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How to Align Your Online Customer Community With Real Business Goals

Written by Joshua Paul | on February 28, 2012 at 8:30 AM

Use these tips to make sure your community fulfills business needs.

Why Does Your Organization Want an Online Member or Customer Community, Anyway?

Online communities, private social networking, social CRM, member engagement, and social business are amazing, awe-inspiring, life-changing, and the new way that organizations do business. Why wouldn't you want these tools and strategies? Now, ask yourself, why DO you want these things?

Many organizations still see these emerging technologies as a checkbox for managing customers or members in the age of 

social media. However, the most successful companies and associations, that are experiencing a lasting impact on their organization's key performance indicators, build their communities around established business goals.

Based on years of working with companies, associations, and user groups, here are 6 prevalent reasons why businesses and membership organizations create online communities for customer or members:

  1. To improve customer retentionTying Online Customer Community Strategy to Business Goals
  2. To increase sales
  3. To improve lead-to-customer conversions
  4. To generate more non-dues revenue
  5. To spur event attendance
  6. To gather better market data and customer feedback

We have written before about setting goals and metrics for your online community. Companies and associations must build their social business strategies on "traditional" business objectives.

Customer or Member Communities: Uncovering the Real Reasons Your Organization Wants One

Try This Exercise: Complete The Following Sentence.

To succeed, my organization needs to ____________________________________.

Tip: Make sure your declaration aligns with your organization's core goals.

Good Examples of Reasons to Create an Online Customer Community:

  • To succeed, my organization needs to increase customer retention.
  • To succeed, my company needs to differentiate ourselves from the competition during the beginning and middle of the sales cycle.
  • To succeed, my association needs to increase non-dues and event revenue.

Bad Examples of Reasons to Create an Online Customer Community:

  • To succeed, my association wants to build a private member community.
  • To succeed, my company needs to implement social CRM
  • To succeed, my organization needs to increase member engagement.

You'll notice that all of the bad examples don't touch on major organizational goals. Companies and associations must dig deeper. Why do you need more engagement? What will a private member community do for your organization? Which major goals will social CRM help you achieve?

Tip: Evaluate your reason for wanting an online community by asking 'why' until you run out of answers. Real-life example:

"To succeed, my organization needs to increase member engagement."

Why is this important?

"More engaged members remain members."

Why is this important?

"We have been losing members over the past 2 years and need to improve member retention."

See how asking 'why' got this membership professional to move from thinking about the tactic to the underlying strategy linked to concrete organizational success factors.

Online Community Takeaway

A tangible, purpose-driven approach to building community is essential to creating lasting value for your company, customers, members, and other stakeholders.

Original research explains the impact online communities have on businesses.

Topics: Customer Communities

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