, you are investing in the future of your organization.