Building Communities of Passionate Users: What I’ve Learned

Posted by Kristin Hambelton on August 31st, 2012 at 5:18 am

In the words of American farm worker, labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez: “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community... Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”

Inspirational words in their own right, and applicable to Chavez’s cause, but I think there are also important takeaways when it comes to building and reinforcing a sense of community in business. It starts, and ends, with the customer. Organizations must ensure that customers’ aspirations and goals are at the center of their technology development and innovation ambitions. With a shared understanding of those goals, organizations can build the framework for a passionate, loyal community.

Within the B2C world, there are numerous brands that embody a sense of fervent community – Harley-Davidson and MINI are obvious examples. For B2B organizations – particularly those whose customers make long-term investments in technology and processes – building and sustaining a sense of community and instilling loyalty can be no less important.

In my experience at Neolane, it’s especially important for B2B organizations to reinforce that their long-term prosperity is directly linked to the success of their customers. Empowering customers can take many forms. In the enterprise software space, it means providing resources ranging from white papers and analyst research to case studies and events. It means using social channels like LinkedIn and Twitter to promote tools, opinions and advice. It also means ongoing education and training to make sure customers are maximizing the use of tools and stretching beyond their knowledge base or comfort zone.

We recently held a forum for North American customers that reinforced these messages on many levels. We went into the event with clear goals. For us, it was not about selling more marketing technology, it was about community-building and empowerment.

From my perspective, there is a special dynamic when users with similar backgrounds and responsibilities come together as a peer group – when they can take the time to become completely immersed, to share best practices, build their skills, discuss their accomplishments and encourage others to do the same. As a vendor, we take those discussions to heart and make sure they become part of the fabric of our operations, marketing and product development strategies. Truly, when you build a community around the “progress and prosperity” of the user, when it’s part of your culture, then customers’ brand commitment and loyalty will never be far behind.

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