Getting Aligned for Maximum Community Impact

6 minute read

October 12, 2022

Getting Aligned for Maximum Community Impact

 

Recently I wrote about the importance of being aligned with your stakeholders  and company objectives. This is especially important for those new to community building: this alignment is crucial for their career and internal community support. 

However, there is the why is just one piece of the puzzle. How to align is even more important. 

How do you align yourself between what the stakeholders want and what the community – and your community members – are there to do? Your stakeholders may wish for ticket deflection or more reviews, but how do you make that happen when it’s not in the direct interest of a community member? Keep reading, my friends! 

I’m going to lay out the basic concepts here, and at the end of this post you’ll find a template to help guide you along this journey.  

Start with your Stakeholders 

The first place you need to start is identifying your stakeholders. These aren’t necessarily your bosses – but may the folks who can be most impacted by the ongoing and healthy community. Here are some of the more traditional departments we see being involved in the community: 

  • Marketing 
  • Support 
  • Success 
  • Product 

Each of these could likely benefit from or would love to see some impact from community. What you want to identify are vital things that you could potentially have an effect on. Also, to help you, the following are some of the more common ones by the department you can consider: 

  • Marketing: advocates, case studies, leads (marketing qualified leads) 
  • Support: reducing repetitive questions, being more efficient with resources 
  • Success: assist in customer onboarding, increase customer satisfaction, reduce the likeliness of churn, reduce time to value 
  • Product: feedback on a product, alert to customer frustrations, capture bugs, innovation opportunities. 

This is not an endless list; your company may have other departments or stakeholders to consider. The goal is to identify and select the best aligned with your community concept. For example, don’t pursue support goals if your community is not doing support or will not have a role in supporting customers. I should also mention you don’t need to tackle them all at once. I am a big fan of community builders moving slowly. Figure out one or two that work, and then replicate and modify. 

Now that you have honed in on the departments and their goals, it’s essential to establish the key metric and how it’s measured. You want to create a baseline of measurement. So, for example, in the support world, we may look at the deflection rate per channel. We also want a numerical value, such as the cost per case. In a marketing context, it could be a number of advocacy review activities with an eye to reach (pageviews) or clicks from a review site.  

The main goal is to move from something conceptual to measurable.  

Let’s Chat with the Community Members 

This is a crucial step some communities neglect, and I think mostly it’s done due to a lack of bandwidth or a need for speed. Or it could be that some might feel they have a handle on their community. However, this can be a weakness of maybe listening to the loudest voices and missing out on what the silent majority cares about. 

I highly recommend you consider a listening tour. Yes, it takes time, but talking to members and getting their input is invaluable and will ensure you build the right things. I know for some, member identification can be fraught with difficulty – especially if the community is in a nascent form. This doesn’t mean you are out of luck. 

Here are some ideas to identify members to talk to: 

  • People who have consumed lots of your content – your marketing team likely has a list of the most engaged folks downloading content 
  • People who spend lots of time viewing community content – from your community tool 
  • People identified by your customer success team as passionate and willing 
  • People your sales team has spoken to/potential prospects who have an interest in the space

This is certainly not an endless list, but a start. The goal of these discussions should also be set clear from the start. It’s not about the solution you will use but more about their interests and motivations. Here is an idea are the questions you’ll want to cover: 

  • What is their main concern for their role – to be better? You can rephrase as needed, but the core question is to understand their motivation to be better at their role in their work. This obviously applies better in the B2B context, but it can be modified to whatever your concept is. For example, if your community is about health, what is their primary health concern and what is the main thing they are working on to improve their health? Is it doing more cardio? 
  • Why does a community space matter to them? We aren’t focused on the delivery of the community here; we want to understand the motivation of why connecting with others appeals to them. Why would they spend time connecting with others with a specific interest or passion? This could be as simple as using the software better or being inspired by peers. Using our health community example, it could also be a group to keep them accountable to their health goals. The main hope of this question is to understand the “why community” for them. 
  • What motivates them to place their best effort? This will be a more pointed question around motivation. In this context of community, we want to understand if they lean more towards extrinsic (getting things) or intrinsic (helping others makes them happy). Healthy communities have a bit of both. The reason we want to know this is. Hence, we get an idea from our audience where they lie on the spectrum so we can make appropriate community programs. 

Some of you may be asking how many people you should speak with. I would try to aim for a minimum of 25, but the more you can, the better. The more data you have from these interviews, the better you can align. 

 

Creating an Alignment Check 

This is where the two parties meet. This step is to see and find common ground between what your stakeholders and members care about – and then consider measurable business outcomes.   

As daunting as it seems, it doesn’t have to be. In the end, it’s really about ensuring a proper balance. In this case, I have some suggestions below to assist  

 

 

Department 

What Your Stakeholder Cares About  What Your Community Members Care About  Business Outcome 
Support  Ticket deflection  Space to share knowledge – help others be better  Reduce the cost to serve  
Customer Success  NRR (Net Revenue Retention)  Build connections with other peers and learn from them.  Increase NPS/Reduce Churn 
Product  Product feedback/ ideas  Get early access to new products. Learn how to use the products  Reduce Customer frustration (measured by CSAT) 
Marketing  Advocacy  Show off expertise or be recognized as an expert   Number of advocacy activities 

 

What you will notice is we are taking what stakeholders care about and aligning them to the motivations people care about. So, for example, support wants to reduce the number of tickets, and we are aligning with the fact that members of our community want to share with others. In turn, this will have an impact on crucial support metrics. With this information, we can work on messaging in the community and consider the journey for this persona. How do we entice them to share, and how do we recognize those who do? 

This exercise will also help identify if your stakeholders and community are misaligned. If you can’t find corresponding stakeholder needs to community wants – you’ll see where you’ll need to be cautious. For example, if the focus on your community is support, but folks just want access to new products and learn, your support community may be quiet. You then have two options. Lean into the product stakeholders or work to better align their motivations, so support is interesting. For example, maybe it’s a call to action to showcase what they learnt or help others struggling. Perhaps you have a contest or create a special club within the community that gives people who are members special product access.  

This exercise aims to identify gaps and find ways to find better alignment by visualizing things this way. Now it’s your turn to start the journey. Below you will find a template to help for checking and finding alignment. We hope you find it helpful and assist you in creating a fantastic community! 

Now it’s time to fill in your very own – get yours here, for free!

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Adrian Speyer

Written by Adrian Speyer

Adrian Speyer is the Head of Community and Lead Evangelist for Vanilla by Higher Logic. Besides spending many years in digital marketing, Adrian has been building communities of all sizes for over 20 years.

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