On authentic community building, stars aligning and human brands
Sometimes – even in PR and comms – stars are aligned. I’d planned this article on community building weeks back. Then, I attended Luke Lang, Crowdcube’s co-founder and CMO, opening keynote at the Festival of Digital Disruption. Asked whether his incredible crowdfunding platform and the power of community leans more towards consumer brands, Luke replied “B2B brands forget they can create community.”
Mic drop. Post rewrite. All of the above.
Because I see B2B do this so much. We keep ourselves in pre-defined marketing and comms boxes. Almost too afraid to create honest conversations and more meaningful connections with the people we’re serving. Let’s remember why community building matters.
Why community matters in B2B
Community building has become a key pillar for powerful brands. Sexy B2C brands like Sweaty Betty, Glossierand Starbucks have cultivated both on and offline communities that feel what they do, harnessing them to:
- Build deeper brand affinity, connection and loyalty – like attracts like, so your community drives more value in itself
- Extend reach through brand advocates and powerful word of mouth
- Give your customers a voice and engagement as you evolve new products and services
Community fundamentally builds a brand that people buy into, rather than from.
But how does, say, a SaaS platform, show that it cares too? You find and grow a community when you connect your clients, have a two-way conversation and create a space to forge relationships.
In the ultimate manifesto on the topic, Tribes, Seth Godin says “A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”
There it is.
The point of difference
First off, let’s debunk what community isn’t: it’s not your market. I repeat: your customer community is not your market.
As more businesses adopt community building strategies, the role of “community manager” has become interchangeable with “marketing manager” and the notion it’s simply another sales channel. It immediately diminishes the generous spirit and purpose of community.
Your market is the people that you’re selling to. Often, they’re not talking to each other.
Your community, however, goes beyond that. It’s your customers, partners and the rich network of relationships cultivated and nurtured through your business – the outcome of what you do, the intentional experience you’ve developed to drive value and belonging to something bigger than your business.
Five things authentic community builders do
Here’s how to start building a community – and a brand people believe in.
Share your purpose
74% of millennials believe that values trump profit. Authenticity motivates brand connection and the belief driven consumer needs to connect with a genuine purpose. As B2B marketers, our job is be bold about sharing what we stand for.
Engage through leadership
Passion-led leadership matters. Showing how much you care gives your community something to feel and respond to.
Look at Louize Clarke’s work around The Curious Lounge here in Reading. By believing so deeply in what she’s building in her events and talent hub, Louize has grown a super-engaged, well-defined community in weeks. And as we know, we only need 1000 true fans.
Generosity is at the heart of community.
This is generosity beyond selling.
It’s having a coffee with a colleague, it’s sharing your thoughts with a previous client, and it’s creating and delivering valuable content. Your community allows you to give more of yourself. Read Adam Grant’s excellentGive and Take if you need any more persuasion.
Create a space to connect
Whether it’s through your blog, on LinkedIn or IRL, create a space for your community to connect.
Edtech startup Blackbullion hosts quarterly events, bringing together customers, investors and partners to meet, idea share, brainstorm and build relationships. Products have been co-created, new collaborations formed and an army of fans has fallen in love with Blackbullion’s mission.
Commit. Invest. Show up. Pay attention to what your tribe wants and how you can best serve them.
Because in a community, your success is their success. That’s the secret sauce.
Building a community is how you create a brand that’s bigger than the product or service that you offer. It’s belonging. And in an age of AI, bots and algorithms, it’s how you stand out as a human business.
If it’s part of how you’d like to grow your brand, let’s talk!
Until next time,