When Ken Aponte first joined CRM software company Copper back in December 2020 as their VP of Customer Success, he noticed one thing: retention wasn’t where it needed to be. One year following the launch of the Copper Community, their community sees steady, linear growth, with retention following the same trend.
We spoke to Aponte about Copper’s community journey, the impact on retention, and how community serves as an integral part of their digital-led strategy. But first, let’s look into where the need for community came from in the first place.
The need for a one-to-many approach
When Aponte first joined, one of the first things he did was build a distribution of Copper’s customers’ ARR/MRR to see where they’d fit in the spectrum. Soon, it became clear that the majority of the customer base were longtail customers. With Copper’s CSMs working almost exclusively on strategic accounts, Aponte discovered that smaller accounts weren’t getting enough attention; most interactions were through support or in the form of NPS scores and product updates.
Aponte, who has a background in building online communities for prominent charities, immediately saw an opportunity. “Community was a no-brainer. Plus, it was easy to convince the rest of the executive staff that this was something we wanted to invest in to give people a voice regardless of ARR.”
Choosing a community vendor
With more community experience than most, Aponte at this stage was looking for a platform that was purpose-built for SaaS. A platform where both self-service and high-profile customers could find what they were looking for. When Aponte evaluated vendors, he was primarily looking for three things:
- A way for people to submit product requests and leave comments
- Support for both public and private access
- Plenty of room for customization
Aponte stresses, “The customization piece was especially important. We wanted to hold the Copper community to the same high standards as our overall brand, so we needed the freedom to craft our site using CSS, HTML, and other creative tools.”
Using inSided’s extensive customization features, Copper brought a lively and colorful community to life.
Building the community
Community was a company-wide initiative at Copper. With full support and buy-in across the board, the team launched their community in less than six months. Here’s what that looked like:
- Two months of brainstorming and strategy
- One month of decision-making
- Two months of development and implementation
“We brainstormed ideas based on what we knew about Copper customers: how they use the product, what their frequent questions are, and what features they might want to know more about,” Aponte clarifies. While a lot of support content already existed, its structure and tone weren’t necessarily a good fit for a community. Because of this, Copper created a lot of the content from scratch, or “community-fied” existing content – a play that turned out to be crucial.
Community launch and initial results
For its launch, Copper put the same ammunition behind promotion as they would any product or feature release. The early days saw a few members come in here and there, but instead of pushing customers to join, Aponte and his team applied the golden rule of community building: they created an open and accessible educational environment.
By focusing on consistently adding new content and responding to customer activity as quickly as possible, they created a sticky community experience where value was realized quickly. Aponte emphasizes, “Many of our customers hadn’t experienced meaningful interaction with Copper for a long time, and they didn’t have high expectations for our new offering. This meant making sure that if they dropped by the community for a look, they’d immediately see a lot of value.”
Now, while great content is the foundation for a successful community, engagement is what makes it come alive. Slowly and steadily, Copper saw its customers ask and answer questions, submit ideas, and share feedback. Today, a year after the launch, Copper sees 200 new members every month and roughly 12% engage with the community, a number that’s on an upwards trajectory.
So far, Copper has seen:
- Valuable product feedback and input to help build a customer-centric product.
- An engaged audience that they can reach for feedback to improve their experience.
- Measurable improvement in retention in its first year.
But as Copper has discovered, a community is not just for customers.
Community is for everyone
Since its launch, Coppers community has served as a destination for prospects in search of helpful content. Effectively, the community serves as an extension of sales and marketing, generating and nurturing leads by putting the right content in front of them in seconds. “We’re showing potential customers that Copper walks the walk, not just talks the talk when it comes to customer support,” Aponte adds.
When joining Copper, another focus for Aponte was to build a CS Operations organization within CS. He wanted to enable CSMs to focus on proactive outreach and programmatic outreach to customers. Soon, the Copper Community became an integral part of that strategy. “It’s about getting people to the right information during their customer journey,” Aponte stresses.
Copper’s CS team would create great onboarding material for high-touch, strategic accounts, but with a large portion of their customer base not falling into that segment, Copper needed another way to get the right content in front of them, at the right time. Community was the answer. Throughout the customer journey, customers are now directed to the community to get the information they’re looking for in an instant. For example, during onboarding in-app pop-ups direct to the relevant onboarding content so that customers can utilize Copper to the best of their abilities.
What’s next for the Copper Community?
Copper is increasing their investment in community by adding more features including strategies to reward community participation. The goal is to improve the ratio between customer-created and Copper-created content. With a full-time Community Manager soon to join, Copper is also gearing up to offer more events, such as webinars and workshops.
Aponte’s advice to anyone looking to build a customer community? “Be patient as the community takes shape and gains momentum. It may take some time, but with the right approach and continued commitment, this investment will deliver big returns.”
Read his article on celebrating one year of the Copper Community here.
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