You've only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the role that developing strong customer communities will play in transforming and growing businesses. That is the common wisdom among the people who are in the trenches implementing customer community strategies for the world's leading organizations.
Higher Logic recently co-hosted a one-day conference with The Center for Customer Engagement, called CommuniCon. It was the world's first conference on linking customer community strategies to measurable revenue growth.
The room was filled with people who are working every day to leverage customer communities to achieve their businesses' most important goals. Community management rockstar, Crystal Coleman, live blogged the event. Here are key customer community strategy takeaways from some of CommuniCon's top speakers.
Bill Lee, The Center for Customer Engagement
- Community professionals must rebrand themselves. "I'm the community guy" doesn't sell well to sales and marketing teams. Try "I'm in the business of fixing [insert C-suite problem]," instead.
- Your customer community is your most powerful resource for growing your business.
- Take a seat at the table. Don't wait for someone to tell you what to do. Tell management what you can do for them.
Bob Peterson, SiriusDecisions
- Customers are engaging with each other like never before. If you don't provide a method to engage with you and other customers, they'll go somewhere else.
- A siloed approach to communities results in lost insight. Disconnected engagement options confuse customers. The solution is to align your community strategy with your customer lifecycle stages.
- Given the opportunity, customers are increasingly stepping up and mentoring/guiding other customers.
Bill Johnston, Structure3c
- Connected customers are more valuable to companies because they are more loyal, are better advocates, spend more often, and create value for the company and other customers.
- Relationships and communities trump brands. The value of brand assets decline over time while the value of customer relationships is increases over time.
- To date, communities have been about customer support and marketing. Now, they're starting to become about the future of making things.
Josh Aranoff, Salesforce
- Build your communities around the transformational questions your CEO is throwing at you.
- Technology is part of the story, but it's not the full story. Start with the problems and pain points that your customers have. How can you help them achieve their goals? Community is often the answer. However, you must communicate it in a way that speaks to those core challenges.
- When you understand the right questions, community is at least a partial answer to all of it.
Richard Millington, FeverBee
- Not enough community management professionals are doing things differently from 5 or 10 years ago, but your customers' mindsets are very different.
- Many communities are designed to give one-time information. Everyone is too busy to participate all the time. Look at how you can solve a deeper internal need instead.
- Profile your community members' expertise and experience. Conduct interviews and surveys to understand what they're good at. Then, reach out and be specific about where in your online community they can participate.
For more science-backed community management tactics, check out FeverBee's upcoming conference, Sprint.
Phoebe Venkat, Salesforce
- Your community is the most valuable commodity your company has. At Salesforce, active community members spend 200% more over the long-term than customers that are not active. Engaged community members also account for 33% higher product/feature adoption than customers who are not active in the online community.
- You can't drive new outcomes with the same tools in your toolbox.
- Business leaders in companies that grow by building community need a different set of skills than old-school executives.
Joshua Paul, Higher Logic
- Your business model relies on customers doing certain things after their initial sale, like use your product, remain a customer, and make additional purchases. Higher customer engagement means that more people will do the things that your company needs them to do, at a lower cost.
- Evangelize the differences in the roles that campaigns and communities play in your marketing strategy.
- You can't leverage your customer community to increase revenue and grow your business unless you first have an active customer community.
John Mark Troyer, TechReckoning
- Giving your advocacy program a name makes it official and increases commitment by both your company and your advocates. (Examples: Microsoft MVPs, VMware vExperts, Salesforce MVPs, etc.)
- Build around the advocates that you have today, rather than spending your time searching for the ideal group of customer advocates.
- Strengthen your customer community programs by offering online and offline components. You can't just live in one world.
Regardless of where you are in planning your customer community strategy, you can take big steps forward by internalized the advice listed above.
Rather than building community just to follow the trend of having a customer community, focus your strategy around c-level goals and build a framework that eventually allows you to measure your community strategy's impact on real business outcomes.