Where does community-based marketing fit in the sales and marketing funnel?
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.
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 augmented 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, 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 the 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 as a supplier to them when the right time is right.
Loyalty and Advocacy
Sales and marketing can, however, be too focused on customer acquisition when much of the value, and profit, particularly in B2B and professional services, comes from having loyal customers that stick with you over longer periods of time.
Community-based marketing can be used to increase loyalty and customer advocacy by super-serving key accounts with very focused communities that might exist only within a single key account that is valuable enough to you to justify providing ‘concierge’ levels of service and support. Or broader customer communities where members get value from each other and you get to tap into their issues and challenges: this is fantastic market insight to improve and prioritise the development of your product or services. Customer advocacy leads to referrals so is also a very effective and low cost form of awareness and new customer acquisition.