Using Online Communities to Improve Your Customer Acquisition

April 7, 2022

By Taryn Hefner

Taryn runs Marketing at Join It and is a lover of all things data! You can frequently find her experimenting in the kitchen, absorbed in a book, or brushing up on her Python coding skills.

View other posts by Taryn

Note: This is our second guest post of the year! If you're interested in contributing to the Join It blog, please reach out to our marketing team for consideration. 

Acquiring new customers can be quite an expensive venture! It can cost up to $1,000 to get one new customer organically in some industries like higher education.

The cost of customer acquisition is expected to increase further going into the future as competition surges. Hence, marketers must leverage all available methods to improve customer acquisition. One method that is still underutilized is online communities.

You should know a few important customer acquisition stats before understanding why online communities are crucial for your business.

  • 44% of companies focus more on acquiring new customers than retaining existing ones
  • 89% of businesses use their website as the main channel for customer acquisition
  • 80% of brands believe technology is instrumental in improving customer acquisition



So why are online communities important to companies?

Building an online community around your brand will give you a competitive advantage. Moreover, it has several other benefits for the company and will also help enhance the overall customer experience.

Online communities bring valuable feedback to companies, allowing them to understand customer needs to offer products and services that best suit them. Without proper feedback, you risk providing products/services with zero or little value to your target audience, impacting your sales and making it harder to acquire new customers.

While there are many other strategies for getting customer feedback, online communities provide more insight and genuine feedback. These communities offer an informal, casual platform where customers can engage freely with others without the formalities and bureaucracies of talking to customer service.

These communities also make it easy for brands to keep track of changes in customer behavior. Companies can use the information gathered to adjust their product/service offering to ensure customers get the best value for their money.

Building an online community can also help cultivate long-term relationships between companies and their customers. Loyal customers are more likely to refer your brand to others, which helps the community grow further.

An online customer community also enhances overall customer satisfaction and experience by offering positive social proof and improving each of the following elements.

  • Customer engagement with the brand 
  • Self-serve customer service
  • Ability to make suggestions and give feedback

 

How can they help companies improve acquisition?

Building online communities for your customers will make it easier to retain them as it enhances loyalty. Also, it can help boost your customer acquisition in several ways, including the following four.

1. They make companies more discoverable

There is a lot of user-generated content in most online communities as users engage each other with questions and answers and through publishing articles. Google and other search engines will index all this material that they share.

When people search for answers to their queries on Google, the indexed material will form part of the results where relevant. Therefore, engagement in online communities will make your company more discoverable.

The more people come across your brand, the more they are aware of what it offers, which is highly useful for the customer acquisition process.

2. Communities allow you to showcase your brand

You can easily create persuasive content that showcases your brand to the many prospects out there. 

Online communities have a prospects section that you can use to show what your brand has to offer with well-answered FAQs and product benefits or the solutions your products/services will deliver.

Other persuasive content types like customer testimonials can be even more compelling for winning over new customers. Remember that most customers will trust the experience of other customers more than what you tell them about your products.

3. Reduces new purchase risk

Online communities will reduce the risk of new purchases, making it easier to convert new leads. 

The support content in the forums, help guides, and engagements between peers, give potential customers the confidence they need to try out the brand as they make the purchase look less risky. 

They show new buyers you are ready to support them and ensure they have the best experience with your company.

 

Using online communities for retention and customer engagement

Online communities provide an easy but still highly effective way of increasing customer retention. They do it by allowing for customer engagement and making it possible for them to form stronger bonds, which help keep them loyal to your brand.

Online community engagement channels like discussion forums and peer networking help enhance the connection between your brand and the customers. The customers get more value from using your products and services, making them more likely to stick around.

By enhancing customer retention, online communities will also allow your business to shift focus from retention to customer loyalty.

How to leverage online communities to improve customer acquisition

Online communities should not just be a social extension of your brand within your website. You should use them for customer engagement, content generation, and leverage them to improve your customer acquisition process.

But how can you leverage these online communities populated by your existing customers to enhance customer acquisition? Here are two key points that will help you with this:

  1. Populate your community with high-quality content

High-quality content will improve your search engine optimization and help your community pages rank. This puts your brand out there and closer to the eyes of potential customers as it will appear high in many results for the relevant keywords.

  1. Keep the community engaged

Community engagement ensures members remain active and are more likely to refer others to the community. You can use several techniques to enhance community engagement, and you need to find what works best for your specific communities.

 

Best practices for creating engaged online communities

 

1. Make a good start

It is vital to make sure you get things right from the onset, and so you need to be extra careful when setting up your online communities. 

One key point here is to make sure you run specific acquisition campaigns for communities to get members that can help you build authenticity for the community.

There are different methods of acquiring authentic members, but using some highly controlled channels like blogging and co-marketing is more effective. Also, local meetups can be helpful if offline channels can work for your organization.

The goal here should be to limit access to the community until it is well-established. Restricting access is the only way to ensure that only people that have a genuine interest in your brand join the community during its early days.

 

2. Make customer service channels more accessible

One of the main goals of an online community is to make customer services easily accessible. Hence, it would help if you made sure customers could easily access the customer service channels from anywhere in the community from the onset.

Many brands will often achieve this by providing links to their customer service pages on every online community page as a persistent footer.

3. Self-service portals should be a top priority

 

Self-service portals should be one of your top priorities and one of those things you spend many resources working on as they play an integral role in the community's success.

Some of the key portals to focus on are product information libraries, tips and tricks, and troubleshooting guides. Ensure the portals are well-organized and have information that has actual value to the community members.

A marketing portal can also be a good idea if you still need to market your business to the community. Here you can even use QR codes as a portal to your marketing materials. QR codes also help encourage customer engagement and feedback, and they are easy to create with a QR code generator.

 

4. Make sure you have a good search functionality

Even if your online community has valuable content for the customers, it will only be helpful for them if they can find it easily. Therefore, you need to have reliable search functionality.

Here you will have to optimize all the titles and names based on what the community members are likely to type in when using the search function. Keep improving this function as the community grows and more content is added.

 

5. Moderate the community content

Although online communities are meant for customers to interact with each other and find solutions to their problems on their own, they still require some moderation.

You will need to moderate the content in the community and ensure that you archive all the content that becomes irrelevant or redundant. 

Also, moderation and curation are vital for ensuring that all the content in the community meets the preset standards and regulations. The content must remain authentic, unique, and good quality for your online community to serve its purpose and grow.

 

6. Automate routine communication

You have to leverage automated emails for all routine communication in the online community. 

Automation eliminates the need to dedicate a lot of your staff to run the community and can help enhance engagement with the community members. 

For example, you can use automated emails to reach out to members that have been inactive for a long time. These emails can be highly effective at re-engaging inactive members.

 

Final remarks

Every business needs vibrant online communities as they provide an excellent platform for customers to engage with each other, enhancing brand loyalty and awareness.

When properly utilized, online communities can also be a simple but effective tool for customer acquisition. 

But, all this will only be possible if you create an online community that provides actual value for the customers and gives them a free space where they can interact with others.

 

Akshay Deogiri @ Beaconstac 


Akshay is a digital marketer and a startup enthusiast exploring the myriad avenues of everything marketing. At Beaconstac, he helps companies to bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds through custom QR codes.