• Fresh Salmon
  • Posts
  • Revealed: Why B2B Communities Struggle — and How to Fix It!

Revealed: Why B2B Communities Struggle — and How to Fix It!

Rethinking Community Strategy + Learning from WeWork

Hello and welcome to the 121st edition of Fresh Salmon.

I'm delighted to have you here, and if you want to read past issues, you can do so here.

I started a healthcare weekly roundup on LinkedIn three weeks ago.

It is titled "Spotted! - This Week in Healthcare". 

The idea is pretty simple - each week I share the interesting things that I spotted in the world of healthcare.

This week, I decided to create a video. I provide a brief summary of what I discovered and why you should check it out in a short video (under 3 minutes). You can check it out here.

Now let's get started…

The Crowded Space of B2B Communities

Nowadays, building a community is a common strategy in B2B.

Nevertheless, as more companies jump on the bandwagon, the digital space is becoming increasingly crowded.

While many people are optimistic about the power of communities, I am more cautious.

In reality, communities require considerable effort to maintain, and with the variety of options available, user engagement has declined significantly.

There are fewer people logging in to communities, and this challenge persists after launch.

Although it may seem straightforward to start a community, keeping members engaged and retaining them is becoming increasingly difficult, especially with the increasing number of platforms that host these communities.

As a result of these challenges, a critical question arises: How do we effectively manage and grow communities?

It's time to rethink how we build meaningful, engaged online communities.

Rethinking Community Strategy: The Case for Paid Memberships

In a crowded community landscape, paid membership models offer a distinct advantage.

Communities that require a financial commitment from their members tend to foster greater engagement and dedication. 

As opposed to free communities, which are often plagued with low commitment levels; members may join without a clear purpose, reducing overall value and interaction.

It is inherently true that paid communities attract members with higher intent.

The more people invest financially, the more likely they are to engage actively and stick around, giving these communities a greater chance at developing meaningful connections and sustaining interest.

If you're looking to build thriving, engaged online communities, this move towards paid memberships might just be the way to go.

The Value Proposition of Paid Communities

Despite lower entry barriers to free communities, maintaining engagement and retention poses a significant challenge compared to paid, membership-based communities.

It raises an important question for those adopting a paid model: How can we effectively grow these communities?

Due to the financial commitment, paid communities demand a clear value proposition.

As a consequence, the challenge changes from mere acquisition to providing enough value to justify the investment, ensuring that members remain engaged and see tangible benefits as a result of their involvement.

Leaders of communities need to foster a strong sense of community not just by curating exclusive content and opportunities, but also by creating opportunities for interaction between members.

What are the best ways to grow a paid community that maintains high engagement and delivers on its promise?

What innovative strategies can help these communities grow?

Even though many communities strive to add value through courses, networking events, and similar activities, these activities alone may not be able to sustain long-term engagement.

There is a critical gap in our understanding of what motivates prolonged active participation in communities.

Learning from WeWork: Integrating Community Approach

There are many insights to be gained from reflecting on the success of WeWork in fostering a robust community.

WeWork integrated the community experience into its members' daily routines, in contrast to virtual communities where membership is optional and requires active decision making.

In the 2015-2016 timeframe, I worked at a WeWork office in Manhattan where amenities such as an arcade room, ping pong and pool tables, a beer tap, and DJ parties created an entertaining environment.

There was more to work than just going to work; members were part of an ongoing, vibrant community.

With this model, members' physical presence was leveraged to seamlessly integrate engaging experiences, enhancing community attachment and interaction.

Virtual communities face the challenge of replicating this level of engagement without the inherent advantages of physical spaces.

What innovations can virtual communities make to create compelling experiences that naturally integrate into their members' daily lives?

Building Broader Brand Communities: Beyond Just Employees

In an increasingly digital world, this question is crucial as we explore ways to strengthen online communities.

Perhaps community models can be enhanced by integrating community offerings with main, tangible products that customers already use?

Let's consider the hypothetical scenario of a brand acquiring a gym.

Gym members already consistently engage with the facility; layering community-driven experiences on top could significantly deepen member loyalty.

Taking inspiration from WeWork's approach, where physical spaces foster a vibrant community, a B2B company could benefit by acquiring tangible assets that members utilize on a regular basis.

A savvy B2B company might consider setting up a café-style or hall-style co-working space.

Instead of maximizing profits, the co-working space would serve as a platform for community-building rather than profit-making.

Offering experiences and benefits in this space enabled the company not only to create value, but also to build a strong brand and presence in the community.

When looking back at the rise and challenges of WeWork, one lesson that stands out is that its core concept of fostering community through shared experiences remains strong.

Through this model, B2B companies could create a new community-centric ecosystem that uses physical presence to enhance engagement and connection, potentially revolutionizing the way we think about integrating business services and community.

For top tech and consulting firms like Facebook, Google, Accenture, and IBM, creating inviting workspaces was a key tactic for boosting employee engagement before COVID.

Employees at these companies were able to feel a sense of belonging and become more productive because they worked in environments that fostered that feeling.

Consider scaling up this proven approach to build broader brand communities beyond internal staff.

Large B2B companies can lay the foundation for community models that aren't just for employees, but also for members and customers by adapting these engagement strategies.

In this approach, membership is transformed into a channel for acquiring new customers.

This strategy offers substantial competitive advantages to big B2B companies with the necessary budget.

This is a way to enhance their brand loyalty and engagement in today's market by leveraging their existing resources.

We should approach community building in the corporate sector not just as a benefit for employees, but as a strategic asset for the entire ecosystem around a brand.

Interesting Thing That I Read This Week

More on communities….

Tweet That I Noticed This Week

I'm a member of a B2B community called ClubPF, which aims to transform B2B GTM strategies to People-First GTM model. This post is by ClubPF’s co-founder Nick Bennett.

What Do You Think?

This concludes this edition of Fresh Salmon.

I would like to hear what you thought of today's newsletter.

Also, let’s connect on Twitter, LinkedIn, or TikTok.



PS. Do what is good for your soul ❤️