What Building a Valuable Product Community Can Do For Your Business
A loyal, engaged community is a powerful tool, and community building has become an effective strategy for digital product companies to grow their user base and increase product adoption. But with that power comes responsibility: You get out of a community what you put into it. Valuable communities form when there is value to be derived.
So what does that mean if you want to form a community?
It means that you need to actually provide people with something they’re lacking. Consumers are good at seeing through thinly-veiled sales tactics. But, when done right, building a community can provide value across many different aspects of your business. In the community series of the Better Product Podcast we’re exploring the ways that industry-leading companies have formed communities, and what that community has done for their business.
How to Form a Community
Before we jump into what a community can do for you, let’s first talk about what you can do for the community. Here are some simple tips to help you build a community that provides value to its members.
Start a Conversation. Strong, engaged communities require authentic two-way communication. By starting a conversation with your community members and facilitating a conversation among them, you build a relationship with them beyond your logo; your interactions aren’t sales-driven.
Answer Real Questions. Instead of pushing the information you think users want to know, try giving them a place to ask the questions they need answered. And if your product really does solve their problems, it will be clear to them simply by association that you are the expert, and you can solve their problems.
Create Meaningful Connections. While you can derive a lot of your own value from facilitating a community, you also have the opportunity to provide a lot of value by connecting others within the industry who don’t live and breathe the work like you do.
What a Community Can Do For Your Business
Build Brand Loyalty
By facilitating a valuable community experience where customers and users are able to start conversations, get questions answered, and make meaningful connections, you will by association build brand loyalty. You know your users’ struggles, and by spending time to make your users feel heard you can establish yourself as the go-to resource.
Dave Gerhardt, vice president of marketing at Drift, knows what it takes to build a community, considering he did so before Drift even had a product. According to Dave, “People don’t want to hear from a logo. We all want to hear from real people because buyers today are more skeptical than ever, so nobody wants to be sold to, nobody wants to be marketed to. And so the way you can cut through that is to be real.”
Help you Build a Valuable Product
The best way to build a valuable product is to know in detail exactly what your target customers’ needs are, and let that guide your product roadmap. And what better way to know what customers need than to hear it straight from them?
Sara Mauskopf, co-founder and CEO of Winnie, saw this on the parent communities she built into her site. While her product provided a variety of information for new parents, it was through her community that she was able to learn what questions these new parents really want answered. As she explains, “We found that child care was the big thing that was changing people’s lives. We had a lot of people telling us, we had feedback from users, and we could see what people were actually searching for on Winnie. A lot of things were pointing at child care being the real pain point that we were solving.” Through Winnie’s community, Sara was able to get firsthand information that guided her product improvements and roadmap to address specific needs.
Foster Word-of-Mouth Growth
Marketing budgets seem to get bigger by the day as companies seek new ways to cut through the noise. But even so, word-of-mouth is still king: It’s cheap, trustworthy, and tough to undercut. Every marketer wants more word-of-mouth growth, but how do you foster that? A valuable community can help you get there, if you do it right.
InVision spent years building a community to help designers connect with others to make them better at their work. And while the intention of their DesignBetter.Co community is never to push InVision’s product, just by getting designers in the same place they’ve been able to develop a network of product advocates that can act as an extension of their marketing and customer success teams, simply by being expert users.
As Adam Fry-Pierce, director of design community, explains, “The more that we can help mature the entire field through community investment, we’re going to benefit in a number of different ways. We’re going to create better relationships between people who use our products and also people that don’t. But ultimately, at the end of the day, if we do our jobs right and deliver value first to the community, we are by consequence going to put ourselves in a better, stronger position not only for us to win but for everybody in the field to win.” By first providing users with a valuable product (which is a critical first step) and following that product with a valuable community that provides value to members, InVision has been able to elevate the entire design community and, with it, the word-of-mouth marketing of their product.
Building a community around your product can have significant business value, but with that value comes responsibility. Your community will only be as valuable as the value you deliver, so the crucial first step is to ensure that both your product AND the community you’re looking to build around it solve problems, answer questions, and address an unfilled need.
Drift, Winnie, and InVision are three examples of product companies that have put this into practice, and because of it they have a loyal, engaged community of product advocates, but this did not happen overnight. But if you can invest the time and resources in forming a valuable community, you can expect to build brand loyalty, inform your product roadmap, and foster strong word-of-mouth growth.