Community is for the people, demand gen within it should measured separately, but can absolutely be tied to your community!
Community is a funny thing.
It's absolutely necessary for human survival, with research studies showing that loneliness caused by social isolation to physical illness, including sleep disorders, heart disease and a weakened immune system..
On the business front, it's proven to be beneficial to corporations, with community-driven companies driving 30% more revenue than product-driven companies.
The 2020 Community Industry Trends Report said that 88% of community professionals believe that community is critical to the company’s mission.
And yet, according to a report by Bevy.com, 45% still struggle to quantify the value of their community, and just 12% of all communities in our study were “confident” in their ability to quantify value.
Some community owners monetize through memberships (like associations or private communities like Summit and YPO). Some through sales of products. Some are supported by the brand and mined for information and then upsold to when the time is right (or all the time, if you're in a poorly-run brand community!).
From a community member standpoint, no one wants to be sold to, and yet everyone is looking for solutions. Community members are seeking answers, advice, and access. They crave it, and they ARE NOT finding it easily.
Mostly, they suck
"I conducted an experiment," Michelle Bruno said. "When COVID hit, I was a member of certain associations which have communities and are communities, and I decided to quit just to see how long it would take me to really crave wanting to go back, and I never did.
"I guess there are very few communities that I get supreme value from. Including the ones that I pay for," Bruno said.
Dahlia El Gazzar loves the promise of communities. "The whole infusion of [the idea that] you can start out in a community on a business level and then you end up with an emotional attachment on a personal level - I think that is a goal of any community," she said.
"That should be it. This should not just be in your face, you gotta belong so you can download shit, or you gotta be in every single webinar that we do, or you know all of that," she said.
"The idea is that the community has to evolve. Then you drag those people that you want to exchange more with to other communities."
"This group is the real deal and all the women understand and put action behind the rally call to come ready to grow your mind and your bank account," she told me. Proving that it really is the leadership, the tone, and the values that must be driven from the top and permeated throughout all experiences.
Community is a verb.
All these statistics and comments should be your aha! moment. Your community needs your help, so how can you answer the call without ruining everything by selling to your community members?
Simple: Separate your community from your commerce.
Much in the way that marketers have separated branding from demand generation, you can separate your community from your revenue, while still allowing them to be an integrated part of your holistic customer engagement strategy.
Your community enablement program should create top of funnel engagement to engage current community members and attract new ones.
Your community needs a place to land. This *could* mean an online platform, but more than likely it just means a web page for your followers to find your community offerings.
Your community needs gatherings. They can be in-person or they can be virtual, but the act of bringing your people together to share and connect should be the primary objective of your community.
Your community needs an inner circle. It can either be for a small group of your community members to have intimate conversations, or to act as your community advisory board to ensure you always have the pulse of the community and are evolving as needed.
Your community needs a way to share their participation and advocate for you. Whether its through branded merchandise or through social media tiles they can share and use, or content they can share with their own networks to help them feel empowered, planning for shareability (did I just invent a new word?) is key.
Monetization should never come from your sales team trolling your community and selling to them. But the separation of church of state needn't be draconian, either. Community members are part of your community because they love your product or your company and they want to be a part of it. Indeed, they usually WANT to buy more from you.
How to measure the ROI of your community
You can take advantage of this by running campaigns specifically for and inside your community. The campaigns can then be tied to your CRM system to track pipeline and revenue and truly measure the value of your community.
A few examples:
Give your community members exclusive access or early access to something (and track it).
Offer them the ability to share access or discounts to their network (and track it).
Create community events where they are clearly and transparently demos or deal acceleration events (and track them).
Create community education events to help community members understand the next step they can take with your company or your product (and track account expansion).
Run educational webinars to your community (and track them).
Encourage community-generated content that you can use in your marketing and sales materials (and track it).
You have a big responsibility on your shoulders when you try to design experiences for your community, monetize your community, and keep your community authentically engaged.
Give me a shout if you want you bounce some ideas around or plan a community design strategy session for your 2023 customer engagement!
Liz Lathan, CMP, is co-founder of The Community Factory, helping brands grow and engage their communities of customers, prospects, and team members. Through a Community Design Strategy session, we help companies develop Community Enablement Programs and offer Community as a Service (CaaS) solutions that fit their needs. Contact Liz at firstname.lastname@example.org