Hans Notenboom, Global Director of B2B Online for Royal Philips Electronics, knows that when it comes to selling, pull is better then push. To that effect, he created online communities for his target audience and within six months his team was managing a group of over 15,000 members. I spoke to the man behind this success to find out what his top tips would be for anyone wanting to do something similar.
Based on research, Philips concluded that their groups needed to attract at least 15,000 relevant members to become lively and self-sustainable communities, so they made that their primary goal with this initiative. Another goal was to drive thought leadership. Throughout the company Philips measures how customers perceive them using the Net Promoter Score, so that was extended to capture feedback from the group members.
The start-up budget for the programme was almost completely allocated to the recruitment of the desired audience, plus a small amount of moderation. Now that the groups are large and self-sustainable, growth comes through the professional networks of the members and having the top position on LinkedIn, resulting in a much lower recruitment need. On the other hand, the large member base requires more attention for moderation.
A small social media team was established in the global marketing department to drive the initiative. Due to the extensive support derived from LinkedIn, the Philips team could focus on organising the moderation and the internal foundation. The team recruited internal hosts and subject matter experts. The project was managed through a weekly team meeting with LinkedIn and the moderation partner, and a quarterly extended meeting.
LinkedIn worked closely with Hans to define the target audience and help him quickly narrow down from 100 million members to the exact professionals they wanted to reach. They targeted members by job title, function, seniority, company, industry, location, keywords, and other factors to make sure the promotion of the groups was efficient.
It took six months to attract 15,000 plus members; the healthcare group reached the top three position worldwide and the lighting group took the number one position based on member volume. This delivers extra traffic and the group is now self-sustainable, with more than 99 per cent of the discussions started by members.
On a monthly basis an extensive report is created showing all key metrics including members, member profiles, engagement, insights generated and NPS scores. All groups have shown very positive NPS scores and the engagement with members is staying high, especially when measured against other comparable groups. From time to time members indicate a commercial interest and these are followed up by the sales team. Last but not least, the group is generating insights used in product development, marketing and sales; for instance, going deep into the best usage of MRI scanners.
Hans explains that the most important lesson he learned was that they can build a relationship with prime audiences without owning the relationship itself. It’s more practical and successful to go where your audience is as opposed to trying to create a new community from scratch. Another learning Hans shares is that you have to ‘keep it simple’ and ‘be open and transparent’. For instance, competitors are free to join the community as long as they follow the rules. One purpose of the moderation is to keep the group clean of spam and job-hunters, and interesting to the audience. Having trusted hosts and experts, and empowering internal staff to participate, makes the group even more relevant. It’s a great way for an organization to learn and to listen to customers.
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