Why are vendors rarely in their ‘industry conversation’?

I always used to assume that the majority of our clients, and vendors in general, while understandably not knowing their key influencers, would be sufficiently integrated into their ‘industry conversation’ that they’d already be an integral part of the most important industry forums and online communities. Perhaps not those in the marketing dept. but surely those in product support, product development, customer support and the like.

It struck me a few years back that not only was this not the case, but that communities were one of the areas where vendors needed most help and advice. “I don’t know who but I imagine we have people involved there” is the typical response when we’ve questioned our clients or prospects on this. Communities are clearly a large and important grey area for many vendors.

Why is this? I think it can only be that most vendors haven’t been able to measure the effects of these communities, and subsequently the benefits of joining them. User Groups have for decades been an important focus for most organizations – whether they’re run independently or through the vendor. But the rise of online communication and collaboration has made it many times easier to establish often loose-knit and amorphous groups of interested (and often influential) individuals.

Whatever the case, the majority of vendors feel a distance from these groups. They’re not trying to be in control of them, they’d just like to be aware what’s going on within them. And the more we investigate, the more the disconnect becomes apparent to us. Across multiple industries.

They don’t comfortably fit within the remit of PR or Marketing, nor Channel Relations or BusDev. Nor even the Social Media team who tend to focus their outreach on Twitter, Facebook and maybe LinkedIn. For sure, some forums actively discourage vendors from taking part. Whatever the reasons, vendors are rarely plugged in to the industry conversation at its most raw. Were the importance of these groups to be realised, this would quickly change.

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