We've blogged previously about the concept of Community Marketing and its emergence as a popular buzzword in B2B marketing circles here in Japan.
The gist of the concept is that instead of always looking outside for customers, you should be truly treating your current customers as king and creating a community amongst your customers whom will become your advocates and essentially market your business on your behalf.
This is not an easy task for any business, even to us here at Bigbeat. We have already taken our first step in implementing our own Community Marketing program, so we wanted to share our experience with you that you might consider leveraging for your own customers.
To understand the history of our community marketing, we need to go back and look at the launching of our first B2B marketing community event in Tokyo, #BigbeatLIVE. Because our current and target clients are B2B marketers, we wanted to showcase our thought leadership in the industry and create an event to bring B2B marketers together. As the leader in B2B events in Japan, it was a natural decision for us to make.
Our first #BigbeatLIVE in 2017 was geared towards executives as a way for us to continue building thought leadership in the industry. For our second #BigbeatLIVE in 2018, we wanted to make it a larger scale, and therefore it was geared towards B2B marketing executives as well as marketers. We were able to double registrants to 600 people with an overwhelming majority of those actually attending the event.
As you can see, #BigbeatLIVE was a huge success in our creating a community within the B2B marketing industry in Japan. However, a community alone does not necessarily equate to Community Marketing. For our first event, speakers were mainly industry thought leaders who could educate executives on the latest B2B marketing trends. For our second event this year, speakers were actual B2B marketers who shared their experiences, both good and bad, for the attendees to learn from. Unlike many customer events who only choose their customers as speakers, we evaluated speakers based on their content and the value that they could provide to our community regardless of our business relationship with them.
In other words, we began our Community Marketing efforts with a Community first, not Marketing first, approach.
The first step in implementing a Community Marketing program from this event was actually through a Facebook group that we created for event attendees. Of the 600 registrants to our event, 495 actually ended up joining this Facebook group. For those who don't know, LinkedIn has never been popular in Japan, and therefore Facebook is where a lot of professional networking happens. Our immediate objective for this group was to increase our relationship with this community of attendees and both “warm them” up for the big event as well as understand expectations and manage feedback that we could use to translate to producing a better event. We strived to match the live event with our attendees’ expectations.
We have seen a lot of similar LinkedIn or Facebook groups being created for events, most of them dying out after the event ends. We actually saw this active community as the beginning of our Community Marketing, not representing the end of an event, and therefore at #BigbeatLIVE we announced that this community going forward would be known as "Okyaku", which is a play on words meaning “customer” in Tokyo but also meaning a “community party” in Kochi Prefecture, where our founder and CEO comes from. We wanted to use Okyaku to spearhead our movement towards Community Marketing, and it made sense to do so with a community who already knew and liked us and was easy to communicate with.
We encouraged people to join the community at #BigbeatLIVE when we announced a survey that attendees would want to respond to in order to be able to see other people's answers in the Facebook group. We supplemented that by promoting the community through our email newsletter and during offline customer visits. The community has allowed us to tell the full story of the event but also get vital feedback from the community that we can pass back to our presenters.
We have a bigger mission with our community, though, because we want to know how our #BigbeatLIVE event influenced our attendees. What has changed in their marketing because of what they learned during our event? How did marketers take the advice that they heard? What actions did people take? From everybody's answers we look for areas to better support marketers both inside and outside the community.
The challenge that all community managers have is how to engage with participants on a regular basis. We have done a combination of publishing the various reports of the event that have come out both from our owned media as well as various third-party sources, and we have also shared various event documents as well as blog content from the speakers themselves. The other activity that we are doing to encourage engagement is actually an O2O (online to offline) strategy of physically bringing people together from the community on a regular basis and adding value. These are done through a series of meetings.
At the time of writing this blog post, we have had a meetup once approximately every two weeks, for a total of more than a half a dozen times. We began by contacting survey respondents who wanted to hear more from certain speakers and invited those speakers back for more intimate conversation with select members of our community. We have also tried to bring together expert speakers and panels to discuss the intersection of marketing with many different disciplines and themes, such as public relations, customer success, and even government. We limited our first four events to 10 people for an intimate environment, but since then we've expanded to allow 20 attendees to join these events.
Our hope is that through the education we provide our community, through both our #BigbeatLIVE event as well as these meetups, both our customers and attendees who become our customers will become successful and we will have case studies that are actually generated from our community. We also want this community to foster the development of more speakers who can present at #BigbeatLIVE 2019. In 2018, there were nine case studies presented, three of them being Bigbeat customers. Our goal is through Okyaku and our Community Marketing efforts, we can expand this to five customer case studies next year.
Many B2B marketers try to create a community, and some are more successful than others. We have found that our objective of striving to provide the greatest value to our community combined with our efforts in developing customer case studies from our community that can be presented at future events proves to be invaluable. We think that both serving the community as well as our own marketing is the best way to implement Community Marketing.
Has your company been able to leverage communities for B2B marketing? Please tell us about your experiences on our Facebook page, LinkedIn company page.
If you want to know more about Community marketing in Japan, you can also read this article!