In this episode of Tomorrow’s Best Practices Today, host Bryan Kramer and his guest Kevin Lau delve into the essence of community-oriented B2B marketing, offering invaluable insights for businesses adapting to the digital age. 

Kevin, a seasoned expert in customer engagement and digital transformation, shares his insights on building customer communities around B2B brands.

His experience with cybersecurity leader F5, particularly in helping the company transition from selling a hardware solution to Software as a Service (SaaS), offers a wealth of knowledge for those navigating the ever-evolving landscape of B2B marketing.

Emphasizing Direct Customer Engagement

Kevin underscores the importance of direct customer engagement in shaping marketing strategies. “I’ve always worked in customer-facing roles, and the direct connections with customers infuse a different perspective and a deeper appreciation into everything you do within a company,” he says.

This approach is particularly crucial in SaaS, where the initial customer experience can significantly impact their long-term relationship with the brand.

The shift towards digital platforms has not diminished the need for personal connection; rather, it has transformed how these connections are made.

In SaaS, where product offerings are often complex and highly customizable, direct engagement becomes not just a touchpoint but a continuous dialogue.

This dialogue ensures that the service aligns with the client’s evolving needs, thereby reinforcing customer loyalty and trust.

Kevin emphasizes that each interaction with a customer is an opportunity to gather insights and adapt strategies, making customer engagement a key driver in the success of SaaS businesses.

Authentic Customer Feedback as a Marketing Tool

The role of customer service teams in SaaS companies transcends traditional support. These teams are on the frontline, representing the brand’s values and commitment to customer satisfaction.  

“Part of our team’s charter within customer engagement involves focusing on customer experience and the voice of the customer,” he says.

Kevin points out that effective customer engagement in SaaS demands a deep understanding of the product and the customer’s business context. This understanding enables a more tailored and proactive approach, which in turn enhances the overall customer experience, setting the stage for long-term relationships and positive word-of-mouth.

Delving deeper into the use of customer feedback, Kevin stresses the importance of authenticity and responsiveness. In a landscape where customer reviews and testimonials significantly influence B2B purchasing decisions, genuine feedback becomes a powerful marketing asset. 

Kevin’s approach at F5 involves not only collecting feedback but actively engaging with it. This means addressing concerns, celebrating successes, and continuously refining products and services based on real-world usage.

The strategy of utilizing authentic feedback extends beyond problem-solving; it’s about building a narrative around the brand that is grounded in real customer experiences. This approach fosters trust and reliability, which are critical in the B2B sector.

Kevin also highlights the value of case studies and success stories, showcasing how F5’s solutions have impacted customers’ businesses. These stories resonate with potential customers, providing tangible evidence of the value and effectiveness of their offerings.

Tackling Churn with Exceptional Customer Experiences

In the high-stakes environment of SaaS, customer churn can significantly impact a company’s revenue and growth.

Kevin’s focus on exceptional customer experiences is pivotal to controlling churn. He recognizes that the ease of switching services in the digital age makes customer loyalty more volatile. “A customer typically decides if they like your product or service within the first 30, 60, 90 days of their journey,” he says.

The initial period of a customer’s journey with the product becomes critical in setting the tone for their long-term relationship with the brand. Kevin suggests that this is where investment in high-quality onboarding and support pays off.

Moreover, Kevin believes in going beyond the basics of customer service. For him, it’s about creating a ‘wow’ factor – moments that not only meet customer expectations but exceed them. This could be through personalized service, unexpected value-adds, or proactive problem-solving. 

Transforming Customers into Advocates through Community

“Community should be the first touchpoint after onboarding, creating a good environment right off the bat,” Kevin says. A company-wide commitment to customer experience and consistent feedback mechanisms are vital in scaling customer experience effectively.

Kevin’s previous experience at Adobe and Marketo has shown him the transformative power of community in converting customers into advocates. He speaks passionately about the role of shared learning and human connection in building a community.

For Kevin, these communities are not just about product usage; they’re forums for exchanging ideas, challenges, and successes. This communal learning environment fosters a sense of belonging among users, which in turn breeds loyalty.

In these communities, customers transition from passive users to active participants. They share their own experiences, provide peer-to-peer support, and even contribute to the product development process through feedback and suggestions.

This advocacy is authentic and powerful, as it comes from real experiences and genuine appreciation of the product.

Scaling Customer Experience in SaaS

Scaling customer experience in SaaS is a challenge that Kevin addresses with a strategic blend of technology and human touch.

He advocates for using digital platforms not just as a medium for service delivery but as tools to enhance customer experience. This involves leveraging data analytics to understand customer behavior, AI to personalize interactions, and digital communities to foster peer-to-peer engagement and support.

However, Kevin is quick to point out that technology alone is not the answer. The human element remains essential. Personalized customer support, empathetic interactions, and understanding customer needs are irreplaceable aspects of customer experience.

Onboarding as the Key to Long-term Engagement

Kevin’s emphasis on onboarding reflects its critical role in customer retention and satisfaction in the SaaS model. A well-structured onboarding process serves as the first real interaction between the customer and the product, setting the stage for the relationship ahead.

He advocates for an onboarding process that is not only informative but also engaging and reflective of the brand’s values and commitment to customer success.

An effective onboarding process, according to Kevin, should educate the customer about the full capabilities of the product, provide resources for self-help, and establish channels for support and feedback.

This comprehensive approach ensures that customers are not only able to use the product effectively but also feel supported throughout their journey.

For Kevin, a positive onboarding experience is a crucial step in nurturing customer confidence and satisfaction, which are key to long-term engagement and loyalty.

**Insights from Fandoms: Learning from Star Wars and Marvel**

In his unique take on B2B marketing, Kevin draws inspiration from the fandoms of Star Wars and Marvel. He sees parallels in the way these franchises have built passionate and engaged communities around their stories.

Kevin believes that, like these fandoms, marketing should be about creating excitement and a sense of belonging. He notes that the success of these franchises lies in their ability to tell compelling stories and create immersive experiences.

“It’s about sparking joy and excitement, bringing people together. Marketing, at its core, should make jobs easier and foster community, much like these fandoms,” he says.

This perspective offers a fresh angle on B2B marketing. Kevin suggests that marketers can learn from these fandoms by focusing on storytelling, creating memorable experiences, and fostering a sense of community among customers.

By doing so, B2B brands can evoke a similar level of enthusiasm and loyalty in their customers. This approach is not just about promoting a product; it’s about creating an experience and a narrative that customers want to be a part of.

Humanizing B2B Marketing

Kevin’s experience reinforces the importance of a human-centric approach in B2B marketing. His strategies emphasize the value of building communities, engaging customers directly, and creating memorable experiences. 

In a digital world where technology often takes center stage, Kevin’s insights remind us that the human element is what truly differentiates a brand. His approach to customer engagement, feedback, and community building provides a valuable roadmap for those seeking to deepen their connection with customers in the B2B marketing sphere. 

By humanizing their strategies, companies can not only enhance customer satisfaction but also foster long-term loyalty and advocacy.

Ready to get started building your brand’s community on social media? Let’s talk!