The community-led growth model

The self fulfilling prophecy of not investing in community

When organizations fail to invest time and resources into community, it creates an environment in which community isn't fully understood. When community isn't fully understood, it's difficult to measure it. Without measurement, it's impossible to grasp the impact that community can have on the organization. And then right back to the start, where organizations don't make the necessary investment because they can't see the impact of community.

And thus we're left with a self-fulfilling prophecy for not investing in community. For many companies, a thriving community can and will be their single greatest asset, but it takes time to nurture and grow a community to the point of being able to understand this in pure numbers.

For those of you looking to convince your CEOs, CMOs, and other executive leadership to invest in community, it is incredibly helpful to present this as a cycle that must be broken before the benefits can come.

Break the cycle; invest in community. Or your competitors will, and you won't realize your mistake until it's too late.

What is community?

The broadness of community is both a blessing and a curse. As a term and concept it can often be hard to explain. Ask 10 different people to define community from the perspective of their company, and you'll likely get 10 different answers. The Community-Led Model defines four primary 'layers' of community at a company.

Internal Community

Culture, relationships, and the overall strength of the bonds between team members are vital to building a successful company. What better way to achieve this than to apply the principles of community management to internal teams?

The explosion of remote work globally is driving an even greater need for this role. Remote teams need to be vastly more intentional about fostering relationships, culture, and trust, and there's no better way to do that than to treat teams as internal communities.

Member Community

This is what is traditionally considered 'community' at companies and what is most often the responsibility of a community manager or community team. Typically made up of customers, though this is changing as more and more companies adopt communities of interest rather than communities of support. The Community Club is a great example of this shift!

Audience Community

The lines between audience and customer community are constantly being blurred. Audience community tends to be something that marketing is more involved in, and is made up of the entire 'network of engagement' around an organization. This might include things like social media, webinars, newsletters, and other programs that can be community-led, while reaching both customers and potential-customers alike.

Market Community

The broader market in which a company exists, made up of other communities as well as every person in their target market. While this may not be a 'community' that is directly owned and operated by a company, it's still important for a company to be aware of the sentiment, trends, and ongoing happenings within the broader market.

The Community-led Growth Model

The Community Flywheel

Community doesn't operate in a silo, it has tangible benefits and impacts on all teams within your organization. When you invest in community, you invest in all of your teams.

Community & Product

Build with your community, not for it. Product managers and product teams should always have a customer-centric approach to building product, and your community is made up of your best customers.

Community & Support

Some of the earliest communities centered around businesses were primarily focused on support, and continue to play a key role alongside support teams of today. You can rely on your community members to help educate customers, be leading examples for best practices, and reduce the volume of low-level support requests your team handles.

Community & Marketing

Community and marketing should work in tandem to ensure a cohesive message is being shared across all channels where you speak to existing community members, customers, and prospects. With a deep understanding of each team's goals, you can seamlessly create content that speaks to your ideal customer, be thought leaders, and elevate and champion community members to foster loyalty.

Community & Sales

Community members value trust in a community space, and typically have been burned once or twice by sales teams trying to use communities as just another selling channel. If sales and community teams work together they can create boundaries that maintain that trust between members and the company. By providing value to your members through curated content and relevant engagement initiatives, members will naturally be more trusting of your company and can become community-qualified leads.

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