Keeping The B2B Customer Satisfied: Why Companies Need Online Communities

Posted on November 1st 2011

Seminars, publications, market research, and customer care centers are some of the most important tools in every business-to-business firm’s toolbox for understanding, attracting, serving and keeping customers loyal. But in a world of fierce global price competition, increasing transparency of business practices, and ever-rising complexity, these customer interaction channels are no longer enough for many B2B companies.

Today, software companies such as SAP and Taleo, business information providers such as LexisNexis, and consulting firms such as Palladium Group have moved much of these interactions to online communities they have built for their customers. While they are still in the early stages, these online communities are providing these companies with a competitive advantage: the ability to get much closer and become more valuable to customers every day, around the clock.

In the first of a multi-part series, my colleague Bob Buday of the Bloom Group and I review the traditional ways that B2B companies have interacted with customers and their limitations in a world in which change has dramatically accelerated. We then discuss why a number of companies have launched online customer communities in the last few years, defining the core hallmarks of successful communities.

Download it here or view it online below:

In the next installment this winter, we will review best practices in online communities and the prescriptions on how to build and maintain a vibrant online customer community.  We hope you enjoy this article and look forward to your comments and questions. What do you think are the current limitations in the ways that B2B companies interact with customers and how do you think online communities can help?
Vanessa DiMauro

Vanessa DiMauro

CEO, Leader Networks

Vanessa DiMauro is a trusted business advisor, and founder and CEO of Leader Networks, LLC, the world’s premier B2B social business consultancy. Vanessa helps organizations drive top line growth through innovative digital strategy design and thoughtful execution. Her experience as a social business executive spans over 15 years and her award-winning track-record is fueled by passion, experience and consistency.  Vanessa's work has been covered by leading publications such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and CIO Magazine and she was recently named a Social Marketing Master by Forbes. She is serves on the board at a number of leading organizations such as Social Media Today, The Society of New Communication Research and is a former Executive In Residence at Babson College - Olin School of Management. 

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Anna Ritchie
Posted on November 2nd 2011 at 7:18PM

Hi Vanessa,

In response to your question "What do you think are the current limitations in the ways that B2B companies interact with customers and how do you think online communities can help?" - I've experienced this a lot with clients who want to build online communities, but start doing so expecting the same results a B2C company might have. The fact is that the "passion" around a certain clothing brand or soft drink might not necessarily be there inherently for a B2B company's product, and the online community should be developed to reflect that. OC's can help B2B companies through education- that's where their strongest differentiator is and where I think they should spend the most attention: Posting questions from real clients, case studies on using their product effectively, or accepting insights for product upgrades. With real-time customer service and relationship-building, I think the results will be exponential for those B2B companies who really take the time, and are patient enough to see the results.