Conventional wisdom tells us the business-to-business sector and the business-to-consumer sector are two distinct and very different animals. After all, B2B is focused on helping people improve their work lives, while B2C is focused on helping people improve their personal lives.
But in either construct, your buyers are real, live, actual people.
You know what else people do? They seek community.
And if your customers crave being part of a community, then why not give them one? (The rewards can be BIG.)
There’s no denying it: Community can supercharge your organizational education initiative. As Chi Johnson said in a recent Underscore Episode:
“Sumo Chatterjee, The Community Guy, is talking loudly about how companies are moving to community-led growth … you’re going to see sales teams doing less cold calling and less emails because they’re going to be focusing more on human-to-human connection.”
As you can see in Sumo's LinkedIn post (below), both B2B and B2C brands use community to build “cult-like followings.”
But when it comes to community in the workplace, people have questions. One question the Intellum team hears a lot is, “How does community differ between B2B and B2C?”
Since community is all about crowd-sourcing knowledge, I couldn’t write this article without asking a few community superstars to weigh in.
As you’ll see, there are more similarities than differences!
Zoë Hartsfield is the Community Manager at Spekit, a B2B just-in-time learning platform. She notes that your company should never be the star of your community:
“We don't want to be the center of the conversation, “ Zoë says. “We want to be the water cooler folks gather around. If we can create a space for our buyers to come together, learn, grow, and solve problems—and we can be seen as helpful and a value-add in the process—we are doing it right.”
What does “doing it right” look like in practice? The B2B Webflow community is inclusive and user-focused, inviting web creators of all abilities to come together.
In the Tweet below, Pat Timmons, isn’t raving about the employees at Webflow but rather the people in the Webflow community:
Etsy is a well-loved B2C company that puts the focus on its user base. The Etsy Community provides a forum where users can seek and give advice, as well as upvote and downvote answers. Etsy doesn’t try to steal the show: it simply creates a space worth coming to.
The takeaway here is whether you’re B2B or B2C, create a space where your buyers can share knowledge and build relationships. Be a connector and a curator.
Zoë’s advice for starting a B2B community:
Regardless of whether your company is B2C or B2B, your community exists to support customer acquisition and education. The customer insights you gather by way of running a community feed your entire go-to-market organization.
I’m a content marketer, so of course my head goes immediately to content creation. By observing and engaging with community members, you understand their needs deeply. Therefore, you can create better content: content that gets people to think differently and take action.
In my world (B2B marketing), top marketers are moving away from cookie-cutter search engine optimized blog content in favor of original thought leadership content.
Community helps here a lot.
As Chris Walker mentioned on episode two of my podcast, The Notorious Thought Leader: “Leading thoughts come from direct customer insights with the appropriate analysis and interpretation qualitatively, and by being in the details so much that you can develop leading thoughts.”
Spending time in community = staying in the details.
Nick Bennett is the Director of Evangelism and Customer Marketing at Alyce, an increasingly popular B2B gifting platform. In addition to his day job, he runs two different types of B2B communities.
“There are two ways to look at community in B2B: individual-led and company-led,” Nick says.
Regardless of what type of community you have—and regardless of sector—you need a dedicated resource to take the lead. You can’t just tack on community to a social media, customer marketing, or education role.
“It’s so incredibly important to hire a dedicated community manager, yet lots of B2B companies (more mid-market) don’t have anyone solely covering that function,” Nick says. “I think that’s going to change, and I’ve already started to see it with more people reaching out to me [to lead their communities].”
A dedicated community member has the time to connect members and curate the right conversations. As an added bonus, they can also engage with members faster.
Here you see how quickly (and personably!) Nico Carmosino, Online Reputation and Community Manager at Semrush, responded to a community member’s social post:
Nico’s post is also proof that B2B doesn’t have to be boring. If there’s anything B2B can learn from B2C, it’s that.
Zoë says that “B2C communities tend to be larger and broader” than B2B communities.
As an example, the Sephora community has 5.5 million members who bond over beauty and makeup.
The Fitbit Community has 1.2 million members who bond over health and wellness.
Bandai Namco, a video game maker, has millions of followers across its social channels (it has 1 million followers on Twitter alone.) The Bandai Namco community offers events, a points system, and a chance to try the games early. How’s that for exclusivity and motivation to return?
Of course, you have your outliers like the enormous Salesforce Trailhead community (below), but in general, B2B communities are smaller and more niche. For instance, the B2B Webflow community mentioned above has 75,000+ members.
At the end of the day, the “right size” for your community hinges on the cost of your product.
Community isn’t a numbers game in B2B—especially when you’re selling a high ticket subscription. For example, if your average contract value is $100k/year, 500 customers bring in $50 million in annual recurring revenue. So, driving just 500 users to your community is a boon.
Meanwhile, the average video game costs $60; if a customer buys a new game every six months, 500 customers create just $60,000 in revenue per year. In this case, a large community isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have.
Have you noticed any big differences between B2B and B2C? Message us and let us know!