The challenge is that the community for Silicon Valley B2B technology companies is difficult to define. Many technology startups in Silicon Valley have a limited number of customers that have purchased complex technology products that cost more than $100,000 per deal. If the target audience for community engagement is less than 500 active customers, the marketer needs to use techniques that go beyond setting up community infrastructure such as a Facebook Page or a message board. These types of companies of companies cannot rely on the faith of "if you build it, they will come."
To help define the community. which needs to extend beyond the limited customer base, I have created a community engagement grid and that identifies four groups of people:
- Customers (the gold standard, but in limited supply);
- Technology Influencers (active bloggers on technology trends that have a full-time job in technology);
- Market Influencers (industry analysts, even if they are one person working at home);
- Media (business, IT trade, and paid bloggers).
The important thing to understand is that in a B2B technology product, customers are often the only group of people that actually has access to the product. With the decline of test labs, most people will never be able to get access to a $100,000 piece of enterprise technology.
Due to the constraints of busy schedules, traditional media writers often have the least amount of knowledge of the product. Because they have more time to spend on understanding a specific technology and market, the analysts and bloggers often have a deeper understanding of the technology.
There are dozens of activities that can be used to engage with the community. I generally organize the activities into these categories: