So far we’ve looked at the first six of seven elements that make up a self-service customer success model that can work for businesses of all sizes. When it’s done well, this model deepens your customer’s engagement while empowering your Customer Service Managers (CSMs) to provide much greater value to all of their accounts.
Each of the seven components is important, and while you may not need all of them, you will need to choose the ones that suit your users and that serve as many learning styles as possible. When you do this well, you drive deep adoption of your solution. Your customers become engaged and they stay in the flow. You create a buzz around your product. All of this can happen here in the seventh element, Epic Community.
How To Build An Epic Community
Prospects and customers like to connect with each other and to learn from each other. They want to share their challenges and their best practices, often by role and industry. So, if users can connect with each other, they’ll learn from each other. They often value this as much or even more than their connection with their CSM or your company. Your community can enable all of this.
To orchestrate it, you need to define the main goals your community will achieve. Sometimes communities are only for support and Q/A, which is fine. Other times, communities are about driving engagement, converting your prospects to customers, getting product feedback and branding. As with anything, clear goals and metrics enable success.
To help you plan out your community and think it through, we’ll look at eight steps.
Step 1: Hire Your Community Manager
Your Community Manager (CM) has a big and important job. They’re going to oversee your community, a part of your company that can have a massive impact on your success. This person will lay out clear goals to attain and clear metrics to hit.
Your goals will be unique to your business. When it comes to metrics that measure progress, there are a great many. Here are just a few examples:
- Engagement – The number of questions posted and answered
- Retention – Total number of users and returning users
- Duration – Average time spent in help center
- Frequency – Most viewed help articles and videos
- Participation – Number of Product Suggestion posts and upvotes
Step 2: Select Your Community Platform
Experienced Community Managers will select the appropriate solution that supports your goals and your vision for your community. They will make sure that the platform you use will scale with the variety of uses you plan to build out and support later. And obviously, they will need to be able to implement it and to train others hows to use it.
Step 3: Add Your Knowledgebase and Self-service Content
In the second article of this series, we went into some detail about how important the Knowledgebase is to your Customer Success Model. It can stand alone, and many do, but if you decide to build a Community, your Knowledgebase belongs inside of it. Every time your user wants to find a self-service resource, you want them to discover everything else in your community.
In the elements Awesome Webinars and Killer Knowledge Base & Videos we created a great deal of self-service, self-help content. This content serves as the bedrock foundation of the content in your community.
You can leverage all of your onboarding and customer journey content in the Community. When they go there to consume this content, you want them to realize that there are many other good reasons to be there. That way, they keep coming back.
To accomplish this, you need a great deal of fresh content on your product and about your category. You want this content to be relevant, fun, engaging and interesting. That’s why your CM’s metrics are all about engagement with it.
Step 4: Train Your Company
One of the most significant things your CM does is orchestrate any interaction between company team members and users in your community.
Everyone—engineers, customer support, CSMs, even the CEO—who plans to participate in the community needs to be trained so their interactions are on-point and successful.
First, they need to know why they are being asked to participate in the first place. They need to understand the goals and purpose of your community, and they need to see how their presence helps you achieve them.
Then, they need to know the basics about how to participate: how to use the community platform and what the community’s guidelines and policies are.
And finally, they need to be taught how to participate well within their role in the community and they need to practice how to respond to customers and how to help them.
Step 5: Recruit Heroes
Now that your staff is ready, it’s time to invite your power users in! Your Heroes will be recruited from your power users, and you need to identify them, contact them and ask them to join your Community before any other customers arrive.
You need to create a program – a Heroes program – for those interested. Ask them to spend five to ten hours a month answering questions in the community. In return, give them swag, give them a free month, highlight them in a case study and/or invite them to invitation-only product previews.
Heroes become your extended support team, which is why you need to have them involved before you open the doors for everyone else. They need training similar to what you did for your internal staff. Your heroes not only need to be trained on how to answer questions, they also need to be encouraged to be thought leaders who drive engagement.
Heroes can be super impactful in your community. They need to be identified as Heroes, so others can find them and learn to trust them. The easiest way to do this is with “badges” that identify them as such in your community.
Step 6: Create and Curate Content
Product content is great, but you need much more than that to create an Epic Community. You’ll want to share success stories about your customers, and/or share your own in-house experience using your own application.
Create an Ask An Insider series and invite interesting guests, like the CEO of your company, Heroes, or C-suite executives from customers. What your guests bring to your audience is hands-on, real-world, real-time knowledge. Let them share their wisdom because that’s the real benefit you’re providing to your customer.
In your Ask An Expert series, you can be product-focused. These are great for when you launch a new feature or see a “sticky” or complicated feature that is not being used by a lot of users. These sessions are deep dives into your solution – they should include Q&A sessions run by a Customer Success or Support person.
Step 7: Build Your Vote-Up Area
This is key for your product team. You harness the voice of the customer and use it for your product roadmap. Feature requests are posted for all to see, and users upvote the ones they want.
This is a great place for your product managers and engineers to see what customers are asking for—and why. Ultimately, it will positively influence your product roadmap by ensuring that your product meets your customer’s needs and helps you retain them.
Step 8: Everyone Loves a Contest
Contests bring people into your community often, first to participate, then to see progress, then to vote for the winner and finally to see if they won. They’re fun, and people love them. Your Community Manager will come up with great ideas, but you can start with ones like:
- “Here’s How To Get the Most Out of [your solution].”
- “[Your solution] Gives Me Time to…” (For this, you expect answers to be entertaining, like, “spend time with my family” or “go to Paris.”)
You want people to want to get into the competition and win prizes. Swag is always great—it’s amazing how much people love t-shirts, case study and mugs (or kiva.org cards).
Epic Community for Everyone
All of your customers, from enterprise to SMB, will participate in a great community. They’ll learn from it, and they’ll become better users of your solution.
An Epic Community can drive deep engagement, and because of that, it’s an extremely powerful part of your Customer Success Model. It frees your CSMs to focus on the high-value conversations that make your customers even more successful.
And of course, the more successful your customers are, the more successful you will be, too.
Author’s Note: I’d like to give a shout out to Brenda Law, who taught me much of what I know about creating community and who is the best Community Manager ever.