Customers were joining the Zoom conference for our advisory call. As I got to know new ecosystem participants, one of the potential consultants enquired, “how can my customers build their platforms?”
I welcomed the question, which addressed my opening statement to them.
“Many people mistake a platform with a piece of technology, such as a mobile app or a website, but a platform is more than just software. It is a comprehensive business model that generates value by connecting consumers and producers.”
A successful platform business must attract participants, make it easy for people to connect, and foster member exchange and co-creation. We believe four strategic challenges should be addressed for a platform business to prosper.
- Determine the consumer and producer sides of your platform.
- Resolve the chicken or egg conundrum: how to get volume from multiple sides?
- Create your business model – who pays, who does not, and where are the profits.
- Create and enforce ecosystem rules. Who should have the authority to do what?
How to make possible a successful B2B Platform business?
We think the Exponential Organization (ExO) framework helps to answer the question. A Massive Transformative Purpose that pulls a community, fosters connections and gives the members something to rally around is necessary for a successful B2B platform business. Additionally, the right combination of internal and external ExO attributes is needed. Our professional experience has shown us that a platform may be enabled by integrating the blueprints for Community-Engagement-Experimentation and Algorithms-Interfaces-Experimentation.
When someone suggested making Miami a tech hub on Twitter in December 2020, Mayor Suarez replied, “How can I help?” It sparked a rush of movement.
A “how can I help?” mindset and culture are essential to understanding your community’s needs and engaging the members to generate experiments and eventually scale. Starting small and moving fast using your community for insights, ideation, and product adoption truly help to test and pivot your own platform business and help to match the pivot of your customers.
According to The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Successful B2B User Community, three elements need to come together to get engaging moving: content, traffic, and activation.
Early in the formation of the Openexo and yWhales communities, moderators played a crucial role in seeding discussions and responding to customer posts. Later both communities started to focus on content to drive traffic to their community, pulling and pushing the flow of visitors from outside sources. Ultimately, activation or engagement is about getting that buy-in from new users and encouraging regular activity in the community.
Engagement is essential for getting as many people through the activation funnel as possible and developing a solid community of loyal, engaged super-users and ambassadors. Without these individuals, the community would not have as much content for people at the top of the activation funnel to enjoy!
I remember the first time I visited the Airbnb website in 2014; I was captivated by its simplicity and clarity. Their messages and call to action connected with my needs and got my attention.
In a B2B platform business, the Interfaces refer to how the community will interact with your company. Therefore, before designing your interface, you need to identify the sources of abundance you are accessing, think about how to humanize the user experience, create standardized processes, and apply algorithms to automate processes. Finally, you need to test the interfaces with your community members and update those interfaces regularly based on the results of your experiments.
Additionally, the interfaces should offer unique digital experiences. For example, gamification tools like user ranks, badges, reputation indicators, and likes are excellent ways to engage customers and drive them along the sales funnel.
To conclude, we want to reveal some practical recommendations we learned from the mistakes we made when creating B2B communities, mistakes you should not make.
- Start small and move fast instead of making a “big bang” launch.
- Don’t concentrate only on technology.
- Expecting your community to entirely replace your marketing or customer service is unrealistic.
- Avoid leaving your community to “self-regulate.”
- Avoid misinterpreting the true motivations of your community members.
ExO attributes are essential only if connected to your business model; developing your business model is the key. Platform businesses have the potential to tip your market due to economies of scale, but they can also result in significant financial loss.
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