In many cases, your organization is only as good as your insight into your market. This market data is the foundation of decisions about everything from products to positioning to messaging.
Organizations of all types and sizes are leveraging visibility into their customers' activities and sentiments to drive growth and profit. Many research studies, conducted over several decades have concluded that understanding the needs of your customers and prospective customers is the number one factor in creating profitable products with a high sales velocity (meaning they sell fast).
With definitive data like that, it begs the question of why every company wouldn't seek to gain valuable insight into their customers' wants and needs. Truthfully, getting the relevant and consistent market data isn't as easy as it sounds. The disconnect between the amount of data available and having an easy way to collect and analyze that data is a well-documented problem.
Online customer communities - where customers and partners share ideas, provide support, and discuss product feedback with peers - offer a clear opportunity for CMOs, product managers, and other executives to harness that valuable market data.
However, with all that is involved in planning, growing, and keeping customers engaged, it's no surprise that analyzing data from your market often falls to the bottom of the to-do list. Given the benefits that can come from customer and partner insight, you don't want to miss out on the strategic goldmine your online community can offer.
What Can You Do With Insight Into Your Market?
Making data-driven decisions is the key to better marketing strategies, support operations and, most importantly, product/market fit.
Insight into your market can also help:
Testing language in your online community can help your support and marketing messages get a higher conversion rate from both prospective and existing customers.
Align Products with Problems
Your online customer community platform can help you understand your target audience's most urgent and pervasive problems to make sure your product solves them. By shaping your product to align more closely with your audience's biggest challenges, you can create products that "fly off the shelf" faster.
Improve Your Delivery
You want to deliver your solution in the same way your markets want to buy them. In the example of a technology company, your online community can help answer the question of whether your customers prefer on-premise or cloud delivery, or whether they want to buy packaged hours of your service or pay session by session.
Improve Support and Customer Satisfaction
Knowing how your customers feel about you and what kind of success they're having with your product or service can help you better support them and proactively answer the questions they have.
What Kind of Insight Can Your Online Customer Community Deliver?
Marketing and PR
- Competitive Intelligence. Your customers will reference competitors in their conversations and you can set up alerts within your online community for mentions of specific terms. They might even share content from competitors, which allows you to keep better track of what's being put into the market.
You can also send surveys to specific trusted customer groups with carefully worded questions to help you identify meaningful competitive differentiators.
- Impact of Market Changes. When regulatory changes happen, you can track customer reactions through the comments and discussion sections on the announcements. Your company can then produce content that addresses their concerns and positions your company as a trusted authority.
- Impact of Company Decisions. Before you make company-wide changes public, you can test how your new direction will play in the market by using your community as a sounding board.
Remember the customer revolt Netflix experienced a few years ago stemming from their pricing changes? Your customer community can help avoid an issue of that proportion by testing ideas in your private customer community first and leveraging the support of influential customer advocates.
- Persona-Specific Insight. If you're receiving negative feedback, your customer community can help identify if that feedback is specific to a certain customer segment or your entire customer base. Finding patterns in your feedback and market problems can help you avoid making unnecessary wholesale changes when the discontent is only with a one or two personas.
- Identifying Advocates. You always want to recruit more people to your advocacy corps and your online customer community is one of the best ways to find and nurture them. Find, recruit, and engage advocates who can provide quotes, testimonials, and authentic content, as well as traditional sales references.
- Market Problems. The number one rule of product management is that you're trying to create the products that solve the problems your customers are willing to pay to have solved.
Your private customer community allows you to passively and proactively collect data on current market problems and prioritize them accordingly without re-create a customer engagement strategy every time you need to test an idea with your market.
- Test New Ideas, Products, and Approaches. Let's say you're a VP of product management for an accounting software platform and you want to debut an easier way to forecast and manage your taxes, but you're unsure of how your customers will react to your new approach.
Record a video that illustrates the changes and ask for feedback in the comments. Use your online community software to invite small groups of power users to view the video and discuss amongst themselves. This same tactic can work using the secure customer-only blogs or discussion forums built into your online community software to give you the feedback you need before investing one hour in product development.
- Product Feedback. Identify areas where your product is meeting your market's needs and areas where it is falling short. This type of feedback can either be garnered organically from normal community discussion or solicited openly in smaller product advisory communities.
- Trouble Spots. Monitoring online community activity is an excellent way to gauge frustrations when people don't receive the service or product they expected. With the help of your community platform, you can figure out what actually happened and determine whether it's an isolated case or symptomatic of a larger problem.
- Documentation Usage. If you notice a particular file or video in your resource library getting more views, that might be an indicator that you should produce more content for that area of your business or product.
Knowing where to invest your support resources can increase customer satisfaction by streamlining how you provide what your customers need without them having to ask out of frustration.
- Problem Areas. Along the same lines, if you see a substantial pattern in the usage of support resources, it might be pointing to a bigger problem with your product, service, or program. Whether you need to provide more training documentation or redesign an aspect of your product or support process, it's important to recognize trends in the areas where your customers are having trouble.
- Opportunities for Upselling. If you have multiple products or an upgrade path for an existing product, you can leverage customer activity in your online customer community platform to alert your sales team to opportunities for creating additional products or services.
- Customer Retention. Along with ensuring that your products solve the right problems for your target audience, your online customer community can help you identify less engaged customers who might be at risk of leaving. It is particularly noticeable if they were once highly engaged.
Your online customer community platform gives you the data to proactively address the customer's needs and attempt to correct the issues at hand before the relationship is damaged beyond repair.
Online Community Market Insight Takeaway
It is said that, "whoever is closest to the market wins." Market data is your most valuable tool in making the right decisions for your organization and customers. Your private online customer community might hold the key to understanding and solving some of your biggest problems.
By using the data your community provides, you can gain valuable insight into customer challenges, motivations, and feedback. Using this information to make data-driven decisions can make a significant difference in your marketing and PR, product management, support, and sales results.