Pattern #1: I Need To Know What You Know
When customers have a deep need to exchange information with each other about products, services or issues addressed by the organization, the communities tended to have the greatest vibrancy and fastest adoption rates. Common characteristics include:
- Customers had a burning need to communicate with each other
- Customers used a platform or a process where the information exchange was rooted in a shared experience
- Customers demonstrated a willingness or need to convene in-person or by other means. These customers had user groups, attended conferences or subscribed to a mailing list to keep connected.
Pattern #2: It's Always Something But It's Never the Same
The customer's problem is evergreen, but ever-changing and of business significance. In our early examples of successful B2B customer communities, the customer problems are:
- Ongoing, ever-changing and critical to business efficiency and success
- Information used for solving problems becomes obsolete quickly
- Experience and information from other customers is valuable
- Urgent need to share experiences to resolve problems
Pattern #3: Helping You Will Help Us
The company is invested in helping the customer solve problems with the company's product or service. Usually the product or service is changing frequently, and there may be renewal period or upgrade decision point facing the customer. Common factors are:
- Company offerings solve important problems for its customers
- Company must supply continual product enhancements to meet customer needs
- Company revenues depend on product/service upgrades or renewal decisions by customers
Just as important as a willingness to listen is the company's ability to respond to what it is hearing. A firm that lacks the institutional or operational capabilities to act upon the information it gathers from the community exchanges undermines the purpose and value of the contributions, and can lead to customer disengagement from the community.
Companies can and do use social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter to "take the pulse" of their customers -- with good success. But a Facebook "Like" does not equal an informed exchange of views about a complex B2B product, where decisions have serious implications for the company and the customer. Companies which seek to use customer needs, requests and feedback to enhance current offerings or create new products may find an online customer community the most effective option.
Contribute to the B2B Community List
Do you sponsor, run or just participate in a successful B2B customer community online? Help us identify additional candidates by responding to this brief questionnaire. We will be releasing the list soon, so be sure to request more info so you can be among the first to see it.