What is community-based marketing and why is now the perfect time for it?

Ashley Friedlein, CEO and founder at Guild, breaks down community-based marketing and its impact on Covid-19 and the B2B sector.

At a time when there’s more pressure than ever on marketing departments to show meaningful results, it’s getting harder and harder to maintain engagement with B2B audiences. While this is often attributed to the impact of COVID-19 and the inevitable budget cuts that came with it, the truth is, B2B marketing tactics were becoming old and tired long before the pandemic hit. 

Community-based marketing (CBM) can be the solution to shaking up stale marketing techniques, helping you win the attention, action and loyalty of prospects and existing customers. It also appears to be gathering momentum at just the right time, playing into that desire to feel part of something bigger that so many of us are currently missing.

Defining community-based marketing

To understand the concept of CBM, it helps to take a look at the meaning of ‘community’ in a B2B setting. It takes the suggestion of connectedness and people joining together, and puts it in a professional context, serving a marketing purpose.

Therefore, we define CBM as bringing professionals together around a shared practice or area of expertise to create closer, and more valuable, relationships with prospects and customers.

These communities are held together by a shared interest and mutual support, so if businesses can tap into that, they can begin having meaningful conversations and interactions with their audience on digital forums, networks and apps.

Why is now the right time?

Whilst online communities are nothing new, the past year has created the perfect storm for CBM to thrive, and we believe there are three leading factors:

The acceleration of digital transformation alongside the rise of the ‘passion economy’ While sites like Fiverr and People Per Hour have been around for a while, platforms like Patreon and Substack offer a way for professionals to monetise their individual expertise at a rate that actually values their experience. This has led to the creation of a large number of micro-businesses, all centred around niche, professional communities.  

Meanwhile, larger companies are transitioning to a more modern way of working, from undergoing the process of digital transformation, to embracing a less hierarchical structure. The focus is very much becoming about moving away from a command and control approach towards more fluid communities of interest.  

For both micro-businesses and larger organisations then, the future will see a shift towards professional networks and communities.

The impact of COVID-19

The pandemic has shown us that the impact of professional relationships cannot be underestimated. With many of us now working from home, it can be difficult to replace the daily social interactions you associate with the workplace from emails and scheduled video calls alone.

Professional communities are a way to fill this void, allowing people to communicate and collaborate with colleagues, peers and other like-minded individuals, providing a space to swap ideas. get feedback, and receive support and encouragement.

With the unemployment rate soaring to 5%, communities are also going to be a really important way of networking for those who have been made redundant, furloughed, or no longer feel there is room to grow in their current role.

As marketers, it is these wants and needs we should be considering when planning our strategies for the upcoming year.

The oversaturation of B2B marketing channels

Current B2B marketing methods are becoming outdated and ineffective, and it’s hard to think of a single channel that isn’t already overused. From email newsletters, to blogs, social media, webinars, InMails, and even podcasts, it’s becoming increasingly challenging to cut through the noise.

As a result, click-through rates are declining, whilst the cost of customer acquisition is rising in almost every industry sector.

With this in mind, community-based marketing can provide a way to create a closer bond with your prospects and customers, achieving better results, but more importantly, forging longer, mutually beneficial relationships.

With almost every B2B marketer following the same playbook, it’s time to develop a new play. Community based marketing can be that play.

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