Marketing vs Community for Business – Which is Better?

Should you spend your money on...

On marketing
Or community?

Are you a business owner trying to figure out what’s more important?

If you have $1000 you may be questioning whether you should spend that money on Youtube ads or hiring a part-time community manager. 

I’m going to break down the differences so that you can understand both these functions better. And hopefully this will then help you decide where to spend your time and money.

I’ll break down the differences by looking at their

  • Goals
  • How the roles impact business
  • How they measure success
  • Who benefits from the success
  • How much each of these would typically cost your business

What are their primary goals?

Marketing

Generates AWARENESS for your business (their job to let people know you exist!).

Community

Creates RETENTION (community’s job to keep the people important to your business in the room so that you can have an ongoing relationship with them). 

Being clear about the goals for why you want to build a community is an important first step. This will help you build a longer term vision for how the community can help your business.

What do they actually do?

Marketing

BUILD BRAND LOYALTY (through social media, advertising and communications: increasing visibility, familiarity).

Community

REWARD LOYALTY AND REAP REWARDS OF LOYALTY (develop deeper relationships with key stakeholders like your customers, employees, broader industry etc).

How these functions communicate is also different

Marketing

Focuses on one way communication (mostly, if it is two way it is incredibly light touch: They are broadcasting to the world your messaging. 

Community

Two way communication (much deeper, not only listening to what community members have to say but they’re also actively engaging with members of the community and having a conversation). All of these answers will help you determine valuable content in future.

Measuring success

Marketing

Marketing typically focuses on three key aspects:

  • Communications
  • Advertising
  • Social media

Communications: When marketing sends out a newsletter, they care about open rates and click rates etc. 

Advertising: they care about how many views and how many clicks/conversions. 

Social media: they care about how many views, likes, comments, followers. All of these typically focus on one key business metric: increase in customer sales, although there are social campaigns that can almost overlap into community’s world (like asking customers to upload pics using a #).

Community

Community focuses more on engagement within the community – typically from communications, within the community platform and community activities such as events. 

So if community were to send out a newsletter, they care about how this helps continue the conversation, how many replies to the emails or how this impacts on conversations on the community platform. With the community platform they care about how many active members are logging in and participating in the community (even if it’s just by reading posts), the conversations had, how community members are engaging with each other and how the community is helping impact business goal, which may include increased sales but also many more goals too.

Who they serve/ impacts on business:

Marketing

Exists to serve the business and typically focuses on selling more products/services (generating more leads).

Community

Exists to serve the people in the community, and successful business outcomes can be one of the (many) outcomes from building a community. 

For example, say if you are a business selling a technical product and you have a lot of customers that typically ask a lot of questions to get started using the product.

If you have an engaged support community where you have customers helping answer other customers questions, then you can reduce your support staff costs. But at the same time your community is serving your customers who are getting better at using your product as well. So you’re getting reduced business costs and customers are receiving customer service to help them get better at using the product at the same time.

If you need product feedback and your community of customers are actively providing useful feedback to your business, well now you don’t need to spend additional money on market research, plus you have actionable feedback to help you improve your products/services. You can then keep the community informed of these updates and potentially sell even more products/services in the future from listening to their feedback.

Engaged community members can also be your best salespeople. They can refer you more business, plus if they are considered experts in the community where people trust their advice, you may find they actually help increase your revenue generated per customer if you have upsell opportunities.

But most importantly, a really successful community is one where everyone in the community is served well, not just the business. 

It’s the way forward for many companies, especially in web3 –  we’re hearing more of this term community-led business.

They’re realising there are true benefits to building long term relationships with the key stakeholders in their business.

Now let’s talk about what they cost:

Marketing

There’s typically 3 ways to spend money here: on advertising, communications and social media

Advertising – $2000 for 100k views on Youtube ads.

On average, small-to-medium-sized (SMBs) businesses pay $2500 to $12,000 per month or $1000 to $7500 per project for online advertising.

Communications – typically these are email marketing platforms, blogs, websites, SEO and forms for conversions. 

You can try to do this for free if you have a small email marketing list and happy to use free options but it will take you a lot of time to learn and get setup. 

Paid plans with over 2000 marketing contacts per month Hubspot starts at $45/month to $3200 for the usual marketing software requirements.

Social media – You could create social media marketing posts for free using instagram etc – but most businesses find they have to pay to get those views, plus hire a social media manager to deal with the managing the accounts. On average your social media manager can cost anywhere from $20USD – over $200 per hour.

Community

To build community it takes commitment. Either yourself or you need to hire someone part time or full time to manage the community. 

You can definitely start a community for free, so it can set you back very little but it will require a lot of your time. It’s definitely still possible.

But here’s some typical costs in case you’re looking for the non-free version:

Anywhere typically from $3k – $10K for more experienced: FULL Time community manager

Part time: looking at anywhere from $20/hr – $250/week

Of course before you launch a community you should ensure you have solid community strategy. You can either read up on a lot of free resources online or if you have budget you could consider hiring a community consultant to help work through the strategy with you. 

Platform costs – varies, you can start for free $0 for facebook groups, discord servers etc but if you want your own customised one, that could set you back around $30-120/month (much more if you’re looking for super customised solutions). 

So where should I spend your time and money? Marketing or community?

If you’re a business that needs fast results, to sell more products in a short period of time, typically businesses would focus more on marketing.

If you’re a business that has a variety of different business goals such as any mentioned here, and you want a more cost-effective way of achieving these goals, but you’re patient and willing to invest the time, then businesses would focus more on building community.

Of course you can allocate time and resources to both of these functions which can work together well as I mentioned before.

I cover all of the above in more detail in my video below. If you would like to discuss B2B communities further, you can reach out to me directly via email or Twitter.

I'm on Twitter & Youtube!

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