If you want to live the community dream, you’re going to need executives on your side. Did you know two thirds of organizations with highly involved executives are seeing their communities influence 16% or more of their organizations’ total revenue? (Demand Metric study, 2014) This effective involvement is possible with the right balance of meaningful impact and innovation using smart risk mitigation and ROI.
So how do we help executives spot the value in online communities? Vanessa DiMauro, CEO and Chief Digital Officer of Leader Networks, takes us through her top five steps for setting realistic executive expectations and using community as a business driver to enhance your organization overall.
Top Five Ways to Prove Community Value to Executives
Step 1: Set Expectations
Situation: A decision is stalled due to unclear expectations. The executive asks, “How will this community help us?”
Solution: Focus on getting them excited. Your answer should include how the community will solve a certain, preexisting problem for the organization and other executives or thought leaders behind the project. Example: “The community will help solve our client support issues, and both VPs and their teams are behind it.”
Step 2: Find External Stakeholders
Situation: You need to garner support and find executive sponsors throughout the entire organization. You should frame your goals with this question to the group, “What happens if we don’t build this community?”
Solution: Focus on the strategic goals of the organization first. Identify which areas/ departments have the most pressing needs, and frame it all in business terms. Gather examples that will align with those goals.
Step 3: Create a Sound Community Business Plan
Situation: Any executive will have concerns with diving into a new project — so what’s the plan? They will ask, “What will it take to deliver, and are you sure it’s going to work?”
Solution: Show them the plan! Make sure to include operational impact, staffing content, a strong business model, member feedback and risk management (the belt-and-suspenders insurance policy is always a good one).
BONUS: Check out these great templates for sample community business, budget and revenue model planning. (See slides 21, 22 and 23)
Step 4: Manage Expectations at Launch
Situation: Congratulations on recently launching your community? The executives are tracking its progress, so how is it going!
Solution: Make sure you have dashboards that translate great community activity into ROI quickly and easily for any executive who is interested. Proactive monthly dashboards include acquisition programs and numbers, exchanges among members, quotes from influencers, baseline data and changes over time, your business integration plan and reasonable projections.
BONUS: Don’t slip up on measuring before the community goes live. This can be quarterly, and is integral to putting together target goals and ROI outcomes. You also will be able to put together Delta analytics (comparison of pre- and post-community activity). (See slide 28)
Step 5: Champion Your Online Community Success Story
Situation: Your community is up and running, but there’s no visible executive support within the community yet. Leadership will need greater insights and ask, “What is the community story?”
Solution: Create a few reusable presentations about your community’s story — this includes a mission and mantra, member demographics, quotes from member experiences and internal stakeholders, and a future vision road map. Always be ready to prove why your community is fulfilling those original organizational and member goals.
Meet Vanessa DiMauro
Vanessa DiMauro is the CEO and Chief Digital Officer of Leader Networks, a research and strategy consulting company that helps organizations succeed in social business and online community building. With over 20 years of experience in social business leadership positions, she is a popular advisor, author and speaker. In September, Vanessa led a keynote session at our 2015 Higher Logic Super Forum where she shared social business strategies for many of the largest and most influential companies in the world.