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Community marketing is a strategy that is utilized to create ongoing connections with and among existing customers. The methods used in this approach tend to be somewhat non-invasive, and depend a great deal on the willingness of customers to participate. While this type of marketing does not have a primary goal of gaining new customers, the connections created often lead to word of mouth by satisfied customers that in turn generates an influx of additional clients. Community marketing can also be helpful in terms of generating interest among current clients for additional products offered by the vendor, often based on the experiences of other clients who make use of those different products.
While there are several models for community marketing in common use, most of these strategies hold the same set of common goals for the marketing campaign. Ideally, the process will allow the rapport between supplier and customer to deepen, thus increasing the degree of customer loyalty. At the same time, this increased communication also makes it possible for the vendor to identify possible needs of the customer, and introduce that customer to other items in the product line that may be of interest. Under the best case scenario, these efforts not only increase the stability of the supplier, but also provide measurable benefit to the customer.
The various approaches to community marketing are normally divided into two distinct categories. One approach is known as organic community marketing. An organic approach involves the creation of an interacting network between customers without the intervention of the vendor. For example, one or two customers of XYZ Company may decide to set up a message board or discussion forum regarding the products and service offered by that company. Other customers and anyone else who is interested in learning more about XYZ Company can join the forum, ask questions, share experiences, and generally educate each other on what the company has to offer.
Community marketing may also take the form of a sponsored marketing effort. In this scenario, the vendor does spearhead and oversees the process. This may take the form of creating a forum that is hosted on the vendor’s web site, and is open for customers and other interested parties to join. Here, the company actively manages the use of the forum, and offers official responses to questions, comments, or concerns that forum members may post.
In all its forms, community marketing is about creating and maintaining relationships that ultimately benefit everyone involved. Customers who feel valued are more likely to be loyal, and thus become advocates for the company. In turn, the company is provided with invaluable feedback on how customers feel about different products, and the way their questions and concerns are handled. As a tool for strengthening the position of a business, an approach of this type easily helps distinguish the vendor from other companies that tend to be somewhat impersonal and distanced from their customer base.
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