Six Reasons Firms Build B2B Customer Communities

The B2B online community may be the forgotten partner of the glitzy, headline and spotlight-grabbing B2C communities at the center of the social media revolution. In social media land, there is nothing more eye-catching than a community for a popular TV show, a cool consumer-facing site for coffee lovers or a sports team. Not to mention the tantalizing sound of the word “monetization!” OK, the B2C communities are big, often flashy and backed by recognizable brand names. They’re fun to talk about, as compared to the ho-hum business of building communities that help customers find solutions to core business issues in areas like technology, manufacturing or insurance. But let’s look at this a little more closely. There are three primary models used to build both kinds of online communities based on three kinds of member needs: 1) Information Dissemination 2) Shop Talk 3) Professional Collaboration B2C consumer communities and B2B communities share overlapping models, but the foundations are different. Most B2C communities are based on models 1 and 2, rarely professional collaboration. On the other hand, the B2B community exists to solve the business and professional needs of its members. Information sharing and shop talk are part of this, but the overarching activity is professional collaboration for mutual benefit, between the company and the members, and between members themselves. Indeed, the size of B2C communities often works against the collaboration model — the community is too big, too diffuse. B2B communities tend to be much smaller, the needs of the members more focused and intense around specific product, service or problem-solving scenarios. B2B communities may also have a more-restrictive registration or membership process — they are gated communities to keep a sharp focus on member needs. While B2B communities may be overlooked, they tend to be better examples of mature communities of practice than their consumer counterparts. In addition, the B2B community can often have a more powerful impact on the organization, thanks to the direct input from key outside stakeholders on core operations such as customer service, marketing, product development, product groups and sales. Not surprisingly, we are starting to see more of these B2B communities. Through our research and experience, we have discovered 6 reasons companies create customer communities online:
  1. To get control of the social media conversations about their company or brands
  2. To help customers get more value from products and services
  3. To improve the company’s process for enhancing products and services
  4. To develop better new products and services
  5. To reduce the cost of post-sale service
  6. To market and sell more effectively, often through thought leadership content
There are many examples of successful and thriving B2B customer communities on the Web. Companies like Cisco, Taleo, SAP, Palladium Group, LexisNexis, EMC, Mathworks and Cognizant have all demonstrated a commitment to serving their customers by building relationships using online communities. Contribute to the B2B Community List But many are difficult to find. I know — we have been creating a database of B2B customer communities to build awareness and best practice centers for practitioners. We have a sizable list generated through primary research, and we seek your help identifying additional candidates. If you sponsor, run or just participate in a successful B2B customer community, please tell us about it so we can include it in the research. We’ll be releasing the list soon, and if you’d like to see it, you can request more info at the end of this questionnaire. Republished with author’s permission from original post by Vanessa DiMauro

Connect With Your Customers

Check out this great video made by IBM about connecting with your customers. Social media continues to dominate the way people interact, share, and digest information. Bands need to play their part by engaging, interacting, and most importantly, listening to their customers. [youtube]

Increase Revenue By 19% via Online Customer Communities

The University of Michigan conducted a study this year around increasing customer engagement via an online customer community vs. a Facebook Page. Their study was based around a company that sold many different brands’ products, meaning the products discussed were not associated with the brand sponsoring the online community. Brand communities created by the brand can expect an even larger increase in Revenue. Read on… Let’s start with the conclusion (that’s the most important part). The study concluded that companies with an online customer community increased customers’ expenditures by 19%. The research concludes that this significant increase is directly related to joining and participating in an online community, with active customers spending over and above what they spent before joining the community. Here is a chart to help visualize what this means. How Online Customer Communities Increase Sales This report falls in a line of research that notes members of online communities have an increase in purchase intention and higher revenue and margin growth. They will also take greater financial risks with the sponsoring firm and are also willing to pay a premium. 5 Things That Executives Need to Know to Increase Revenue Using Online Customer Communities 1) Customer Will Order More Often, Not Make larger Purchases Increased engagement increases number of visites to your website, which leads to a higher sales conversion rate. “The University of Michigan study saw order frequency increase by 18.4% after a customer joined the online customer community.” 2) Engage New Customers Research shows that newer customers that join an online customer community have the highest increase in expenditures. 3) Capitalize on Customer Retention and Repeat Purchases Participating customers continue to maintain higher levels of spending, even after the novelty of the online community wears off. 4) Offer Ways to Engage and Purchase Both Online and Offline One would think online communities leads only to an increase in online sales. However, with the emergence of an online community, offline purchases also increase. 5) A Rising Tide LIfts All Ships (and Product Categories) The University of Michigan research showed a proportional increase in sales in all categories across the board. Online Customer Community Takeaway The University of Michigan report demonstrates how an increase in revenue is directly related to the emergence on an online community. Though the 19% revenue jump is more of a guideline then a guaranteed result, executives can’t overlook the sales-generating power of online communities. This article is a summary of an original article by Joshua Paul, posted with permission.

Discussion: The Heart of Small Online Communities

The notion that discussion is the foundation of community is not a new one. In fact, it’s fairly consistent theme with the some of the most influential bloggers dealing with community management, including Richard Millington over atFeverBee and Patrick O’Keefe at iFroggy. Despite the fact that it’s a topic that has been written about extensively, it’s  important enough that I think it’s excusable to be repetitious. Beyond that, however, I think it is incredibly important for small online communities. Much of the excitement and attention in community management these days is focused on brand-related communities and particularly the B2C space. There’s a lot of discussion about user generated photos, art, and video. There’s a lot of excitement about contests and gamification. And there’s plenty of advice and strategy around content generation and planning. But as someone whose primary focus is on smaller online communities, and specifically communities run by associations or clubs, I often feel that much of this is not relevant, or at least is not where the primary focus should be. The communities that I am most interested are more about sharing information and learning from one another. Discussion is clearly the most important type of interaction in this environment, but even I sometimes overlook it. At AssociCom, we think think we have some pretty good tools for content aggregation and social curation. These are necessary tools if you have a community in which information sharing is going to be a significant activity. So when describing AssociCom to people we often put a lot of focus on these. However, we sometimes fail to point out that even for information sharing, it is generally not the sharing itself that makes the community vibrant, but the discussions that spring up around that information. And this really is reflected in the way that we built it because content items actually serve as the locus for discussions; we just sometimes forget to point out to people how significant that is. Coming back around to what this all means for small communities, I think the greatest challenge that small communities face is getting started. I’ve seen my share of small communities that were founded with the best of intentions and enthusiasm, but which have struggled and sometimes simply faded away. If you are thinking about creating an online community for your association, group, or club, you need to be able to answer these questions:
  • What sort of topics are going to be discussed?
  • Who is interested in discussing these topics? And the answer to this question needs to be specific people who you know are enthusiastic about those topics.
  • How am I going to get those specific people involved in the community and starting those discussions?
  • How am I going to make others aware of those discussions and encourage them to participate?
If you have good solid answers for these questions, I feel fairly confident that you can create an active online community that will be of tremendous value to your organization. Republished with author’s permission from original post by Terry Coatta

71 Top Online Customer Communities: The Big List

Online customer communities are everywhere — you just have to look for them — sometimes in unlikely places. Because they are dedicated to serving customers, often they are not evangelized to the general public or consumer audiences. But they are alive, well and thriving within many enterprises. By way of definition, when we say “online customer communities,” we mean an interactive, often gated, website that a company sets up for customers to collaborate on topics of mutual interest. And, we are NOT including customer service websites; e-commerce sites where goods and services are bought and sold; online customer panels that focus on customer research; online publications that let readers comment on articles; or blogs, twitter and general use of social media broadcast tools. These styles of interactive interplay are an important aspect of the evolving web 2.0 world, but are not, by definition, online customer communities. I’ve tweeted and shared a lot of information about online customer communities. Some recent posts, in case you missed them, are “6 Reasons Firms Build Customer Communities” and “Spot the Winners: Three Patterns for B2B Community Success,” which identifies the common characteristics of successful customer community builders. We’ve also been doing the research, gathering an extensive list of online customer communities and developing a suite of case studies about some of the more innovative examples. So without further ado, here’s our initial list from the Customer Community Project — seventy-one of our top picks — so far.
  1. Adobe Learning Communities
  2. American Express Business Travel Connexion
  3. American Express American Express Open
  4. Avnet Partner Community (gated community)
  5. Bank Of America Small Business Community
  6. Bloomberg BusinessWeek Business Exchange: Online Community Management
  7. BT Radianz Financial Services Community
  8. BT Transform operational capabilities in defence (gated community)
  9. Building Network
  10. Caterpillar Caterpiller Community
  11. CHCA CHEX Knowledge Exchange (gated community)
  12. Executive Council (gated community) (gated community)
  13. Cisco Learning Network
  14. Cognizant Cognizanti eCommunity (gated community)
  15. Constructing Excellence Collaborative Working Champions network
  16. Cortera Community
  17. CSC Meaningful User Community
  18. CWFM Connect with FM (Facilities Managers)
  19. Dell Small and Medium Business
  20. Diversified Communications Integrative Practitioner
  21. Dow Jones Dow Jones Communities
  22. EMC ECN Community Network
  23. EMC Customer Council Connect (gated community)
  24. EMC EMC-SAP Ecosystem community
  25. EMC Networker Online Community
  26. EMC TheCircle (gated community)
  27. EMC Velocity Partner Xchang (gated community)
  28. Flexera Software Community
  29. Hewlett Packard Enterprise Business Community
  30. Hewlett Packard Business Support Forums
  31. Hewlett Packard Software Solutions Community online forum
  32. Hewlett Packard Live Network (gated community)
  33. HSBC Business Network
  34. IBM Communities
  35. IBM Center for CIO Leadership
  36. IDC IDC Insights
  37. InfoGroup Exchange Exchange – Powered by Infogroup (gated community)
  38. Institute for Human Resources (Many different HR topics) Community Home Page
  39. Intel Intel Software Network Communities
  40. Intuit Intuit Community (many different Intuit support communities)
  41. Intuit Accountants Community for QuickBooks Practitioners and Accounting Professionals
  42. Intuit Developer Network (gated community)
  43. Jigsaw Jigsaw Community
  44. Kinaxis The Supply Chain Expert Community (gated community)
  45. Kodak Grow Your Biz
  46. LexisNexis LexisNexis Investigators Network (gated community)
  47. LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell Connected
  48. Mathworks MatLab Central
  49. Microsoft (UK) Microsoft Small Business Community
  50. Microsoft Microsoft Developers Network
  51. Microsoft Microsoft Dynamics Community
  52. Motorola Enterprise Mobility
  53. NAHB Reshaping and Enriching our Communities
  54. NetPromotor Blogs
  55. NetApp New Products for Building a Shared IT Infrastructure
  56. NetApp University
  57. NetApp User Groups
  58. Oracle Community
  59. Oracle Enterprise Manager
  60. Oracle CFO Central
  61. Palladium Group XPC
  62. Pitney Bowes User Forum
  64. SalesForce Discussion Forums
  65. SAP Community Network SDN Community
  66. Sage Group Act! Community
  67. Sermo MDs-only Community
  68. Spiceworks IT Community
  69. Staffing Industry Analysts Executive Forum
  70. Taleo Customer Executive Council
  71. TCN The Construction Network
This list is just a start, so feel free to post a comment about them. If you run, manage or participate in an online customer community and would like to be included, please take a moment to add your community. Republished with author’s permission from original post by Vanessa DiMauro

Executives Agree That Social Business Has Tangible Economic Benefits

A recent study by PulsePoint Group in collaboration with The Economist Intelligence Unit titled, “The Economics of A Fully Engaged Enterprise” found that companies that fully embrace social business initiatives are experiencing four times greater business impact than companies that do not. Of note: Executives defined social engagement today as online listening (28%), blogging (24%) and building relationships with online influencers (21%).  But the top performers have a different view – they will be more focused on ideas and action in the next two years. Big-return companies crowdsource new products (57%), or let customers participate in developing ideas — they are predicting a significant portion of new products will be derived from social engagement insights. Thanks to Social Business News for the tip.