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Get insights from Community-Led Founder Mike Rizzo (founder of MarketingOps), on how to start and grow a successful community that drives meaningful growth to your business.
Tip 1: Determine the intent of the community way before you build it.
Companies make 2 big mistakes when it comes to building communities:
Mike believes every company should look at the SPACES framework created by CMX, to help determine the intent of the community they want to build:
Want to reduce support costs in your company? You might focus on building a support community. Want to gain new customers? You might start an acquisition community.
The way you determine success will differ depending on the type of community you want to start. Starting with the end in mind is crucial. It will dictate how you build the community, where you host it, what you measure success by, etc.
Tip 2: Survey customers to help you build something they actually want
Mike’s built multiple successful communities and likens it to building products. You often start with a hypothesis of what your audience needs, validate those needs, then build solutions for those needs. He feels that building a community works the same way.
You shouldn’t start one without talking to prospective customers, specifically about what they think would make a good community, as it relates to your company. For example, in a past role Mike hosted hour-long conversations with 30~ people framed around a single question: “what is a valuable approach we could take to build a community that serves you?”
Tip 3: If your community is successful, everyone will want a piece of it.
As your community grows, you may find multiple teams want to use it to help them serve their goals. Sales may want to draw insights from it. Product may want to get product ideas. Customer support might want customer education ideas.
That’s why it’s critical that you build it with a specific intention, so it doesn’t become hijacked, and so members don’t feel used.
Tip 4: Don’t do it without a long-term commitment.
Plan on investing 1-3 years of time, resources, and a dedicated role to manage and grow the community. It’s not going to happen overnight, so if you’re not prepared to make that commitment, it might not be right for you.
Tip 5: Start small, and focus on delighting small batches of members before you open it to the public.
Mike recommends starting by aiming at 50 to 150 members to start. You should focus on delivering the most value, and the best experience possible. After some time, you can invite a second batch (another 50-100 members), and help them have the same experience. Starting small and rolling it out slowly will offer exclusivity, and help the founding members see that you’re really committed to their growth. It also provides you with early feedback to improve the community and make it better for when you open it up to the public.
Tip 6: Understand that engagement might be low.
Often only 1-2% of communities are active, avid users. That doesn’t mean the rest aren’t getting value. They might be browsing topics or dropping in to ask questions.
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