A mere 14% of marketers claim that their organizations prioritize customer-centricity, according to recent CMO Council research.
More alarming, even when they do, many struggle to effectively communicate with their current or prospective buyers.
And while marketers are employing a number of methods to better engage customers – from social media to loyalty programs – few approaches offer the potential benefits that customer communities do.
How marketers drive engagement with customer communities
According to the September 2016 commissioned study, “Drive Greater Marketing Impact by Leveraging Online Communities,” conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of SAP, 87% of companies said they consider customer communities to be “important” or “very important” in their customer engagement activities.
That’s because they provide so many opportunities for marketers to learn about their prospects and buyers and to drive sales.
Specifically, customer communities enable marketing organizations to:
- Gain a deeper understanding of current and prospective customers: Marketers have no issues obtaining the most basic information about buyers, including their ages, genders, and income levels. When it comes to customer preferences, perceptions, and attitudes, however, that’s a whole different ballgame. Customer communities give marketers ample opportunities to collect and more closely analyze available buyer data. Marketers can then customize offers to consumers’ specific needs based on this information, creating superior customer experiences.
- Interact with your audience and earn people’s trust: Both prospects and buyers want to know that you care about them. They want to know that companies are listening to what they have to say and attempting to meet their expectations. By regularly interacting with your audience and publishing timely and relevant content on your customer community – be it how-to articles or troubleshooting guides – people will come to trust your brand and reward your business with their undying loyalty.
- Leverage customer-generated content to create more impactful marketing messages: Seventy-seven percent of marketers agree that community-generated content accelerates buying decisions, while 71% agree that individuals who use community-generated content are more likely to make a purchase than those who don’t, per Forrester research. With this knowledge, marketers would be wise to repurpose the content created by users and posted on customer communities for their own marketing campaigns.
Customer communities get proven results
With an active and engaged customer community up and running, your marketing organization can realize a wide range of long-lasting business results.
- Greater customer loyalty: Marketers can earn their companies greater customer loyalty by delivering superior customer experiences. A customer community is an integral part of this, as it can aid both current and prospective buyers before, during, and after a purchase. By interacting with and supporting customers on an ongoing basis, continuously providing them with valuable information, buyers are likely to stick around for the long haul.
- Increased brand awareness: Oftentimes, customers don’t know where to turn when searching for product information. Companies can use their community sites to provide the expert- and user-generated content their prospective buyers need to educate themselves and influence decision making.
- Higher revenue: Two-thirds of marketers report that the greatest dropout of online prospects takes place during the product discovery, exploration, and buyer phases of the customer journey. By providing helpful content to your audience throughout the journey, you can ensure they’re adequately informed to make a purchase, thus reducing buyer dropout.
Customer communities: A boon to both customers and marketers
Arguably the best thing about customer communities is the fact that they’re mutually beneficial to both customers and marketers.
For customers, they serve as a critical resource where existing and prospective buyers can locate information they need to influence a sale, solve a post-purchase problem, or interact with other customers or the brand directly.
Conversely, customer communities enable marketers to gain a deeper understanding of their current and prospective buyers, develop more effective marketing campaigns, and engage with consumers on a more personalized level.
Discover how else customer communities can benefit buyers and your organization. Download this Forrester Consulting thought leadership paper, Drive Greater Marketing Impact by Leveraging Online Communities.