If you’re working for a B2B SaaS company and have logged into your Linkedin account lately, you’ve probably heard the phrase Community-Led Growth (CLG). (If you haven't, now's your chance to sign up for our Community Summer Camp.)
As the economy has made many feel uneasy about the future of their business, many are viewing CLG as the lighthouse in this brewing storm.
And with good reason.
The list of CLG benefits is long: building an organic flywheel, reducing dependency on paid channels, nurturing product stickiness, and building long-term relationships are all a result of putting community at the center of your business.
We’ll walk through how to set the foundation for CLG and give you a handy checklist for you to keep in mind when moving forward.
Adopting a customer-centric mantra
First things first: one of the most important pillars of a successful CLG strategy is a customer-centric mindset. This goes way beyond your mission statement but means shaping your business around customer needs and experiences.
What better way to understand those needs than by getting continuous feedback from your community? (It’s a rhetorical question.)
Many company leaders love the idea of a community until there comes a time to bring on an additional headcount to speed up the program, invest in a more sophisticated technology platform, or when they ‘just’ receive negative product feedback from the community.
These are the times when a true customer-first company's colors shine through and you know whether your leadership is ready for a CLG strategy.
Feedback is a gift, both positive and negative. Are we right? Dealing with negative feedback gives you a clear chance to show how you would handle that as a company, and individual. In return building trust, transparency and confidence with customers and prospects.
Ensuring all teams are aligned on the value community can be the difference between you being able to achieve your community KPIs and falling short of them.
Finding your user-base
Another key pillar is defining the best-fit segment for your community.
Get a good sense of who your customers are and what they would like to see from a Community Program. They most likely will be the majority of your member base, perhaps even the only members if you decide to ‘close’ a community from the outside world. In addition to just figuring out who your customers are, what subject matter experts can you identify? What defining demographics do they possess? Can you get them involved early, and help you create a base for Community Growth? And lastly, are there any knowledge gaps in the space you’re in that your community can help answer or help brainstorm?
Put some thought into the theme or subject of your community. Keep it close to what your customers want, but be sure to have your own narrative (or just something to say, add to an existing discussion). Creating ‘just’ another community around a wider subject will likely not yield the results or the engagement you're looking for.
Niche down! Especially for early-stage engagement. There’s always the possibility to expand later.
P.s. the no. 1 mistake in Community is coming up with customer needs from a program, without actually talking to customers. We’re just saying. 🤷♀️
Establishing a solid community infrastructure
You may already have a community on Facebook or Slack and you aren’t sure whether it’s worth the headache of moving your member base from one channel to another! We get it! Migrations seem horrible. But it’s often easier than you might think, and you could be hurting your Community Program by not taking the plunge to double down on your community technology and infrastructure. Here’s some advice from community builder and author of “Building Brand Communities” Carrie Melissa Jones:
“Building your brand community on Facebook Groups is not a viable long-term choice for creators or small businesses (or most large ones, but that’s another can of worms for another day).”
As Jones mentions, not being able to have full control of your community and the platform which is supporting you, leaves you at the mercy of Facebook or others. You need to be in control.
When starting to investigate the community ecosystem, think of how your identified user base or persona behaves. For example, if your community is meant for Customer Success teams of one, he or she most likely is looking for a knowledge base to find helpful resources or is looking for an easy and efficient way to connect with other CS teams for answers. Does your technology have a knowledge base and is there an instant messaging feature? Your personas will guide you when researching and selecting your community infrastructure. Just remember, more isn’t always more. It’s easy to get distracted by a community platform that offers everything and is packaged together with a pretty bow, but oftentimes, you won’t be using all of these features and potentially could be paying for more than your community needs.
- Do I want to have a forum-style community?
- Do I want this to act as a chat-based community?
- Do I want this to be a knowledge base?
- Do I want to be able to host webinars or other virtual events?
- How will I measure community engagement and interactions?
- How will I manage membership?
- How will I track the influence and growth of my community?
You can get a better understanding of the community technology stack and ecosystem from Commsor’s guide here.
Identifying your influencers
Community influencers are the ones that steer the conversation, that either create content or e.g. go out of their way to make sure questions are answered. And they come in two sizes: internal and external influencers.
Let’s start with your internal advocates. These are the individuals within your organization that you offer up as speakers at conferences or events, host your webinars, or are vocal about trends they are seeing in the market. They have a good level of depth and knowledge about your space. It may for example be your Head of Marketing or Community.
There’s a huge advantage to working with your internal advocates because they understand your product better than any external advocate. That understanding translates to authenticity when he or she is creating content or posting about your product in the community.
If you’re lucky, your internal advocate already comes up with content on their own. But if social media isn’t his or her forte, you can guide them. Start a document with topics you want them to write about and give them some parameters like word count, hashtags to include, and calls-to-action. You can create a content calendar for them to stay consistent. Starting small is all it takes.
Once you have identified your internal influencers, you can start to look outwards. Before you say “we don’t have the budget to pay influencers,” hear us out. An influencer doesn’t have to have 1M+ followers, run his/her own podcast, or require top-dollar to work with you. Heck, most of them will do it for free!
Keep a close eye on your social mentions. These individuals could be tweeting or tagging you already. For those who post about your product, acknowledge that you recognize their content and appreciate the support. Always start with a “thank you” before you begin to ask for content creation. Just like you do while building a community, you want to build relationships with these advocates.
To show good faith, ask them if there is anything you can help them promote as well. This tactic will help you solidify your relationships with your existing partners. Does their company have an event coming up? Offer to promote it on your channels in exchange for them posting on their channels.
Just like your internal advocates, start small and then work your way up to more involved asks. When it comes time to negotiate, you’ll have some experience working with this individual. This experience will give you a sense of the type of final product they will provide you and help you decide whether it’s a good investment or not to continue to work with them.
Reserve the budget for those who will treat your content collaboration as a priority and not just for the ones closing one more brand deal they need to fulfill at the last minute.
Mapping a content and programming schedule
Oftentimes with community, experimenting with activities and content will be the only way to know whether something is successful or non-essential. A community is an ecosystem, thus your approach to the content that keeps it alive should also be ever-evolving. Here’s five tips for mapping your content roadmap.
Hot topicsWhen you’re trying to identify the right topics to start with, here’s when having some external advocates can assist. Ask these individuals or current customers what topics they want to know more about. Also, what does your CS team get asked and what product challenges can you address outside of your FAQ? Build your community content with the community it’s created for.
Fun + educational content = high community valueIf your members just wanted to read ebooks or blog posts, they could search for those resources on the internet. You need to make sure your content formula consists of fun and interactive activities combined with educational content.
When it comes to events, hold fireside chats and gift your attendees with a S’Mores set after. (We happened to have one going on right now. Sign up for our Community Camp fireside chat series here. Other examples of interactive events could include scavenger hunts or cocktail-making classes.
For your day-to-day content, share a meme. Laughter brings people together. It doesn’t have to be extremely costly or time-consuming to be valuable - which segues into our next tip.
It’s ok to start smallIt’s very easy to be swept up in planning an epic live stream with some of the top thought leaders in the industry, but that isn’t the only way to get a lively conversation going. For example, you can ask people to share “what was your first job out of school?” Many community managers didn’t start out in community but discovered it along the way. Asking where others might have begun their career is a great icebreaker and sheds light on what other members’ backgrounds are in.
Do some testing on what your community is interested in. And who knows the epic live webinar may not even resonate with your audience and could have cost you more time, effort, and money than asking some ice breaker questions.
Consistency is keyWhen you DO decide to hold meetups or AMAs that require a little more prep work, keep it consistent. It doesn’t matter if you decide to host an AMA once a quarter or once a month, but maintaining a schedule will set the tone for what members can expect and help them plan ahead. This goes for when you publish new content (blogs, FAQs, ebooks, reports) too. Create a regular cadence so members understand your community’s experience.
Get organizedOnce you have some baseline topics, formats, and timing figured out, create an editorial calendar. This will be a good tool for you to stay organized and MORE importantly, it will help you get your executive and other teams involved and stay clear on your engagement strategy.
(example content calendar)
It also opens the door for feedback and involvement from other job functions. For example, if you show your sales team you have a webinar planned around “Data-Driven Customer Success Teams” and there’s a prospect whose software helps with analytics, this is an opportunity to involve that prospect in your programming and warm up this lead for your sales team.
Now let’s summarize these points and make sure you have all of these ticked off before attempting your CLG strategy.
- Internal alignment (goals and priorities of your community)
- Community segment fits my ICP
- Have the resources (people and infrastructure) I need to manage and nurture my community
- Assigned internal and external advocates to help promote
- Relevant content (fun + educational) ready to go prior to launch
- Don’t overcomplicate things
- Editorial content calendar planned for added transparency
Want to learn more about how community can help your organization? Book a demo
By Becky May
Becky May is a Senior Content Strategist at inSided. She has eight years of experience building digital, video, social, and influencer activations for B2B companies in the beauty, tech, and automotive space. Connect on Linkedin