Why Participate in an Online B2B Community?

Dec 15, 2014

By: Asad Haroon

In a recent IBM survey of over 1,700 CEOs from more than 60 countries, online customer communities ranked second only to face-to-face interactions as the most important channel through which they plan to engage customers.

Online customer communities have been around for a while now, and new ones are showing up all the time in both the B2C and B2B sectors. Some even suggest that such communities will supplant social media as the most popular way for businesses to connect online. Is this likely? Considering that social media is an important element of many such communities, probably not.

But whether you’re a business service vendor or customer, joining and interacting with other businesses in an online B2B community offers several important advantages. Here’s why online communities that allow vendor reviews are a valuable resource for businesses researching purchases:  

  1. A study by the Acquity Group revealed that 94% of B2B buyers conduct research before deciding on a purchase. 
  2. A 2014 survey from the Demand Gen Report supports the case for online communities that provide a platform for evaluating software and service providers; 97% of B2B buyers in the study believe that user generated content—like peer reviews and group discussions—is more credible than other types of content.
  3. In the software industry alone, for example, a study conducted by Software Advice found that 63% of buyers consider reviews in order to create a shortlist of solutions to evaluate.
  4. Two-thirds of these buyers found online reviews valuable to their research, and 59% said they were likely or extremely likely to choose a product based on reviews.
  5. According to the State of B2B Procurement, only 48% of B2B buyers visit suppliers’ websites in order to make purchases.
  6. In a study from Avanade, more than 60% of enterprise buyers said that reviews are more important than information from the company itself.
  7. Customers like to leave reviews, and often just need a little encouragement to do so. Nearly 60% of software buyers said they wrote reviews to help others.

Clearly, being part of an online B2B community that allows you to offer and receive reviews can be of great value, whether you’re a buyer, seller, or both. Encouraging your customers to provide reviews within a business community shows just how much you value feedback from your customers.

What About Negative Reviews?

But won’t encouraging reviews invite negative reviews as well? The fact is, whether they are thrilled with your services or have a complaint, customers will write reviews. And when negative reviews appear in the mix, B2B customers actually view this as a sign of credibility. Among software buyers, 76% thought products with a mix of positive and negative reviews to be more trustworthy than ones with all positive reviews, according to a Software Advice survey.  

If you’re a vendor, being engaged with your customers in a community will give you the opportunity to address their concerns and maintain positive customer relationships. Responding to feedback you receive demonstrates your willingness to provide the best possible customer experience.

“Negative reviews provide authentic feedback about the parts of your product or service that don’t quite work for your customers.” – Manya Chylinski, Founder of Alley424 Communications

Turning Negative into Positive 

Use negative feedback to identify and correct mistakes and also to gain an understanding of how you might improve your products and services. Participating in the conversation with a customer who has a complaint is the best way to mend the rift and begin to truly build engagement.

Community Content is Powerful

The true benefits of online community participation often defy—or at least resist—measurement. DemandGen Report’s 2014 Content Preferences Survey found B2B buyers relying increasingly on content to research and make buying decisions. This is very good news for online communities, where content plays a significant role.

Community content is used to spark discussions, answer questions, and provide a solid research base for community users. Being actively involved in a community that provides research tools and content, and allows vendors to participate in discussions, places you in an ideal position to connect with potential customers and provide the answers they need.

The InsideUp community of small businesses and business service providers offers just such a platform.

 

Mobile Business Marketing: Five Proven Areas to Focus On

Nov 21, 2014

By: Arlette Measures

Trends in digital forms of business marketing can appear quite suddenly; some continue to grow strong while others quickly fade into oblivion. For the marketer, it can be difficult to discern which avenues to pursue and which ones will not turn out to be worth the effort, especially when selling to businesses.

In the social media realm, for example, many have tried business marketing through several different channels that appeared on the scene. But eventually, the list has funneled down to the ones that have proven to work the best. Here are five areas that can bring you consistent results when executed properly.

Apps - Among the more common challenges of B2B marketers who want to use mobile is the need to keep the attention of prospects long enough to capture data that can be used for lead nurturing.

When your on-the-go business prospect discovers your website while fitting in a few moments of research in between appointments or over their morning latte, he or she will probably not be as inclined to take the steps of filling in a form and downloading your white paper as they would when sitting in front of their desktop. At this point they aren’t even sure that your solution is what they are looking for. One option might be to email the link to their inbox and wait until they’re back at the office. But by then, other priorities will likely have pushed the thought of your solution to the bottom of the list.

If, on the other hand, you offer a mobile app that contains all of the information your prospect needs to know, as well as a strong call to action, they can be learning about your solution within seconds, or can easily return to the app when they have more time or want to share the information with other individuals within their company.

Mobile apps offer another very important advantage for business marketing; they make it easy to collect lead data and track user activity. An effective mobile app can provide you with even more useful data and reports than you are accustomed to receiving through your web site, making lead nurturing and customer retention activities that more efficient and intuitive.

Social Media - Social media has proven its effectiveness in driving B2B conversions. In fact, 30% of Twitter users search for B2B tech brands compared with an 12% of tech searches on the Web in general. And leads from Twitter leads have a higher chance of converting on your site; 11% compared with a of 4% average of visitors to a company Web site. Combined with the fact that over 50% of social is accessed on mobile, you have good reason to consider having mobile-optimized landing pages for all of your social media campaigns. You can expect these pages to convert at a 40% higher rate than pages that are not optimized. Source: Marketing Sherpa

Video - Should you pursue mobile video as a business marketing channel? This chart from Cisco makes a strong case:

Online video usage is rising among B2B marketers, having increased by 12% in 2012 according to the Content Marketing Institute. 58% of B2B marketers rate videos as an effective content marketing tactic, according to MarketingProfs. Mobile viewers will watch videos three times longer than on a desktop computer. You can take advantage of the additional time to educate prospects on the benefits of your solution. Source: Brainshark

For shorter videos (six seconds or less), consider using Vine for building brand recognition. Three hundred tweets every second include a link to a video on Vine.

When creating a mobile video campaign, make sure your videos are share-worthy, are optimized for mobile, and include with a call to action with a link to your landing page and/or company phone number.

Trade Shows - You can incorporate mobile business marketing at your next trade show event to connect with prospects who are interested and get them to engage with your company before they even leave the show grounds. By providing interested parties a mobile optimized experience you can educate them quickly about your company and solution and make it even easier for you to stay in touch with them for further nurturing. Include a QR code on all marketing materials and handouts so they can easily access your information

Your Web Site - Engaging in mobile business marketing successfully does not necessarily mean that you are required to have a separate website. A new option worth considering is to have your mobile platform built using technology called responsive web design, wherein Web designers can create single site that will adapt to any device, screen size or screen resolution. This solution is an efficient and cost-effective way to get started in mobile marketing without having to build two different websites for the same content.