People Will Talk


Share on LinkedIn

The truth is that our buyers and prospects – happy and not so much – are comparing experiences, sharing lessons learned and oh so much more. Thanks to our digitally connected world, your audiences are sharing information and perspectives about you, even as you read this post.

Whether you like it or not – they are talking. So why not facilitate those conversations in a positive fashion?

Our Underutilized Opportunity

Today’s buyers can find and chat with each other any time they want. Gone are the days when sales reps made the customer-to-prospect introductions to validate success and value. You can forget about controlling those conversations, the same way marketing can forget keeping references to be doled out to press and media.

Everyone is connected, or they will be when they start searching for information about you and your business value. The good, the bad and the ugly will converge, sharing more information than you may like. You can’t stop that.

You can embrace it. It’s called community and it’s one of the most powerful opportunities around.

Communities empower vendors to gather insights, respond to concerns and questions, facilitate information sharing and step right into the middle of our markets – in real time, up close and personal. Communities will form – intentionally or accidentally. So why not create that community intentionally?

I can’t understand why every B2B vendor on this planet hasn’t embraced the power of community, facilitating the flow of information freely, effortlessly and immediately. It’s such a powerful opportunity! Yet, gravity seems to prevail.

Communities force us to change our thinking. Yet, as with all gravity, we resist. When I ask about communities, I often hear the following reasoning.

  • Negative comments will reach our prospects. Yes, someone may and probably will say something less than positive about your business for all the community to see. GOOD! Wouldn’t you rather know what’s being said, rather than having it said in private discussions that don’t involve you? Within the community you can respond, ask for more discussion and pivot a negative into a positive – simply by paying attention and acting. You can’t do that if the conversation is private. Communities provide the platform to clarify and resolve those lurking issues.
  • They’ll talk about our competitors. Yep – your prospects (and buyers) may very well discuss your competitors. What a goldmine for you! You get to gather competitive perceptions in real time directly from your audiences. You may even have the chance to discuss competitive advantages with your community members, deepening your knowledge of your advantage and opportunities for improvement. Communities offer ongoing opportunities for objective competitive analysis and discussion.
  • Our buyers aren’t on social media. If you believe that one – go check out what Caterpillar is doing with their powerful community. Who knew that big equipment operators would use social media to get information, ask for help, gather alternatives and more? Caterpillar did. Their community is a model for great interactions, information gathering, market research, trouble shooting and more. Check it out. If you create an enticing open community, your audiences will come.
  • We don’t have the resources to support a community. Please…you can’t afford not to support a community. The advantages of community include cost savings. If you add up all the time and dollars spent on outbound communications, market research, customer research, product management, technical support and more – you can absolutely afford a community – with money and time to spare.

Get with the Change

A community offers unprecedented access to insights and information around buyer perspectives and areas of interest, market trends, competitive efforts, customer satisfaction, product value, brand image, next generation requirements and so much more. It also offers the opportunity to participate in conversations with our market audiences up close and personal. We get to hear their truth, listen, learn, respond and reconnoiter.

Isn’t that manna from heaven for pretty much every aspect of our business?

So – let’s make sure those people will talk!!! How?

  • Create a community. You have a user group, yes? So put it online. Open the gates for your users to chat with each other whenever they like. Community platforms are available everywhere – so find one and use it. Start small with a few customers, get their feedback on topics, structure and more. Remember, the key to a great community is relevance, giving your members what they want and facilitating to make it easy peasy for them. Do not use the community to push your messages.
  • Assign resources. You know all those folks you have doing customer research, market research, competitive research and more? Focus them on the community and teach them to listen and interact in a positive manner. What they’ll learn from their conversations is way more relevant than anything you’ll find from third party research.
  • Add prospects. Stop quivering. Your prospects are already chatting with people who are willing to talk all about you. Instead of allowing that to happen randomly – facilitate conversations through your community. It’s much more effective to facilitate those conversations instead of letting them happen as word of mouth behind your back!
  • Model others. There are some outstanding examples of communities available for you as models for your own excellence. Don’t just look at others in your industry. Look to dissimilar markets for innovation to apply to your community world. Two of my faves are Caterpillar and Fiskars. Now go find three more!

The Bottom Line

It’s time to change the way we think about controlling those conversations. The days of sales and marketing control are gone.

Your customers, prospects, supporters and naysayers are already communicating. You can’t stop that.

But you can leverage the changes created by digital conversations to your advantage. Communities are a powerful opportunity to create market and competitive advantage.

So what are you waiting for? Why aren’t you facilitating communities right now? What else is holding you back? Let’s chat!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Rebel Brown
Rebel Brown consistently challenges the status quo to deliver optimum solutions and high velocity growth for her clients. She combines the strategic expertise and tactical savvy of a global Corporate Strategy, Launch and Turnaround Expert, along with the leadership and motivational skills needed to get the job done.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here