Robin van Lieshout, Chief Strategy Officer and Remco de Vries, VP of Global Demand Generation at Gainsight, share the laws of Community and how to build a durable business through Community.
In the not-too-distant past, communities were primarily viewed as a way of scaling Support or reducing costs for B2C enterprise companies. It was a pretty narrow use case and a nice-to-have at best.
But a few of us saw the potential for Community in B2B and beyond. With the rise of Subscription-based companies came a new business model founded on the idea of proactively supporting customers to achieve success.
At Gainsight, we’ve redefined Community as a lever for a durable business.
So, instead of being focused on Support, a Community should be a pivotal strategy in your Customer Success journey, driving real business results and value for the customer — not simply vanity metrics like member growth or number of posts.
It’s no longer about individual or direct contributions on your community platform only. In the new world, we focus on the scale a community brings to your customer journey, your Customer Success content, your plays, and courses.
And finally, it’s about the customer experience. What a customer sees when they log in or choose to engage with, truly matters.
To empower companies to use their communities to build a durable business, we’re laying down the four laws of building a successful community.
Let’s dive in.
Four Laws of Community Building
1. You Can Start Anytime
You can start to build a community at any time—there’s little barrier to entry. In fact, you may even already have a community and not know it.
The best thing is there’s no minimum number of members or customers required. And more importantly, you may not even need a platform…yet!
For instance, van Lieshout describes the typical Office Hours sessions offered at Gainsight. “We get professionals together to connect people without the need to travel – it’s a great way to start your community” he says.
It’s a great opportunity for small groups of people to share experiences, trade solutions, and gain a sense of belonging. It’s also an efficient, low-cost method to connect people across the world, no matter where they’re located.
2. A Community Is Only as Good as Its Content
The truth is: a community is only as valuable as its content.
Community members need a reason to come back. That reason will always be your content i.e. your articles, documentation, product roadmap updates, knowledge base, and professional discussions. If the content isn’t valuable, they won’t return.
“Content is the most important thing. After the first engagement, it’s hard to get people to come back and stay engaged. That’s all content,” de Vries says.
A great example of a company that successfully draws in its members is Gong. Even before they started using Gainsight as a community platform, they already had a great community built around Sales Data and Strategy. They shared data-driven SDR tips on Linkedin to create thought leadership and conversations around their revenue intelligence category. That’s community-building from Day 0.
Gong has its own Hub which helps them connect the right people, and serve up the right content for its members, depending on the stage in their customer journey.
3. A Successful Community Is a Company-Wide Strategy
This brings us to the next law: a successful Community is aligned with the company-wide strategy. For a Community initiative to thrive, it needs to be uniquely centered within a company. All departments benefit from Community, so they all should be involved. Tying Community goals to top-line company objectives, and customer objectives, will allow you to rally the rest of your team behind the program.
4. Community Should Drive Real Business Outcomes
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Community should drive real business outcomes. Being data-driven is old news; you need to be able to take the data and act on it.
“We know we need to be data-driven and tell our exec teams why we do what we do. A huge part of that is tying these goals into ARR and top-line business goals,” says de Vries.
Yet, most Community initiatives haven’t cracked the code on tying their efforts to top-line business goals, like Adoption, NRR, and Expansion. The good news is that the data is there, and companies must invest in making this data accessible and actionable.
Community & CS Panel With Personio
Still, there’s no one right way to start Community.
Personio is a great example of a community project born out of high-touch customer engagement and grew into the broader CX team. With their hyper growth, they struggled to serve their many customers —especially in this economic environment.
This all fit in with their digital strategy, one of the biggest pieces for digital-led CS and self-service, their community drove their overall company efficiency.
From building engagement groups to a strong product feedback loop, Personio highlights the value of Community in driving a durable business through digital-led strategy.
Coming Soon: The Community Book
But these four laws of community are just the beginning. Van Lieshout and Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight, embark on a journey to write the ultimate Community book.