With almost every industry introducing the latest and greatest innovation at a breakneck pace, it’s easy for a company or association to slip behind despite sincere efforts to stay competitive. The most advanced offering a company releases is rendered almost completely obsolete within a fraction of a second as the “next big thing” looms on the horizon—what is a company to do?
Enter the customer community.
Outlined as the catalyst connecting a company’s employees, solution partners, and customers of a particular product or service, customer communities provide knowledge sharing/training, support, and relationship development through online and offline collaborations. The goal, in essence, is two-fold: to enhance the overall success of the customer and to enable the collective voice of the customer base.
With a strong customer community laid as a foundation for customer success, companies can leverage feedback and galvanize a group of inherently loyal brand advocates. Within customer communities, members can share knowledge about their current solutions while also learning about the future of their industry from their vendor company. Because a successful customer community is independently governed by the customers themselves, though, the trajectory of the community’s growth depends on their own subjective needs rather than the revenue goals of the company.
What can a company do for its customer community?
Although the balance between the role of the company and the role of member leadership in a customer community can often be a precarious one, there are a few unique responsibilities inherent to the company’s position:
- First, managing the lifecycle of the program is important to the welfare of the company since its product or service underlines everything the community does. While many products or services have groups of enthusiastic customers congregate organically, the longevity of those groups depends entirely on the vendor company’s ability to plan, evaluate, and revise the intention of the group from a birds-eye view. In some cases, this means sunsetting the project entirely if the work of the community is no longer in the best interest of all stakeholders. “Don’t be all things to all people,” Innovatis CEO Victor Bohnert says, “but try to be the best thing to most people.”
- Second, the pursuit of constant, measurable feedback allows a company to have a direct line to the attitudes of its customer community’s members. While requesting feedback in any capacity is generally better than not, the depth and breadth of that feedback can make a marked difference in the success of the community. Continuously collecting feedback from multiple data points allows a company to hyper-focus on one particular topic or step all the way back to get a sense of a decision’s broader impact. In turn, members feel as though their attitudes and opinions hold significant weight, which only serves to deepen their investment in their membership.
- The third and final key to a successful customer community from a company’s perspective is getting (and staying) small. While it’s easy for a company to think about growth and how to make its community bigger and better, it can be difficult to simultaneously focus on maintaining the same degree of personal impact the community has on its members. Once a community becomes detached from the smaller, seemingly trivial experiences that hold a high degree of personal significance for its members, it’s difficult to re-establish the same level of familiarity between the company and its customers. Keeping the member experience top of mind should always be priority number one.
With all of these tips in mind, a company can easily strategize how to establish and maintain a successful customer community. The actual implementation of said strategy can be a bit more challenging, but with careful planning and thoughtful dedication to the original vision, a customer community can return a company’s investment tenfold. If you’re considering establishing a community for your customers, let Innovatis Group’s wealth of resources, knowledge, and experience help you get it right.