How Customer Communities Help Business
Happy, satisfied customers recommend products and companies. And customer word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful force. What customers share about your products online or in-person can have a strong and immediate effect on sales. In fact, consumer product recommendations from family and peers are more influential in the buying process than a company’s website content or objective online reviews.
To benefit from word-of-mouth marketing, companies across every industry are investing time and money into building positive relationships with customers and growing brand loyalty. Many are able to effectively do this with just social media, however companies that have a longer purchase cycle, like products that require time to learn, are critical to day-to-day business activities, or even become part of a consumer’s lifestyle, often require a more significant platform to communicate. Enter the customer community.
1. Customer communities make the customer feel valued.
When a customer community is used to share useful product information, assist customers in product use, promote product interest, or answer customer questions, customers feel that their voices matter. A community with these attributes increases customer loyalty, which in turn grows business through word-of-mouth marketing.
2. Customer communities grow brands.
The concept and value of a brand is often difficult to measure, so some companies don’t give branding the attention it deserves. By contrast, organizations that nurture and grow brands know how truly invaluable they are to a company’s product and business growth, since positive brand experiences fuel word-of-mouth marketing.
Customer communities are a great fit with brand management because they have the ability to personalize a brand and establish a stronger relationship between company and customer by taking typical customer interaction beyond the use of a product or website interaction, to first-hand interaction with company staff.
3. Customer communities reduce support costs.
For technical products, customer communities become a great place for customers to share their experiences and problems, both positive and negative. Although some businesses may be wary of airing product issues in a public forum, most find it to be a good experience. In fact, a customer community represents an effective public relations venue, offering the company an opportunity to demonstrate its interest in the customer by staying active within the community and to provide answers to any questions or issues—or at least let the community know it is working on one.
The communities themselves can become powerful sources of word-of-mouth marketing, as customers share their first-hand experiences with each other. With customers working together, learning from each other, and sharing best practices, companies can often do more with less and effectively use a customer community as their 1st level of product support. Of course, company employee interaction is required, but a customer community can allow companies to provide many-to-many answers, instead of one-to-one answers, which is an efficient and cost effective way of providing customer support.
4. Customer communities help companies design and build better products.
Customer communities provide a great forum for interaction between a company and its customers. With real-time feedback, companies can stop developing in isolation. They can see exactly how customers are using their products. For example, a product manager can share new ideas for product features with a customer community. He can quickly learn that many customers are excited about the new feature ideas, or the opposite – that the features don’t resonate at all. With this kind of knowledge, companies can build products that better suit customer expectations. And when customers feel like they are part of the process, they share that with peers through word-of-mouth marketing.
5. Customer communities establish companies as information partners.
Strong customer communities become the hub for industry trends and information, providing a place for customers to go to find out more about what’s happening in their industry or what the latest news on products integral to consumer lifestyle is. With activities like customer webinars, user conferences, industry articles, or product videos, customers rely on companies to keep them informed and educated on business or personal interests, and they share their newfound knowledge through word-of-mouth marketing.
Customer Communities: Do Business Better
For companies with products that require time to learn, are critical to day-to-day business activities, or become part of a consumer’s lifestyle, customer communities can deliver tremendous value. Above and beyond social media interaction, communities can actually grow business, reduce support costs, assist in product design, nurture quality brands, and establish companies as the go-to-resource for information.
For a minimal investment, customer communities can become cost-efficient vehicles for word-of-mouth marketing, enabling companies to differentiate themselves and associate a unique, intangible value with their company and products.
So, tell us, would your company benefit from a customer community? If you already have one, how has a customer community affected your business? Have you realized the benefits? Are they attainable?