You’ve heard of ABM (Account Based Marketing) in B2B marketing, but what about CBM (Community Based Marketing )?

According to a McKinsey article in Sept 2022, community is the “big idea” in marketing for this decade.

2 years ago, Michelle Goodall and I coined the term ‘Community Based Marketing’ - or CBM - and we highlighted the trend towards underpinning marketing with community.

We've updated that co-authored 2020 Best Practice Guide to help business leaders and marketers, understand community/everything 'community-led' better, and to help community professionals create even more successful business value/outcomes from community.

Download our free 110 page 'What is Community Based Marketing (CBM)? Best Practice Guide'

Download the Community Based Marketing Best Practice Guide

Download the Community Based Marketing Best Practice Guide

What is Community Based Marketing  (CBM) - a definition

First, we define ‘community’ context as follows:

Definition: Online Community

"An online community (also known as a virtual community, internet community or digital community) is where people come together digitally to interact, share knowledge and build relationships."

Ashley Friedlein/Michelle Goodall - Guild

These communities are made up of people who share similar interests, goals or a purpose, whether that's working on a project together, sharing best practice or simply sharing a passion.

The word ‘community’ suggests connectedness, togetherness, people joining in and becoming something bigger than the sum of their parts.

As a team, we define community at Guild as something much deeper than a network or a group of people with weak ties, or people connected by the use of a hashtag in social media.

Community is an ever-evolving entity that is much more about the ‘we’, and what the collective can achieve together, than the ‘I’ and what a single person can get from belonging.

Next, here's a definition of marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing:

Definition: Marketing

"The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.

Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM)

Using this definition of Marketing to underpin it, we define Community Based Marketing (CBM) as follows:

Definition: Community Based Marketing (CBM)

"Community Based Marketing (CBM) is bringing people together around a shared practice, purpose, place, product or set of circumstances to create insights and closer, more valuable relationships with prospects, customers and other stakeholders to deliver organisational value."

Ashley Friedlein/Michelle Goodall - Guild

Why is Community Based Marketing (CBM) the "big idea" in marketing?

Online communities are nothing new, of course. In an earlier article looking at the history of online communities, we show a timeline stretching back to the 1970s. The name of our own product, Guild, deliberately refers back to professional communities from medieval times.

Source: A history of online communities

So why have communities made such a comeback?

Why are VCs getting all excited about ‘community’ as a hot area to invest in?

And why is Community Based Marketing (CBM) the "big idea" in marketing?

These are the main reasons why Community Based Marketing (CBM) is increasing in popularity

1. B2B marketing tactics are getting stale, saturated and expensive

A big factor is the increasing cost of marketing and the lack of innovation, especially in B2B marketing.

Traditional marketing tactics have grown stale and buyers are simply tuning out. Acquiring customers is growing more expensive and resulting in diminishing returns.

Community Based Marketing, like ABM, or Account Based Marketing, has found a happy home with B2B marketers.

It's hard reaching potential customers with direct mail, sales calls and LinkedIn ‘sales spam’.  Getting ‘stand out’ with an event or thought leadership content in an explosion of content marketing and virtual events gets harder every month.

A community based approach flips traditional marketing on its head, because instead of pushing out messages, you’re drawing in people based on their genuine interests.

Community Based Marketing provides a solution: create a community and ensure that prospects and customers value belonging. Ensure that the right types of peers join. Ensure there is enough shared expertise and great experiences to make people want to come back again and again. And choose the right community technology to home your valuable community.

And when it's time to choose a new supplier, agency, technology etc., you'll be actively considered because you've given them value - a valuable space, valuable connections and networking with peers, valuable information to help them avoid costly mistakes and to make good decisions.

2. Marketers increasingly value first party and zero party data

Amidst privacy concerns and regulation, marketers across the globe are facing the loss of third-party cookies, leading to challenges when trying to track and understand buyer behaviour online.

Couple this with social media platforms acting as walled gardens, making their data less available to marketers or social analytics platforms - try to get any meaningful data out of LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or TikTok and you’ll see what we mean. It’s a perfect storm for a massive loss of valuable consumer and market insight/intelligence.

If marketing is "The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably” then when it comes to a loss of data and intelligence to power this - Houston, we have a problem!

The first step in tackling third-party cookie and social data loss is shifting to a first party and zero party data strategy.

And both first party and zero party data are marketing 'gold dust'.

This is information that individuals willingly provide to validate the relationship they have with you and their intent.

And communities are an excellent way to enable and maximise this first party and zero party data from customers and prospects.

At Guild, we believe that businesses and marketers can do great things with first party and zero party data, and we would like to enable those possibilities.But we also believe that individual user choice is paramount, and this requires transparency, control and a privacy-first approach.

3. The rise of the Creator, Knowledge and Passion economies

The ‘creator economy’ is well known - there are tens of millions of independent content creators and community builders globally, including social media influencers, bloggers, celebrities and experts.

But there is a variation on this which applies much more to B2B, professional services and the knowledge economy. This article from Andreessen Horowitz explains The Passion Economy and the Future of Work.

Patreon, Substack, Guild and Discord are some of the platforms designed to help those in the creator, knowledge and passion economies with community, growth and monetisation.

There are an increasing number of professionals with side-hustles and portfolio careers who are monetising their individual expertise. As a result, a huge number of micro-businesses and micro-communities are springing up.

Many are centred around niche professional - or semi-professional - communities.

Larger organisations undergoing digital transformation are getting used to ways of working that are less hierarchical and monolithic and more networked, more part of an ecosystem, more ‘hub and spoke’, more agile. Traditional command and control approaches are breaking up to be replaced by fluid communities of interest.

Whether it’s micro-businesses or large corporations, then, the future of work is going to be more about professional networks and communities that cut across traditional business hierarchies.

4. The pandemic and economic uncertainty

The Covid pandemic was a massive accelerant of digital technologies. ‘Digital transformation’ in organisations advanced rapidly to ensure business continuity.

As individuals, we sought meaningful connections during periods of isolation - a desire for a sense of belonging, connection, a sense of self as part of a group. Much of this is played out through family bonds, or a rediscovery of local community, and digital ways to stay in touch with loved ones.

But it applies professionally too. More marketers than ever were exposed to the power and potential of virtual community as a result of the pandemic.

We’ve learned new virtual ways to communicate and collaborate with colleagues and customers. We’re also better connected to our professional peers – to learn and share, to give and receive support and encouragement. On Guild we saw a 120% increase in messaging activity during lockdown.

As we navigate great economic uncertainty, with high inflation and unemployment likely to come, we know that communities for ‘belonging’ and virtual networking/ professional communities are more important than ever.

5. Trust in government and institutions declining

Edelman’s Trust Barometer is a global tracker and has been measuring who people trust the most for over 20 years. Trust in institutions, government and media has been in decline for some years, but we are increasingly trusting of peers and ‘people like me’.

This is one of the reasons why social media and influencer marketing has exploded over the past decade.

In the latest study, Edelman state that because of this erosion of trust in government and media, “Societal leadership is now a core function of business.”
Community is another space where other ‘people like me’ hang out – whether that’s peers, colleagues, local connections, fans or communities of circumstance, etc.

And community can offer powerful spaces where businesses and organisations can disintermediate the media and build a dialogue or a direct relationship with audiences, customers, prospects and other stakeholders.

With organisations needing to deliver against Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) commitments and net zero becoming an organising principle for businesses, we believe that we will see more businesses join charities and non-profits in creating and curating communities of expertise around environmental and social issues to deliver against their commitments to society.

6. Technology businesses are acquiring ‘ready baked’ communities

A significant factor in this renewed interest in community are the big acquisitions in the technology sector.

Tech businesses are ahead of most in aligning community strategy to marketing and organisational strategy. And big tech businesses have been on a buying spree for a while, acquiring ready-made communities and engaged audiences.

An example of this in early 2022 was Pendo, a software company who acquired ‘Mind The Product’, a community of product-oriented professionals. The community started out as 30 product people meeting in a pub in London and grew into a global community of product managers, spanning over 200 cities globally, with meetups, conferences, and training, all backed by content and membership.

Essentially, Pendo is driving growth by acquiring a community of experts, influencers and potential customers to drive brand awareness, brand loyalty, sales and advocacy.

There have been many more community acquisitions in the technology space over the past few years; Bevy and CMX, Zapier and Makerpad, HubSpot and The Hustle, Salesforce and The CMO Club, Stripe and Indie Hackers to name a few, and there are bound to be many more to come.

If these driving forces mean you're baking community into your business and marketing strategies, then download and read the best practice guide.

Does community growth mean the 'death' of social media?

If communities are “the big idea in marketing” and they allow marketers to capture first and zero party data, what does this mean for social media?

It’s important not to conflate ‘community’ with social media. A community isn't necessarily something anchored around a Twitter handle or a social media platform.

Social media is way too big, too popular and it’s too much of a risk to be completely dismissed and written out of marketing strategies.

The question now should be how can marketing strategies be adapted to align to social media AND create these communities as safe spaces, or how can brands, businesses and organisations work with communities?

See what our expert contributors think in the guide.

Where does Community Based Marketing fit in the sales and marketing funnel?

The marketing funnel, like people's real-life buying behaviour, is non-linear. Understand decision making/customer journeys and where community plays hardest - from the moment of awareness to conversion, and beyond.

The diagram below shows a classic marketing and sales funnel moving from awareness through interest and desire to the point of action, or sale, and into customer loyalty and advocacy post-conversion.

Download the Community Based Marketing Best Practice Guide

Applying Community Based Marketing (CBM) to the Marketing and Sales Funnel - where community works 'hardest'

Communities in B2C marketing can be successful when they are broad and shallow.

They might have tens, even hundreds, of thousands of individuals in a community which is quite broadly defined and has only light engagement.

In B2B marketing, however, relationships are typically significantly lower in volume but much higher in value. This means that B2B communities should be narrower and deeper.


At the ‘Awareness’ top end of the marketing funnel you will typically have publicly accessible content, albeit aimed at a particular B2B audience, supported and amplified with various forms of paid media and marketing.

You want this awareness-building to turn into interest from potential customers who you can then qualify, e.g. using lead scoring, into prospects of varying potential value and influence.

Interest and Desire

The consideration/desire stages are perfectly suited to Community Based Marketing  You might have groups that are 10s, 100s, or possibly 1000s, in size at this stage, broken up by topic, interest area, geography, job function, seniority etc. You want groups to be big enough to have natural momentum but not so big as to become too noisy or anonymous in feel.

You now have the chance to further engage with prospects who have shown an interest in what you offer – enough to join your community – and build their own conviction that you have the expertise, authority, credibility and reputation in the market to be a good choice for them when the right time is right.

Loyalty and Advocacy

Sales and marketing can be too focused on customer acquisition when much of the value, and profit, particularly in B2B and professional services, comes from loyal customers that stick with you over longer periods of time.

Customer advocacy leads to referrals: a very effective and low-cost form of awareness and new customer acquisition.

Community Based Marketing can be used to increase loyalty and customer advocacy by super-serving key accounts. They might exist only within a single key account that is valuable enough to you to justify providing ‘concierge’ levels of service and support.

Another option is to create broader customer communities where members get value from each other and you gain insight into their issues and challenges. This is fantastic market insight to improve and prioritise the development of your product, services or customer experience.

The business case for Community Based Marketing (CBM)

Successful community building brings many benefits to businesses and organisations.

Investing in community can generate Return On Investment (ROI) in these ways:

1. Thought leadership to drive inbound leads

B2B marketers are accustomed to thought leadership as a marketing approach.

Businesses that are rich in expertise, knowledge and intellectual property – where what is ultimately being sold is often an intangible IP asset like advice or content or software – are well suited to thought leadership.

By showcasing your expertise, you hope to gain awareness with your target market and use content to further persuade prospects that you know your subject area better than others and are the obvious choice to turn to when the need arises.

A community of expertise, centred around your thought leadership, and hosted by your organisation, puts you at the centre of your sector and influential players in it. You should be able to track new leads that come from this community, or existing leads that have been successfully nurtured or accelerated because of the community.

Just one of the useful community-led growth models that we share and explore in the 'What is Community Based Marketing (CBM)? Best Practice Guide

2. Extending the value of your content marketing and events

Communities and content marketing are like strawberries and cream - they were made to go together!

A community extends the value and improves the reach of your content.

Content in all its forms - guide, trends reports, videos, events, surveys, polls, reviews etc. can be posted as a stimulus in a community and then debated and discussed.

All marketers battle with social media algorithms. Organic audience reach with the content they create is increasingly tough. They also know that it can be difficult to encourage discussion about that content in social media.

Communities are not the same as social media. You don’t need to pump out content like a sausage factory to have a successful community.

Instead follow the rules of good content marketing - one of which is to create content that meets your audience's needs. Community conversations can provide rich insight and can highlight ‘pains and passions’, which in turn can help you generate useful, relevant, rich content.

And as for community and events? Well they're like fish and chips - another match made in heaven!

3. Creation of a reputational moat and mobilisation of fans and advocates

An ‘economic moat’ is a company's competitive advantage - with deep rooted benefits like owning a great deal of intellectual property or brand recognition.

This combination of tangible and intangible assets impacts market share for years. Newer businesses know that to be competitive and to cross these moats, they need to create their own.

And creating powerful communities - whether that’s colleagues, partners, fans, customers, investors, volunteers etc. is one way to close the gap and build a reputational moat increasing brand value through encouraging network effects where customers interact with customers already using that brand.

4. Engagement to improve customer retention / reduce churn

For any business which has subscribers, members, learners, attendees, or regular users, it is clearly important to increase retention and yield and to decrease churn or downgrades.

Professional membership organisations, consumer subscription businesses like Gousto or Birchbox, B2B media and events business, SaaS technology companies, professional training and education establishments all have this in common.

If you can create a community which your customers engage in, get value from, and want to stay part of, then you should be able to measure the impact on retention, or churn rates. Even if that’s simply by asking members of your community if/how their belonging to the group has impacted their commercial relationship with you.

5. Revenue generation through supporting recurring revenue models

We are unquestionably in the “As a Service” era.

By providing subscription models - whether that’s for consumer brands, e.g. pet food, news/entertainment media subscription, razors, recipe boxes etc., or B2B, e.g. MarTech, OpsTech, CommunityTech, HRTech etc., businesses can generate predictable revenue and higher customer engagement.

Communities can help with acquisition and serve as a helpful window into what a paying member can expect from joining – a well-tested ‘try before you buy’ tactic.

As more consumer brands go direct to consumer (DTC) and more B2B businesses create subscription models, we’ll see more member clubs and communities built outside of social media to deliver value through capturing customer and market insights as well as first party and zero party data.

Media, publishers and Membership associations and organisations are increasingly putting community at the centre of their membership proposition and are successfully generating value and Return on Investment (ROI).

Read: '12 ways publishers get ROI from community' and '12 ways membership organisations can get ROI from community'

6. Revenue generation through the creation of new revenue streams

When it comes to community, co-creation and value/ownership models in b2c and b2b, we’re just getting started and figuring out both the value of members and of membership.

At the Guild Community Summit in May 2022 , strategist Zoe Scaman talked about the influence of web 3.0, community and crypto on brand thinking and the opportunity for new revenue streams.

She also highlighted a number of new consumer businesses established with community, collaboration and co-creation at their heart, mostly in the web 3.0 space.

We explore some examples communities of co-creation and new community-led business models in the guide.

7. Premium customer service for top customers

Some customers, or even prospects, are more valuable than others. Not just financially, but perhaps because of their influence or the prestige of their brand, and how that helps you sell to other prospects.

These customers are worth ‘super-serving’ – looking after in a high-touch, concierge way that shows them just how much you care. Impress them with your progressive use of community to add value to your relationship with them.

It might be a single large customer, like a key account, or it might be a cluster of customers who have a lot in common and would benefit from access to each other, facilitated by you. These groups are likely to be smaller, and more intimate, than communities of thought leadership. There are many of these private customer communities on Guild with members numbering from 10s to the low 100s.

You can measure the ROI of this form of Community Based Marketing through customer satisfaction metrics, e.g. Net Promoter Score, the resulting advocacy or recommendations you get, and growth in the account size e.g. if you get new briefs or projects that you find out about because of the group(s) you are running and the lifetime value of these customers.

These ‘high touch’ customer communities can also help you defend and justify premium pricing for your product or services and support a prestige brand positioning if you have one.

We are seeing increasingly at Guild across technology brands and agencies - putting clients and prospects in senior, smaller, more intimate groups both in-person and in small, private communities as an extension of Account Based Marketing and customer success.

8. Market / customer / audience insight and intelligence

There are all sorts of ways, both qualitative and quantitative, for marketers to understand their prospects and customers.

This is important to refine your marketing and messaging as well as to inform and prioritise the development of your product or service. Marketers rightly spend a lot of time, and money, on really trying to get under the skin of what their customers want, what they’ll want in the future, and how to articulate the ways in which your product/service meets those needs.

What better way to get this insight than to hear it directly from your customers’ mouths?

Particularly when it is natural, unprompted, honest conversations, questions and answers, that reveal the real needs and wants of your customers using the language that they best understand and will therefore most likely resonate in any marketing you do.

Communities based around conversations that focus on a professional area of practice or interest are goldmines for such market and customer insight.

Capturing and using this type of insight and audience intelligence is most likely to resonate in any marketing you subsequently do.

The ROI will come from you doing better marketing, making the best decisions about your product/service development, and even just surfacing unmet needs that you can easily convert to business.

9.  Impacting your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategy

The impact of social media on search engine visibility and SEO has long been debated, but it’s clear that the more people talk about something, the more they share content and links, whether that’s on public social, dark social (e.g. WhatsApp, DMs) or in private communities.

And this does have some impact on search engine visibility and rankings.

We offer this privacy vs discoverability as a choice for communities and groups on Guild and for individuals.

You can choose whether your personal profile and your groups and communities can be discoverable and indexed by search engines or remain completely private.

We're currently exploring the impact of community on SEO ourselves, and we'll share our findings.

10. Raising investment and improving investor relations

Startup and scale-up businesses know that investors don’t just bring financial backing – their support and expertise are crucial to their success. And one of the main reasons investors invest is to meet other investors.

There’s a growing trend of startup and scale-up businesses creating private investor communities. These help investors feel like they are part of the company, they improve the efficiency of investor relations/communications and allow for a flow of helpful advice and support outside of the investment.

11. Improving talent pipelines

Competition for talent in some industries is huge.

Creating communities to support and nurture talent, whether at entry level or for leadership roles is something that many organisations and businesses support. Some do this through working with non-profits, charities or talent networks, and some drive this themselves.

12. Supporting Environment Social and Governance (ESG) strategy

One of the big areas of community growth we’re seeing is in communities supporting ESG - environmental, social and governance.

Human Resources and Comms leaders and their teams are taking the ‘Social’ aspect of people strategy beyond the workforce and into communities. ESG (environmental, social and governance) issues now sit firmly in the mainstream, with investors expecting more of organisations when it comes to responsible business practice.

And there are an increasing number of business leaders frustrated with the slow pace of change who are building their own ESG focused communities and programs.

Extending what were traditional CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiatives into working groups and communities is one way to drive long term impact and value for organisations.

The 10 success factors for Community Based Marketing (CBM)

Being clear about your community purpose is one of the 10 success factors for Community Based Marketing (CBM)

1. Your community needs a clear purpose

Prospective members of your community need to know exactly why they should join. Time and attention is a precious commodity. People will want to invest in things that are worthwhile to them.

Equally you only want members in your community who are relevant, interested and engaged to ensure focused and valuable discussions. So, you must be very clear about what the community is for, why it exists and who can join. Communicate this to members and stick to your purpose.

Think about your value proposition to your community members. What’s in it for them? What would they miss out on if they didn’t join? Who is a part of your group and what’s the criteria for joining?

Create some serious FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) so that new, prospective members get excited about joining and participating.

2. Clear objectives and metric setting

You need to be clear on the business objectives behind your investment in community, and the metrics you’ll use to measure whether your community is delivering value.

The most common metrics for communities are member growth and engagement. While these are helpful indicators of community health, they lack any direct connection to business outcomes.

There are many specific, tactical, metrics around community but broader business objectives should underpin community. We explore this in ‘The business case for Community Based Marketing (CBM)' section in much more detail.

Marketing and sale objectives aligned to community will often include:

  • Improved conversion rates to sale
  • Improved product / service development
  • Improved marketing effectiveness
  • Reduced churn + higher yield
  • Reduced costs to serve

3. Small can be good

Some people feel they have to chase big numbers to show success.

It could be a dangerous route, particularly in B2B where it is more about value than volume, where quality usually counts more than quantity.

Communities can weaken, fragment or drift if they get too large. Professor Robin Dunbar, who sits on the Guild Advisory Board, is famous for the ‘Dunbar number’, of ~150, showing we cannot truly know more people than that.

Communities for B2B marketing are likely to be 10s, 100s, possibly 1,000s, but very few are larger, and at that point, some start to segment into smaller, more focused groups.

Read the guide to learn more about community objectives/measures and see our experts discuss "how big is too big in community?"

4. The importance of community management

Whatever you call the role – community manager, builder, leader, group host, admin - it is vital to have someone responsible for managing your community.

Otherwise it is like having a dinner party with no host, or an event with no-one to lead it.

We explore the operational elements of a community management role, but also softer skills that are critical to this role and often undervalued: empathy, an understanding of behavioural science and psychology, resilience, knowing when to step back and when to step in, making connections between people, resilience and a sense of humour.

In the guide we share data and research about the different community and marketing set ups. And the contributing experts give their views on who is best placed to lead and resource community.

5.  Curate, don’t dictate

The most successful communities feel like they are ‘owned’ by the community itself. To the point that really strong communities, just like other groups and tribes, will police and defend themselves both internally and to outsiders.

To create this dynamic, community managers should not dictate to the group or dominate the conversation, and it is not an opportunity for broadcast/one-way communications and your community should not act as ‘dumping ground’ for your content, events etc.

It’s important to engage and lead by example, but the secret is to create the right environment over time, with the right people, for the community’s members to step forwards and volunteer their own ideas, information, questions and advice.

6.  Choose the right community technology platform

In truth, a great community proposition and a brilliant community manager is much more important than the technology you choose. Some successful B2B communities still run off email lists!

But choosing the right platform for your community increases your chances of success -just as choosing the wrong one can make it hard. Switching or migrating platforms is never easy and there is the inevitable discussion about whether community software should be decided by the CMO, CTO or digital team.

Far too many businesses think that community building is about choosing a good bit of tech and leaving it to the CTO or digital team to plan and manage.

As a technology platform ourselves, we have strong opinions about what platforms work hardest to develop communities that can be sustained, deliver value and sit well within a tech stack.

Controversially for Slack fans, for example, we think Slack is not designed for communities,  and has introduced pricing that discourages using it for community building.  And most people know that WhatsApp is a very risky choice for B2B and organisations where data compliance and governance is important.

Less controversially, we, and many Guild customers, believe that Facebook, and LinkedIn Groups, are poor choices for building communities, but organisations continue to build communities on this ‘rented land’ with no way of drawing out important data and insights or migrating members easily.

There are some big communities and big brands running the risk of these social media ad-funded giants shuttering the features or closing groups altogether and losing any value built over the years.

In the guide we highlight examples of brands and businesses migrating Slack and social media communities to Guild when they need more flexibility, data, integrations and security than LinkedIn or Facebook Groups could offer.

7. Trust

You need trust for a community to thrive. Trust is earned over time and it can quickly be lost.

At Guild we believe that identity and profiles in communities are important conditions for creating trusted spaces.

We encourage community managers to onboard new members in a way that helps them orientate themselves quickly, feel comfortable that the space is trusted and gain value immediately from the community.

Community Guidelines are important for setting expectations around expected behaviours, and you should be seen to enforce these guidelines.

Act with integrity, speak with authenticity and protect your community. And do so consistently over time.

8. Consistency, persistency and rituals

New community managers who have been used to working in social media are pleasantly surprised that they don’t need to post anything like the same volume that they need to on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram etc.

Whilst you don’t need to post daily, you should create a regular cadence of discussion starters and community content.

Consistency, regularity and rituals in communities works well if you’re managing a community.

This can be regular days of the week or month for specific posts, topics or events. For example, welcoming new members on a Friday, monthly Q&As/AMAs or livestream video chats/Video Room events or meet ups with expert guests.

All the most powerful aspects of a community – a sense of belonging, trust, reciprocity, stored knowledge and wisdom, valuable and responsive connections – take time to build.

Everyone behaves differently in a community. And the shape of every community is different. But that’s to be celebrated.

In this guide, we give you some places to start learning about the art and science of community engagement. We have a growing bank of community strategy articles and resources.

And in our communities for community professionals on Guild. - Guild Community Collective and Professional Community Leaders, we discuss the very human elements of community, engagement and community behaviours daily. Come and join us!

9. Community at the core - not peripheral

If you think of ‘community’ as a project, initiative, or campaign, then it will likely fail.

A bit like ‘culture’ at work, community works best when it is felt, lived and breathed by an organisation, particularly its leaders. It needs to be embedded across the business and infuse all aspects of it.

Community exists in-person and digitally – a combination of the two is best. Ultimately community, in the context of marketing, is about wanting to stay close to your market and your customers. Not only is that central to any marketer’s role but is what those leading the business should care most about.

10. Community building is a (highly undervalued) skill

While community building and management is not that hard or expensive, it would also be unfair to those who are really good at it not to recognise it as an area of distinct skill and expertise.

There are plenty of great content writers and journalists who can’t do community management.

There are sales and marketing professionals who you’d think would be good but aren’t.

There are passionate business leaders who think they should be able to do it but just don’t ‘get it’ and have way too much of an ego to be good at community.

Great community builders are an unusual mixture of social, psychological, editorial, communication, commercial and sales skills. They intuitively know when to dive in and when to sit back. When to create and when to curate. Who to connect to whom. When to gently moderate or when to take swift action.

Despite this it is widely acknowledged that community management is historically not something that businesses have wanted to pay for. It isn’t a standard job or line in the budget. It isn’t a service that many agencies actively sell to clients.

With the rise of CBM, this is changing.

Community Based Marketing (CBM) - read our brand new best practice guide

How can you develop a successful Community Based Marketing (CBM) strategy and community-led growth?

Who is doing it well?

What does best practice look like?

We first explored this in 2020, when we coined the term 'Community Based Marketing (CBM)'.

Today, our brand new 'What is Community Based Marketing (CBM)? Best Practice Guide' includes insights from 30+ experts, including CEOs, CMOs, senior marketing strategists, authors/academics and community strategy specialists at the leading edge of community design and development - and its alignment to marketing strategy.

What is covered in the 'What is Community Based Marketing (CBM)? Best Practice Guide

In this best practice guide, we look closely at community and recommend how to use it effectively and successfully as part of your marketing strategy.

The 'What is Community Based Marketing (CBM)? Best Practice Guide' helps organisations understand the drivers behind the growth of community and the resulting opportunities and challenges.

This guide:

  • Defines Community Based Marketing (CBM)
  • Explains why Community Based Marketing is “the big idea in marketing”
  • Shows where CBM sits in the marketing funnel
  • Makes the business case for CBM
  • Gives you the success factors for CBM
  • Evaluates whether community should or shouldn’t be driven by marketing
  • Provides case studies of successful CBM in marketing

Thank you to these expert contributors

Guild would like to thank the following experts for their help in producing this guide:

Marjorie Anderson- Founder - Community by Association L.L.C.

Simon Andrews – Founder, Addictive

• Kirsten Barnes - CEO - Bright Network

Andy Bacon - Senior Vice President - Momentum ITSMA

Stuart Bruce - Co-Founder - Purposeful Relations

• Angelique Carney - Marketing Manager - TiPJAR

• Saasha Celestial-One - Co-founder - OLIO

Helen Coetzee - Director - MPG

Lisa Collins - Membership Specialist and MD - Dovetail Creative

David deWald - Community Manager - Ciena

Dan Drury - Chief Commercial Officer - Bowen Craggs & Co

Marc Duke, Community Manager - Tech London Advocates Createch Group

Christie Fidura - Director - Developer Community - Salesforce

Ashley Friedlein - Founder - Guild

Edu Giansante - Head of Community - Wix

Michelle Goodall  - CMO - Guild

Blaise Grimes-Viort– Founder, Is The Answer

Evan Hamilton - Director of Community - HubSpot

Katy Howell – CEO and Founder – Immediate Future

• Iryna Kandrashova- Head of Marketing - Uxpressia

• Mary Keane-Dawson - Managing Partner Growth - Kiln

Ricardo Molina - Co-Founder & Director - BrightBull Marketing

Carolyn Morgan - Managing Consultant - Speciall Media

Todd Nilsson - President and community strategist - Clocktower Advisors

Venessa Paech - Co-Founder & Director & Founder - Australian Community Managers

Matt Phelan - Co-founder - The Happiness Index

Rosie Sherry - Founder - Rosieland

• Tamara Littleton - CEO and Founder - The Social Element

Darryl Sparey - Co-Founder and Managing Director - Hard Numbers

Jack Richards - Team Lead Marketing Northern Europe - Talkwalker

• Mark Ritson - Founder Marketing Week Mini MBA with Mark Ritson

• Tom Ross - The Community Building Guy

Jon Stricklin-Coutinho- Community Builder & Strategist

• Zoe Scaman - Founder - Bodacious

Kevin Sutherland - Strategy Partner, VIDA and Founding Partner, VOLUME

Sarah Waddington- Co-founder - Socially Mobile

Stephanie Williford – Co-chair - Renewd

Gregor Young - CEO, Guild

Thanks to these experts from the first Community Based Marketing Guide whose contributions have been carried over:

• Mark Birch - Founder - DEV.BIZ.OPS

• Dominique Farrar – Head of Community & Communications Lead – Spendesk & CFO Connect

• Mac Reddin – Co-founder & CEO - Commsor

• Anthea Stratigos - Co-founder & CEO - Outsell

Download the Community Based Marketing Best Practice Guide

Download the Community Based Marketing Best Practice Guide

Header and cover photo by Robert Katzki on Unsplash

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