Once you decide to launch an online community, one of the first big decisions you'll have to make is choosing your online community platform. With all the different options, opinions, and information out there, this process can be a bit daunting, to say the least.
When you first begin your hunt for your ideal online community platform, you'll spend a lot of time sorting through information online and narrowing down your options. Once you've selected a few different contenders, you'll likely meet with a sales person and have them walk through the platform's design and features with you.
All of this learning and evaluating is great for making your decision, but how do you know if you're considering the right details? The process won't be nearly as beneficial to you or the company providing you with the demo if you go into the conversation with a blank slate. Instead, prepare for your demos with an approach that guarantees you won't leave your meeting with more questions than answers: the POST Method.
If you've never launched an online community before, it can be difficult to know what features of a platform you need and which you can do without. Without clearly defining your audience, purpose, goals and individual needs, you could miss out on a valuable opportunity to get the answers you need during the limited time scheduled for a demonstration.
The POST Method helps you get more out of each of your online community platform demos so you'll have all the necessary information to make the best decision for your organization. POST stands for:
Here's how you can put it into practice.
Prior to meeting with a sales person, sit down and consider your online community platform needs from these four angles.
First and foremost, who is your online community audience? You might be building a space entirely for your existing customer base. Or, perhaps you're interested in developing an online community with sections for both current and prospective customers. Maybe you're thinking on an even bigger scale and developing an online community meant to serve an entire industry.
Regardless of who your audience may be, clearly defining the people who will be using your community on a daily basis is an important step in choosing your online community platform. You want to make sure the platform you select aligns with their preferences and needs, so make sure you're prepared to make audience one of the key considerations in your decision.
Hopefully if you have plans to launch an online community, you've already answered the big â€œwhyâ€ question. However, beyond simply identifying what purpose you want your online community to serve, think of your objectives as the goals your organization hopes to accomplish as your community grows. Your platform will need to have the capacity to meet both your current objectives and any future objectives you may have.
For instance, if you eventually plan to use your online community in any of your marketing strategies, such as using it to nurture prospects, you may want to make sure your chosen platform is capable of integrating with your CRM system or marketing software. Thinking ahead can help you avoid coming up against any roadblocks in the future.
Consider how your relationships with your customers or members will change after you launch and build your online community. Do you hope your community will help reduce support costs or improve customer retention and satisfaction? Are you planning to develop a customer advocacy program? Do you want to create a network of accessible customer feedback?
You want a community platform that aligns with these visions and allows you to best strategize for the future of your customer relationships. By considering the outcome you hope to achieve and the value exchange necessary to get there, you can differentiate between each platform's individual strengths and weaknesses.
The last thing you want to do is to select an online community platform only to discover it doesn't meet your technology needs. Before meeting with each online community vendor's sales person, make sure you have a clear understanding of your security, hosting, and IT requirements. You'll also want to consider your user interface needs. For instance, do you need something fairly flexible in design in order to create a seamless appeal? You'll also want to know how your online community platform will work with your existing business processes, like your CRM system, and what the workflow will look like for sales people and customer support representatives.
Choosing an online community platform is a big decision and the demo period is the perfect time to make sure that you consider all the variables and ask all the questions you have.
That's why it's best to go into your demo with your needs clearly defined. Know who you're trying to engage, what you're trying to accomplish, and what you need to do it.
The POST Method can help you organize those thoughts and plans so you can make the best use of your (and the sales person's) time during the demo process.