Are You Selling a Product or a Membership Fee?

Conventional thinking is that customer communities are put in place to help users of a product share ideas and support each other. Smart businesses are realizing that communities can be a powerful competitive advantage, and in some cases even more valuable than the product itself.

I recently spoke to a startup founder who told me that his first hire was not going be a developer or salesperson but a community manager. He felt that if he could build a community before launching his product, he would have i) a captive group of enthusiastic potential customers and ii) a defensible competitive advantage if competitors launched a similar product. Continue reading

The 4 Things Learned Migrating Hundreds of Forums

moving-houseMigrating to new forum software can be a daunting prospect, but sometimes necessary. After migrating hundreds of communities from dozens of platforms to Vanilla, here are a few things we’ve learned:

Properly preparing the community is vital

Making a major change to your community software is always challenging for your membership. People become comfortable with the status quo, even if that status quo involves slow, outdated software that is gradually falling apart. It’s important to be aware of this, and to make sure that community reactions are kept in mind during the migrations process. A common thread of hassle-free migrations is asking yourself how the community will be effected at each step.
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How Your Post-Sales Service Impacts Sales


The rise of social media has completely changed the face of post-sales customer interaction. The ease with which customers can vent their frustrations through venues like Amazon reviews, Twitter and Yelp mean that companies have no choice but to offer high-quality post-sales care if they want to remain profitable outside of the short term. A savvy customer can easily google dozens of opinions about your product and support before deciding to purchase. They don’t just want to know whether your product is good, they want to know if they’re covered when something goes wrong. They want to read real customer experiences.
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A Look Ahead to 2015

Vanilla Forums

Image by Laura Wilson

2014 was a year of growth, growing pains and accomplishments here at Vanilla. We welcomed great new customers such as EA, Harvard University and MyFitnessPal and we continued to grow our distributed team. We now have employees in Montreal, Ottawa, Detroit, Austin and Sacramento. We continued to invest heavily in product development with a major release of Vanilla open source and several new features on our cloud product. Continue reading