Business-to-business companies have always needed closer relationships with their customers than business-to-consumer firms. It makes sense, since strong relationships help generate repeat business. Most B2B firms expend significant resources on relationship-building assets such as highly trained sales forces, lavish trade show exhibits and sponsorships, focus group research, private seminars, white-glove service and support, and glossy customer-oriented magazines.

More recently, a small but fast-growing group of B2B companies are using a new technique to nurture customer relationships: online communities. These firms, which include business information provider LexisNexis, enterprise software giant SAP, consulting firm Palladium Group and recruiting software vendor Taleo, are finding their virtual customer communities have significant impact. These leading-edge firms help their customers get more value from their products and services; develop better new products and services; deliver better after-sale service; generate more effective marketing and selling programs through educational content rather than promotional messages; and gain more control over what the market is saying about the company.

Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting a 40-minute webinar on this topic with BroadVision, which covered these key areas:

  • The types of companies that would benefit most from online communities;
  • Three community models to help companies choose the best strategy;
  • Advice based on the experiences of companies with vibrant and valuable B2B customer communities.

We had a super turnout and a lot of questions and comments. Thanks to all who attended!

In addition to the webinar, we will be sharing more of the case studies we have developed on these pioneering customer communities. They will suggest the possibilities and awake the imaginations of those firms who seek to work more closely and collaboratively with their customers through online customer communities. It's an exciting time!

Contribute to the B2B Community List

Do you sponsor, run or just participate in a successful B2B customer community online? Help us identify additional candidates by responding to this brief questionnaire. We have just released the 71 Top Customer Communities List -- is yours on it?

More About B2B Online Customer Communities