In today’s interconnected world, building a strong and vibrant community around your business is one of the most effective ways to meet customer needs and grow your business.
Having a clear strategy in place allows you to maximize this opportunity, align your community with business goals, and measure success.
In this article, we’ll outline the steps you’ll need to take to build a community strategy that works. Among other things, you’ll learn how to:
But first, let’s answer some important questions.
Communities are a fundamental part of the human experience. Without prompting or persuasion, we naturally organize ourselves into groups based on shared values, beliefs, interests, and goals.
Why do we do this? Because communities meet basic psychological needs:
This is true of communities that grow around brands. Beyond the need for excellent products and services, customers want to be part of a movement. They want to meet like-minded people and have real-life interactions. They want to define and strengthen their identity through the consumer choices they make.
All of this makes communities an extremely valuable resource for customers – and a powerful tool for growing your business, helping you to:
Given that communities tend to form and grow around brands organically, you may be wondering why it’s necessary to do anything at all.
But without a strategy, how do you harness the power of your community to meet key business goals? How do you understand your community and its needs? How do you measure the impact it has on your business? How do you deliver an ever-improving experience for community members?
The answer is you can’t. Without a strategy, you are effectively in the dark. You know you have a community out there, but you are unable to understand, guide, or measure its success.
A well-thought-out strategy will help you maximize the impact of your community, delivering real value for both community members and your business.
Next, we’ll discuss how you can do this.
Building a community strategy can be a daunting prospect. So where do you start? Here, we’ll break it down into three parts.
It’s important to understand the ‘why’ before you attempt to outline the ‘how.’ This is where we ask the fundamental questions: why do we want a community? What do we want to achieve by building one?
Next, you outline your plan. It’s important to understand the key tasks and goals at each stage of the process, from research to launch and beyond.
Finally, you measure success. In this step, you outline the key metrics you’ll use to track engagement and the platforms you’ll use to do so.
So, what do you aim to achieve through your community? Whether it’s to increase sales, boost brand awareness, improve customer retention rates, or anything else, a successful community strategy will do two things:
All of your community-related goals will stem from these two outcomes. Let’s look at how you can do both.
It’s best to take a customer-centric approach to community-building. If you focus on what you can give community members, rather than what they can give you, you’ll be on the right track. Here are just a few examples.
As we have already discussed, communities provide members with a sense of purpose, belonging, and identity. Maximize the power of your community by appealing to these needs.
Beyond psychological needs, there should be tangible benefits for community membership as well. The more reasons you give people to join your community, the better.
Communities are also a great place to improve the customer experience, provide guidance, and share ideas.
Think of the value your business can gain as a byproduct of a customer-centric approach. If your customers are happy, engaged, and supported through your community, your business will enjoy tangible benefits too. Here are some examples.
Your community is a great resource, so tap into it. Ask customers what they really think about your product. What do they struggle with? What would they change? How would they improve it?
Research shows that 90% of companies with communities have used suggestions from members to improve a product or service, while 78% have used their community to help develop new products and services.
Listening to your customers' first-hand experiences will help you improve your product. Think of your community as an invaluable resource for product teams. Likewise, understanding who your customers are and how they use your products will help sales teams understand their target market better.
Communities are an excellent place to put marketing and content strategies to the test. They provide a ready-made sample group that’s hungry for information. This allows you to test various strategies and types of content.
Through a range of engagement metrics, you can measure what works and what doesn’t. You can source new ideas from the issues that customers discuss most. You can even encourage customers to create their own content.
Through your community, you will learn about the most common customer pain points. You will be able to react faster and solve issues more effectively.
Unsurprisingly, 88% of companies with communities say that their members have helped them improve their customer services.
Provide a dedicated space within your community for customer support, where you can solve technical issues in the public sphere, allowing others to learn from the solution. And wherever possible and appropriate, allow customers themselves to get involved in the support process.
Communities are complex. Any strategy designed to build, grow, or engage a community will take time to plan and implement. This is a long-term play, not a quick fix.
Here are some steps you can take, guiding you from conception through to launch and beyond.
Before you do anything else, you’ll need to get key stakeholders in your business onside. This can be a tricky process. People might not understand the true value of a community. Your job is to show them.
The months leading up to your launch are all about planning and research. This is probably the most important stage to get right, as it builds the foundation for everything else.
In the weeks leading up to the launch, you’ll want to add some finishing touches.
Now you’re almost ready to go, it’s time to create some pre-launch buzz.
Now your community is up and running, it’s time to engage, grow, and measure it.
Having a strategy is one thing, but without a reliable way to measure outcomes and track progress, it’s impossible to know if you are succeeding in your goals.
You’ll need different metrics to measure progress towards different outcomes. For example, if your goal is to understand how active your community is and how fast it is growing, you can track metrics such as:
If your goal is to understand what kind of content resonates most with your community, you can track:
If you want to understand how your community is impacting broader business objectives, you can track metrics relating to:
Depending on your goals, you’ll want to focus on different metrics at different stages of your community journey.
For example, as you launch your community, the first few months will be about measuring growth and engagement. You’ll be looking at metrics such as new users, posts per week, and so on.
Once your community is fully established, you might want to shift your focus to bigger-picture metrics that relate to bringing sustainable value for your customers and business, such as customer acquisition and retention, churn rates, support tickets, etc.
Gathering and analyzing data can be a complicated and time-consuming process, especially if your community is located across various platforms. That’s why we recommend using a dedicated community data platform like AhoyConnect.
AhoyConnect harvests data from your community platforms, combines it with your company’s data, and delivers powerful, actionable analytics. This allows you to make informed decisions that help grow your community and business.
Communities are all about providing value for customers and engaging them in a meaningful way. But how do you go about doing this if you don’t know who they are and what they like?
Of course, you can’t get to know every customer on a deep level. But you can get a feeling for what your customers are like in general, based on factors such as your market segment, demographics, price points, etc. This gives you your target market – a broad group of people you aim to sell to.
Personas take this process one step further, distilling your target market down into one or more fictional characters that embody your ideal customer(s) – or in this case, community member(s). You give them names and describe their interests, problems, hopes, and dreams.
The personas you choose dictate the way you communicate, the type of content you create, and the overall look and feel of your interactions with customers. So it’s important to get it right.
Who is your ideal community member? The answer will be different for every business. Here are a few steps you can take to hone in a persona:
Your community is a place to build relationships with customers and strengthen your brand identity. How you communicate will be critical in realizing these goals.
You can use your personas to guide your decisions. You’ll communicate one way to an idealistic GenZ student and another way to a senior manager in the banking sector. Play to the crowd, but stay true to your brand.
Again, use your personas to help you decide what kind of content you want to produce for your community. The GenZ student will consume content differently to the senior manager.
Some personas benefit from daily messages, updates, and lighthearted blog articles, while others may need deep learning opportunities, webinars, and workshops. Try to offer a range of different content mediums, and pick a cadence that suits each.
We’ve covered a lot of information in this article. So, before we finish, let’s quickly recap everything we’ve learned.