Marketing to your customers is hard work – sometimes it can feel like you’re pushing the same boulder up a hill every day.
Customer marketing can come with great rewards, though, especially if you’re using tech tools to make your life easier.
Online community is one of those tools that can increase the reward while minimizing the work. How? By addressing these top needs with community-specific tools:
Engagement: Community provides tools, like discussion threads, resource libraries, and calendars, that are built for engaging customers.
Upsell and cross-sell opportunities: Bringing customers together creates a network of authentic, user-generated content that can help you gain insight into market needs. Automation rules can help improve targeted communications.
Advocacy and referrals: A dedicated space for customer success provides ready-made tools, like directories, for finding advocates. Advocacy programs within your community can streamline your efforts in an organized way.
Want to learn more about communities in general? Check out The State of Community Management Report for industry trends, below.
Let’s look at how you can use the tools in your community to meet these three specific needs.
1. Tools for Engagement
Platform features. Online community platforms are built for engagement, replete with tools you can use to foster this engagement.
- Discussion boards give customers the ability to connect and chime in about new products.
- Calendars provide a single source of updated information for your events, making it simple for customers to find and engage with the ones that matter most to them.
- Resource libraries help your customers build a knowledge base around your industry and bring frequent visitors, increasing high level engagement to your community.
You can use the features of an online community to substantially impact retention.
Curation of customer content. Discussion threads are there for customers to connect, but you can use them to your advantage for creating content. Something we’ve done here at Higher Logic is use quotes from our customer community, HUG, to curate content on our blog. This is a great way to recognize your clients and share their advice in a broader sphere than the community.
Our customers share tips for attending our users group conference, Super Forum.
Community management: Your community manager is an amazing resource to you, as a customer marketer. Their involvement in the community is a great [read: integral!] way to build rapport and trust between customers and your company. (Hopefully, you’re not wearing the hat of community manager AND customer marketer – if you are, here’s a helpful article for you about preventing burnout.)
Hear from one of our community managers for three reasons why her role is so important.
2. Tools for Increasing Upsell / Cross-sell
Your community is an open book where customers can hear about the value of all the extra opportunities you offer. It’s a great resource for upsell, and you can nurture your community so that customers are hearing from one another about the value of your add-on services or products.
You can easily implement a formal or informal voice of the customer program in your community, using automation rules to reach out at scale. Actively seeking customers’ feedback in your community can help your entire organization by improving product knowledge, revising sales’ pitches, and convincing customers you do care about their experience.
We’ve got more on this in our eBook, Transform Your Customer Marketing with Online Community.
3. Tools for Creating and Rewarding Advocates
It’s usually a delicate, labor-intensive task to find the customers who will advocate for you or give you high-quality referrals.
With online community and advocacy program management, you have a way to read your clients based on their engagement and interaction, and you have incentive mechanisms to personalize their journey and reward them for their participation. The cherry on top? You have the ability to scale the ask, using automated (but personal) messages. No more reaching out one by one!
Once you find the right people to be part of your advocacy program, use their community activities as a guide for future requests – whether it be writing a review, sharing a success story, or providing a quote.
After they’ve participated, you can use gamification tools in the community to reward them. Create an advocate leaderboard so they can show off their involvement.
BONUS: Online community, at its heart, is meant to be a customer resource. Why? Customers have direct access to your company, they can solve problems with other customers, and they get tools for using your product better. Community in itself is a customer success tool that will help create natural advocates – so you’re that much further along in your journey to find them!
We had a Q&A session with Higher Logic staff who began our advocacy program. Get tips on starting yours.
Customer Marketing and Community Go Hand-In-Hand
Creating an online community can give your customer marketing efforts the leg up you need. Even if you’re a small team (or team of one!), community provides tools you can use for engagement and scalable upsell and advocacy.
In fact, you can make your daily (sometimes tedious) tasks easier with community and get more effective results.
Elizabeth Bell is a Content Specialist at Higher Logic. She’s passionate about communities, tech, and communicating about both effectively. When she’s not writing, you’ll probably find her cooking, reading, gardening, or playing volleyball.
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