In part 1 of this article we propose a maturity model for the journey to memberships for B2B publishers and media organisations. In this instalment we examine why so many B2B publishers are now focusing on community and membership models.
The 3Cs of the dotcom era
If you're old enough to have been around in the 'dotcom' era of the late 90s then you may remember the famous "3Cs" that were meant to characterise the web: Content, Commerce, Community.
In practice the early years of the web were more focused on content. Commerce came a bit later. "Community" has experienced some interesting mutations and permutations over the years.
In the early years, 'community' was largely email lists, discussion forums and bulletin boards. Then came "web 2.0" and social media. MySpace, Friends Reunited and others who were in turn crushed by the now dominant players like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc.
What this meant for B2B publishing / media businesses
B2B media businesses typically did an ok job in the early years of 'community' with email lists and forums. Some much better than others. Commenting was also added to content to encourage subscriber/member participation and engagement. This worked quite well before spammers, bots and linkbuilding SEO-ers somewhat spoilt the party.
But the main problem came when the big platform players - and in B2B this largely meant LinkedIn and Twitter - 'stole' their communities and sucked up the erstwhile interaction and engagement into their own hyper-connected social vortices. Some B2B media businesses thought it a good idea to migrate their own customers onto LinkedIn as LinkedIn had the tech platform and the audience. Almost all have since pulled back from that approach.
Around the same time most media businesses (not just B2B) were realising that their fundamental business models had to change. Print ads as a revenue stream was dying fast, LinkedIn was killing the gravy train of recruitment advertising and the general direction had to be less about ad-funded models and more about paid subscriptions and diversifying into training, events, consulting etc.
And so B2B media got busy with tech, information, data and tools to drive subs and diversified into other revenue streams.
But now 'community' is making a comeback
The trouble with an overly 'transactional' relationship with your customers is that there is little emotional bond between you, the B2B media brand, and them. Engagement can wane. Given the myriad content/data options out there you risk becoming commoditised. Your customers just don't care that much anymore.
Furthermore, they are struggling to tear themselves away from getting dopamine hits from mobile apps. People just don't feel able to read your wonderful content online anymore. It is way too long and way too not-on-their-mobile. Even LinkedIn can't keep people engaged with their old school web experience. LinkedIn groups are withering away.
To revive another term from the dotcom era... how then do you make your subscription/membership more 'sticky'? How do you engage customers and make them care? How can you hook them in with benefits that are as much emotional as rational? How do you play Big Tech at their own game and win?
Guild can help
We know the world has gone mobile and the internet is now, to all intents and purposes, mobile. As B2B publishers and media businesses you need to be mobile-first, because your customers are. But most are not. You need to compete in the mobile space before Big Tech (Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Google, LinkedIn, Apple etc.) suck up all your members' attention and you cede all your subscribers' data to them.
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