2020 was a momentous year in many respects. While the world was rocked into extended periods of isolation and social distancing, B2B marketers had to rethink their traditional account-based marketing strategy to better reach their audiences and deliver on their KPIs. Enter account-based communities.
To be blunt, traditional B2B marketing, while never the most glamourous, had become stale and was due for a shakeup.
Against the turbulent backdrop of 2020, this shakeup happened and we saw a rise in communities on social media channels.
This is no coincidence.
How account-based communities change account-based marketing
Described as a “group of professionals drawn together by a shared interest and held together over time by mutual support or benefit”, communities provide a trusted forum where professionals find solutions to their challenges by sharing ideas, networking and conversing.
A community-based approach flips traditional account-based marketing strategies on their head. Instead of pushing out messages/mailers, B2B marketers are now able to draw people in based on their genuine interests.
Building this trust and genuine interest is like mining gold for marketers. Communities have become one of the most effective tools for gauging sentiment and gaining mindshare among target accounts.
What makes account-based communities so effective?
They target the entire buying committee
When positioned around a particular theme and/or region, the efficacy of communities is amplified.
Unlike email, advertising, or Company Pages, Account-Based Communities are designed for 1:1 ABM targeting. This allows nurturing of the full buying committee in a social setting. Communities are uniquely positioned to let decision makers witness firsthand how their teams are engaging with your content.
They extract deep customer insights
Account-based communities are also an invaluable resource for gaining customer insights. Consider the age-old ABM problem of understanding customers’ needs and wants. Usually this involves spending thousands in budget and countless hours pouring over customer research.
Account-based communities have proved that there is a better, more cost-effective way to get this insight. After all, what better way to get it than directly from your customers’ mouths – particularly when it stems from organic, unprompted and honest conversations, Q&As or polls.
This reveals the real needs and wants of your customers using the language they understand, which will therefore most likely resonate in any of your other marketing. Here are just a few examples from one of our B2B tech communities:
Interested in hosting a webinar but unsure what topic will resonate? Before you spend time and money promoting it, why not engage with your customers in your community to see what THEY want? Take a look at the poll we ran into one of our communities to find a topic that our client’s audience would find appealing.
They build trust
Socially nurturing members over time builds trust in a way that email and advertising can’t. That trust can then be used to make warm and personalised introductions to your sales team.
It’s important to note that account-based communities are best used as sentiment barometers rather than as a one-way stream of product marketing. By organically engaging with your members on a variety of discussions, you allow them to build their own conviction that you have the expertise, authority, credibility and reputation in the market. This perfectly positions you to be selected as a supplier when the time is right.
There’s also a sense of security when setting up these communities that should put marketers at ease. Consider a LinkedIn Group: There is, in essence, a three-tier moderation system in place to avoid spam/self-promotion from your members:
- Entrance moderation: New members are vetted to make sure they meet the target criteria before being let into the community.
- Post moderation: A dedicated community manager is on hand to delete self-promotional posts to ensure discussions are always on topic.
- Comment moderation: Any comments deemed inappropriate are deleted by a community manager
Account-based communities are the future of account-based marketing
I started this blog talking about the challenges that Covid-19 had on marketers. One of the biggest ones was that their customers and prospects were suffering from a lack of connection. This spurned traditional marketing approaches that weren’t addressing their real needs: to feel closer to their peers both personally and professionally.
Account-based communities address this need and should no longer be an alternative to your ABM stack, but rather an invaluable part of it.
As this Guild blog puts it: “As we go into a period of great economic uncertainty, with higher levels of redundancy and unemployment, we know that professional networking and tapping into our professional communities is more important than ever.”