Updated: May 17, 2022
We know, the buyer journey goes digital and that's why it's so brutal: there are now 1.88 billion websites on the Internet. How can you still be heard?
Are you a B2B company looking for a digital way to turn brand rejecters or product non-buyers into new brand fans and new buyers?
Then one thing is clear: nothing works nowadays without an online community. And very importantly, I'm talking about an online community that spans the entire customer lifecycle and involves different departments of a company.
Communities are not target groups
Marketing and advertising are children of mass media, and that's still the case today. We may have replaced advertising space in national magazines or on television with creative, colorful websites, portals, and social media channels, but it's still fundamentally about linear marketing manipulation.
Remember, marketing is about identifying the needs of customers and determining how best to meet those needs, and the job of advertising is to promote a company and its products through a wide variety of communication channels and to court the customer's favor as skillfully as possible. In doing so, information of every kind and type is used to differentiate and highlight product features, and one tries to create a logical differentiation in a competitive market environment with benefits and a lot of added value. It’s a battle to persuade and convince your potential customers.
If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without them knowing it.
This quote is attributed to Edward Bernays, the founder of public relations and a pioneer in the deliberate and skillful manipulation of people. A nephew of Sigmund Freud, his campaigns, among others, made him famous. Thus, in 1920s America, smoking was popularized among women and dubbed the torches of freedom. Behind this was a sophisticated psychological analysis.
But this constant convincing can be annoying. Right now, here in Switzerland, a campaign is underway by a major life insurance and retirement services company. The centerpiece of this multi-channel campaign is a personality test to determine one's own self-determination type, and they are relying on a broad media presence with emotional images and video sequences in various motifs. To sharpen the concept of "self-determination," real people were portrayed in short videos, each representing a self-determination type, and their personal stories add additional emotion to the campaign as inspiring testimonials. Unfortunately, one now unintentionally encounters these nice people constantly at every turn, whether on traditional television or online on YouTube, for what feels like an eternity and it's just really, really annoying.
According to the Statista Global Consumer Survey, around 44 percent of the more than 2,000 respondents are annoyed by ubiquitous advertising. Another 41 percent find it particularly annoying when these ads are based on their browsing history or search behavior. For this reason, around 29 percent consider the use of an ad blocker indispensable when surfing the Internet.
Digital communication was promised to us as the golden marketing land: more personal, more targeted, more contextual - simply closer, and therefore more efficient.
This is how the big budget shifts from traditional advertising channels to digital environments were and are argued. But the reality is different. Online advertising usually not only misses its chances to achieve brand-relevant success, but even gambles away people's trust. The tide urgently needs to turn, otherwise the online trump card will become a big bluff, says Christian Rätsch, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi in Germany.
So, on the Internet, advertising is now no longer attracting people, but scaring them away and driving them away. But what does this mean for us as B2B sales professionals, and what alternatives are there for building and maintaining new customer relationships?
Most web presences are pure communication campaigns and do not offer a collaborative "making of the world".
We need a fundamental new understanding of marketing and advertising, and by that I don't mean some focus on data-driven, experimental processes or optimizing products and brand messages. Or about the need for more technical capabilities, e.g., in tooling and automation. Yes, of course, it needs that too, but it is not the essence.
No, I'm talking about a radical Mindshift and about the customer finally becoming the focus without compromise. I'm talking about the fact that in the future it will be about building and maintaining truly customer relationship management systems.... to reach the soul and deep psychology of the user. In doing so, the benefits of a product will no longer be celebrated a priori, but rather a shared future will be coded together with the customers and all stakeholders. It is about new, tangible awareness as well as a kind of cult and magic. We know that the more identical products become, the more magical they must be.
This is where the Internet and online communities come in: because of its interactivity and personalization efficiency, the Internet is predestined to tap the structures and energies of deep psychology particularly well. And if we succeed in creating an active and engaged online community in which customers exchange ideas with like-minded people and employees, then we unleash a dynamic and literally release evolutionary power, power for a common "making of the world".
A cyberworld is more exciting than reality.
Metaverse is the latest buzzword to capture the imagination of the technology industry, and I've already written in one of my last posts about the impending revolution, or rather, the significant potential for creating new growth opportunities for B2B salespeople that this new cyberworld brings.
Many now argue that this is all just gimmickry, but I strongly disagree. Indeed, it is obvious that a virtual space can be more exciting than reality, offering people advanced immersive and interactive digital experiences. In such a virtual space there are no boundaries, it is an artificial whole and a field of unlimited possibilities from which the subjective world can be permanently reconstructed. In this meta-universe, a birth process is thus taking place for a higher reality that will inspire and help shape our physical reality.
We are only at the beginning, but the first pioneers of the Metaverse revolution are already on their way. They are those who are combining physical and virtual experiences, from the creation of new cities and new real estate, to travel and art, to general experiences that expand and enrich our society with brand new social media and gaming experiences.
And there are those already offering a pure Metaverse solution for corporates. One of these companies is award-winning Demodern, a leading digital agency specialized in virtual and augmented reality. Demodern has developed a comprehensive Metaverse Experience platform that provides its customers and guests with immersive event, brand, and product experiences within 3D showrooms and universes. It’s worth to check it out.
Xiaomi, one of the biggest smartphone brands in the world, used this brand new Metaverse platform to launch their new Redmi Note 11 Series Smartphone for the German market in February 2022. A virtual showroom specifically tailored for Generation Z allows users to experience the products in 3D, network and share their first impression with other participants.
So, we see, the journey has begun: the first online communities met at a cyber-event.
Metaverse without an active community, however, brings nothing. With this, I want to emphasize how important the Mindshift mentioned earlier is and the understanding to break away from the dogma of previous communication teachings and to radically put the customer in the center. Only if this is done and the corresponding maxims for community building are complied with (for example, for community stimulation, community cultivation, community gratification), will the corresponding results be achieved.
First, new soul-values and new maxims are needed, and only then does the necessary automation follow by means of modern tools, platforms, and processes. A central aspect is also the initial storytelling, which is then increasingly shaped over time by the community in the sense of co-evolution. Here is a link to the topic of thought leadership, which we have already discussed in an earlier article at #B2BmodernSelling.
I can highly recommend to all readers: engage with online communities and cyberworlds (including Metaverse) in time and try to understand how your company can leverage these new domains for successful sales enablement.
An engaged B2B online community is an extremely powerful body for a business and helps solve critical challenges because it is fully integrated with customer touchpoints. Your community amplifies customer engagement, drives behavioral insights, does feedback capture and advocacy, and can highlight what is truly meaningful to your business…. the community becomes the ambassador and co-creator of their brand.
I hope you found this useful.
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B2B online communities impact brand & customer experience, the most important battleground for companies in the fight for market share. According to a study by Salesforce, 64% of customers said that customer experience carries more weight compared to price. And Gartner's report shows that 87% of companies want to compete based on customer experience.