You know all about product-led growth (PLG) already. It’s been ruling the SaaS world for years.
But there’s a new kid on the block: Community-led growth. And it’s about to take off. More and more B2B companies are starting to realize how building communities contribute to their bottom line, reduces costs, and drives growth.
Even VC firms have opened their eyes to community, with Grayscale stating that “we have been seeing a big underground trend emerge in our portfolio companies – growth coming from building communities.”
A big part of that growth is a result of increased self-service (customer autonomy) and engagement, ultimately getting more value out of a product. But a huge part of that growth also comes from listening to the Voice of the Customer, acting on customer feedback, and building a product your customers want to use.
But before we talk more about customer feedback and community-led growth, let’s take a step back. What do we mean when we say community? And what exactly is a customer community?
What’s a customer community?
Platforms like Reddit and Github have become synonymous with the word “community.”
But what exactly is community?
Community is a result of human beings wanting to connect. They come together because they share the same purpose and motivations – they are driven by shared interests.
A customer community works no different. It draws upon that inherent and organic behavior in humans – the desire to connect, explore, and engage with others.
A customer community, facilitated by technology, gives your customers a dedicated place to engage with each other and with your brand.
Customers, just like in any other community setting – whether online or offline – will band together because of their shared interests and motivations. In this case, as users of your product(s) and its features. A customer community enables your customers to effectively self-serve, engage, and provide feedback, ultimately making your customers more invested and successful with your product.
With that said, let’s dive a bit deeper into community-led growth.
What is community-led growth?
Product-led growth operates on the premise that the product itself drives acquisition, adoption, and usage. As a go-to-market strategy, this can work really well.
But as we find ourselves in a space where self-service is becoming the norm and customers strive to be more and more autonomous, building the right product isn’t enough.
Why? Because it doesn’t scale.
Instead, community-led growth facilitates engagement between customers and provides a value that extends far beyond the product itself. A community provides customers with an environment where they can seek out advice from peers, find information, speed up their decision-making, and interact with your product – all on their own terms.
The end goal? A self-sustaining community that helps you validate and scale your go-to-market strategy.
By giving your customers this kind of autonomy, you’re likely to see improved acquisition and product adoption rates, increased retention, reduced costs, and ultimately happier customers.
To facilitate community-led growth, you need to take action. That’s where listening, engaging with – and acting – on customer feedback comes into the picture.
The role of customer feedback in community-led growth
Now, the argument goes that adopting a product-led growth model helps you build the right product for your customers. Community-led growth doesn’t replace that, but can act as an accelerator.
Why? Because customer communities are home to the voice of the customer. It’s where they share their opinions, give feedback, request features, you name it. It hosts all the feedback necessary to build a better product, and houses all the functionality to do so while including your customers – making the product you’re building one that’s truly customer-centric.
Direct feedback, at scale
Successful customer communities are filled with honest and unprompted feedback. That’s the best kind of feedback you could possibly ask for. No bias, no leading questions, no controlling the narrative. Instead, your customers tell you – on their own accord – about the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to their experience.
And let’s not forget about the real advantage here – scale.
Your CSMs and Product Managers won’t have to invest time and resources into collecting enough feedback to arrive at meaningful insights. Instead, that feedback (and plenty of it) will be provided organically in the community. With customer feedback immediately available, Customer Success and Product can focus on working together to make sense of the feedback, prioritize it, and eventually, build a product customers want to use.
A better product, faster
A customer community gives you the opportunity to directly involve your customers in an iterative process that allows you to get new features and functionality out the door fast – tested and approved by your customers. Plus, in a customer community you can easily identify your super users and evangelists, allowing you to put together Beta and Advisory groups to build a better product.
“There is tremendous value to be had by engaging your customers to better educate them about product capabilities, gather critical feedback, and leverage their collective experience to build better products through ideation.”
Brian Oblinger, Chief Community Officer at Brian Oblinger Strategic Consulting
A higher adoption rate
With your customers actively involved in the process, they’ll be more likely to try new features when you release them. Ultimately, you’re creating a more sticky product by allowing your customers to build the product alongside you.
Just take a look at Mixpanel. Two short months after implementation, they saw increased adoption rates and product usage among users in their QBR community. They also noticed that customers that actively participated in the community, had higher retention rates in the long run.
A sense of ownership
A greater sense of involvement often leads to a greater sense of loyalty. But what’s even better than a sense of loyalty is a sense of ownership. This happens when customers truly feel part of the process, acknowledged and heard. Knowing that their idea or piece of feedback is taken seriously and will be implemented it’s one of the most important and rewarding aspects of the customer experience.
A new level of excitement
There’s a good reason people pay top dollar for backstage passes and early access – being where it all happens and feeling as though you’re part of it is exciting. That excitement will be shared with others. You’ll see a return on investment of making your customers part of the process in the form of word of mouth, advocacy, adoption, and increased retention.
A surefire trust builder
Managing customer expectations by sharing what feedback and ideas will be considered and why fosters transparency between your customers and the company. This type of transparency builds trust and ensures confidence in the way you manage customer relationships and needs.
Making community a part of your growth strategy from the start
Community-led growth doesn’t replace product-led growth. Instead, the two should work in tandem.
As Corinne Riley perfectly explains:
Community-Led Growth acts as a multiplier on top of product-led growth. By actively facilitating user interactions, and providing value past the product itself, Community-Led Growth allows a company to have a stronger pulse on their customer pipeline, feature requests, and real-time support, all while enabling users to get the most of their product. These users in turn become champions, creating a flywheel of active members strengthening the community.
We recognize that every company can’t build their product publicly. And yes, there are many arguments for not being fully transparent with your product development process, but we believe the benefits of involving your customers early (and incessantly) far outweigh any potential downsides.
In a recent episode of Community-Led Podcast, Alexis Ohanian pointed out that there’s a shift from “accidental” community-driven companies, to a new age of intentionality. Making community a core part of your growth strategy from the get-go doesn’t mean stepping away from product-led growth. But rather, you’ll be able to better understand customer needs by leveraging the feedback and ideation provided by the community. This means you’ll be better equipped to build a product your customers will love, and with that comes what we’re all striving for – happier customers.
Thinking of making a customer community part of your growth strategy?