Businesses have been building communities for a long time, but community was historically seen as a cost center. At most, community was seen as a customer support channel or a marketing channel.Today, we’ve witnessed the renaissance of the community discipline. Community has come to be seen and utilized as so much more than simply support forums or social media followings. While both of these applications remain important and needed, they are just a couple pieces of the total business value that is driven by community.Measuring and proving the business value of community continues to be a challenge among community teams. According to our 2022 Community Industry Report, one of the biggest frustrations for community professionals is proving the value of community. Only 10% of companies who participated in the research say that they can financially quantify the value of their community – down from 12% in 2021.However, for a community to become truly established as a part of a business, measuring and proving value is key. So, how do you quantify the business value of your community?Using the SPACES model and the Three Level Strategy Framework, we collected case studies from six organizations that are building communities surrounding their brand. Each organization has a different business goal, and is driving that goal with different community programming.
"A global community of Esri users where you can find solutions, share ideas, and collaborate to solve problems with GIS"Business goals: Support and Product
Chris Catania, Head of Community at Esri2022 Community Industry Awards Winner
The Esri Community mission statement and member value is to help Esri customers, "find solutions, share ideas and collaborate." This mission statement drives everything we do when developing strategy, planning roadmaps, delivering business value and growing the community.The main success metrics we track are cost impact and support cost savings, retention and renewals, and new product ideas from the community.
We have a lot of programming that we've added over the last six years some of which includes:
We track both community health (registrations, monthly active users, # of accepted solutions, views of accepted solutions, time to first reply, number of questions unreplied to, etc.) and web analytics (unique visits, page views). We use community metrics to measure business impact. We use a model to measure and report on Support Cost reduction and ROI.We report and share metrics to leadership and stakeholders on a quarterly and yearly basis.
Have clear community goals that are strategically mapped back to and directly support business goals. This is where the SPACES model comes in handy!Make it a goal to be able to clearly articulate how the community supports the business and helps drive company objectives with a due focus on both the cost reduction and revenue generation sides.Don't be afraid to start small and focus on one or a few key areas to develop quick wins. Show success then ask for more resources to grow. Start where you can show the greatest impact with the least amount of barriers to success. If using community to reduce support costs is what will help your business then get good at that first, then pay close attention for the right time to focus on measuring how the community can drive customer retention and renewals. You can’t do it all at once, so pick a key area of impact first then grow the business value from there.Work closely with and through internal champions to grow buy-in and leverage those relationships to increase wider understanding of community impact and buy-in across the organization.Listen to your members, include them in our strategy development and use what they say to create a better community experience.Measure and report out to stakeholders regularly (quarterly and yearly). In your reporting be sure to use a mix of the right metrics and storytelling. Stakeholders will react to numbers and stories so use both qualitative and quantitative metrics. And always be ready to share short meaningful, memorable stories to illustrate the impact and value of the community.
The Blue Prism Community is an online platform where you can connect with other Blue Prism users to share best practices, knowledge and insights around Blue Prism and RPA.Business goals: Product mainly, with Support and Engagement as secondary goals
Left: Charlotte Kennett, Customer Marketing & Community DirectorRight: Melanie Giuliani, Online Community Manager & Strategist2022 Community Industry Awards Winner
When the business case to build a community was built in 2018, our key objectives were to:
Now, three years later and a proven success, our focus has crystallized more towards a product community (P), with added fringe benefits around support (S) and engagement (E).
The metrics that we rely on most heavily to show ROI are Support Deflection and NPS.Support deflection has a direct influence on our bottom line through time saved for our Support team, and a decreasing number of support tickets opened by our customers who are now able to self-serve. NPS is also recognized across the industry as a number that has a direct impact on revenue, as Research by the London School of Economics shows that revenue grows by 1%, at every 7% rise of a brand's NPS.Some other numbers that have a less direct impact on revenue & bottom, line but still contribute in smaller ways, are % of questions answered, visit success rate, & helpfulness score - all 3 of which feed into the self-serve aspect of support deflection, and CES, NetEasy, & CSAT scores - which influence our overall brand sentiment, and could result in a greater chance of upgrades, renewals, and more digital workers licensed from existing customers.
The Community has helped to impact some key areas of the business including business-wide metrics such as NPS, Customer Engagement Score, Customer Satisfaction Rating, and more.In each of these areas, the community is the top performing digital platform within the business, including an NPS an average of 7.5 points higher than the company-wide score, a NetEasy score of 34 (nearly 20 points higher than any other site), and the highest CES and CSAT scores of any Blue Prism domain.We were also rated the #1 feature that increased digital capabilities by 70% of survey respondents in a recent CSAT survey.Furthermore, the Community has had a lasting impact on how our customers and partners engage with Blue Prism. We’ve seen a change to the internal roadmap mapping process to include customer feedback and insights collected from our programs, and in some instances, entire releases have been inspired by customer feedback collected on the Community. As mentioned above Blue Prism Interact, a core product in the Blue Prism product suite, has seen 85% of its new features come from community ideas. We’ve also seen Early Access and Beta testing moving to the Community as a method of engaging users where they live, and have had core community members participate in those programs.We’ve also seen a shift in the culture at Blue Prism to make more content publicly accessible due to feedback from the Community. Since our launch in 2019, there’s been a culture change to make Blue Prism domains accessible to all members of the Community. And since then, we’ve seen a release of a public roadmap, an opening up of the Support & documentation sites to include access for all users, and a greater willingness to connect directly with customers on the Community from the overall business.
Charlotte:Make sure the “WHY Community” is spelled out in a tangible way and aligns to the business’ strategic pillars and initiatives.You want not only your execs, but also the wider business to buy into the vision and value of the community. To do that: speak their language. Understand what matters to them, and translate how Community brings value to them. For example, the conversations we have with our Product leadership are very different than for our Support leadership.Don’t go in trying to do everything at once. It can be tempting to think that your community will solve all the problems in the world. You’re running a marathon, building a community takes time, effort, and sometimes tears. But the rewards make it all worthwhile.Find your Champions, work with them, and make Community part of their objectives.Pivoting your business objectives is okay, but don’t lose sight of community health: community health is the foundation of any community’s success. In short: if your community is not nurtured, engaged and vibrant, it doesn’t matter what business objectives your community has: it’s just never going to work.Melanie:One thing that is often overlooked is the ‘sense of community’ that’s cultivated by a robust online community site with a solid content and engagement strategy. It can be easy to get caught up in the individual metrics and program insights, but at the end of the day, the goal of a community is to allow users to feel like they’re:a) a part of something bigger than themselvesandb) being heardThose two points are incredibly important in the overall success and health of a community platform. The sense of being heard can help to improve overall brand sentiment and make users feel good about their investment (of both time and money) with your company, and a sense of community will allow users to go forth on their product journey with confidence, knowing they have a community of users to back them up if they need help.While programs and individual metrics are incredibly important in the overall success of a B2B community, don’t forget to have a little fun and make the users feel included – this will go a long way.
Connect and learn Product Excellence with a global communityBusiness goals: Acquisition mainly, with Engagement, Success, and Product as secondary goals.
Scott Baldwin, Product leader and community builder2022 Community Industry Awards Nominee
Acquisition mainly, with Engagement, Success, and Product as secondary goals.
For acquisition, we have extensive efforts to grow our community via organic, paid, and email efforts to drive ongoing engagement in the community. Our events programming and conferences also drive growth.For Engagement, we have regular 1:1 connections between members, featured maker profiles, roundtables, and programs to help with engagement both externally and internally with our departments and teams. We’re constantly listening and building out new programs based on feedback from our community.For Success, we interact regularly with customers on product questions, have an integrated and federated help center, and recently launched an academy to help build skills with Productboard.For Product, we engage members that share product feedback across all channels, and funnel this to Productboard where it’s actionable by our product team. We also run private betas and involve customers regularly in early exploration of both the problem and solution space. This has always been a great channel for us to learn and understand customer needs. We also share ongoing product updates and feature regular events with our product team members.
The two main metrics we look at are growth (are we acquiring people and growing the community) and engagement (are they using it).For acquisition, we look at the raw number and the breakdown across segments. Another helpful signal of our reach is the number of Community Generated Leads. This is a helpful indicator of the marketing value of our community and whether we are attracting people we know and/or have as customers, or those new to us overall that might be experiencing a first touch with our brand. Those new can enter our qualifying process to become MQLs, those not are yet another signal of relationship depth.For engagement, we dive into these at various levels — from the raw numbers to the %MAU across different groups. We also have a North Star metric we use to monitor the overall pulse and cohort analysis so we can evaluate our retention and drop-off. For events we look at signups, % attending, and CSAT and all feedback from the events.Outside those two main metrics, we also pay attention to success and product metrics:
We’ve had a community since 2017, but the type and goals of the community have evolved over time from one more focussed on Product to one more focussed on Acquisition. Broadly, we’ve seen over 1900% growth in our community over the past 8 months. And even with that growth our engagement has remained relatively steady in the double digits.
Have the discussion on your community’s focus. It helps immensely in charting a direction for and what your community will be about and where you’ll play or not.Be patient. Things take time. Communities don’t get built overnight. There’s almost as many wins as misses.Get your data and reporting organized early. Knowing what’s happening with your community and being able to tell the story both qualitatively and quantitatively are important. For us, getting to the numbers we needed required a lot of work and took some time, but it’s been very valuable.
The greatest, most sustainable happiness comes from making others happy. It is our privilege to deliver you happiness every single day.Business goals: Success, with Content and Support as secondary goals
Alexis Brown, Senior Manager, Global Community2022 Community Industry Awards Finalist
Delivering happiness to customers. In 2020 when the global pandemic hit, Zoom’s usage increased from 10 million to 300 million daily meeting participants in 243 countries. During this time, not only did our user base grow astronomically, our product offerings expanded to accommodate our users.As Zoom’s usage exponentially increased, customer support became one of the primary areas of focus to ensure customers were receiving helpful and timely support. In the midst of the global pandemic, we listened to our customers who desired a 24/7 accessible online forum to ask questions, seek helpful solutions, and collaborate with fellow Zoom users around the world. We created a Community Team in March 2021, and tasked them with creating this online forum. In response, within a quick 5 months, the Zoom Community team strategized, built, and deployed the Zoom Community to all global users in August of 2021.Throughout this first year of the launch of the Zoom Community, our primary focus and business goal has been to deliver happiness to our customers through an online platform where collaboration, support, and human connection can be found.
We wanted to build a community that focused on the customer experience - an online site that was intuitive with user friendly navigation, simplicity of structure to find product categories, findability of areas of interest, and consistency with how we advertise our products on our sister marketing and support sites.
Zoom’s success is focused on delivering a happy experience to our customers and providing them with a platform to collaborate and share helpful solutions. Therefore, we focus on a combination of the following primary metrics:
While we are proud of the rapid growing numbers associated with the Zoom Community, it is equally important that the qualitative stories are also shared. The Zoom Community has provided our users with a space to share connectedness in their use of Zoom. Teachers, students, healthcare professionals, small business owners, and many more all come together on the Zoom Community to share use cases, collaborate on ideas, and exchange answers.
Throughout its short but impactful lifespan, the community has had over 130K registered users, 8.6M page views, 4.3M visits, and 3.9M unique visitors. Content contributions include over 45K posts and over 2K accepted solutions.
If you are in a similar situation in preparing to launch a brand new community, I would say the two pieces of advice would be:Strategize and prioritize.
Udacity Support Community is a community of learners, Udacity experts, and support staff ready to answer your Udacity questions.Business goals: Support mainly, with Content as secondary
Left: Christopher Stallone, Community ManagerRight: Shivani Bhatt, Community Manager
The core goal of Udacity Support Community is to provide a peer-led many-to-many support model. A place where community members get answers, follow discussions, and exchange ideas.The business value of the support community is customer self-service and reducing support ticket volumes. Since the inception of the support community overall consumer tickets have dropped by over 35% year over year. This has directly saved the organization considerable costs in our overall support offerings.
We have a variety of community programming and sync this content with our social support team. Programming includes:
Since launching in 2021, we’ve seen over 2700 individual questions posted, with 95% successfully answered. Making asking a question a great way to get help from one of the many experts in the community.Speed is essential to our students. They are spending considerable time and resources to accelerate their professional lives. This means we want to get them back and focused on their learning as quickly as possible. The community continues to have amazing results with 96% of all tickets solved in 24 hours and 97% of all tickets being one-touch.Speed is nothing without making sure we delight our students at every available opportunity. Community exceeds this with a 90% CSAT.
We have seen some truly impressive success metrics since the launch of our support community 1 year ago that truly complement Udacity’s support offerings.Student satisfaction CSAT has increased by 3% and CES by 4% since the launch of the support community.Tickets solved in 24 hours improved dramatically since the launch of the community. Rising a staggering 26%. One-touch tickets also improved by over 12%.Community managers are also able to solve more queries within the community, reducing the need for learners to bounce around from support member to support member. Escalations to frontline support teams were 80%+ at the initial launch last year. One year later, we have seen that number drastically drop by almost 50% overall.
Don't try and do everything with your community. Select up to two goals from the SPACES model and focus on those for your community. Trying to do too much will result in failure.Additionally, listen to your community. They will tell you what works and what doesn't. Most importantly, engage, if you are not active in your community, users will go somewhere else, and there you will have no voice.
Advancing the community industry and helping professional community builders thrive.Business goal: Acquisition and Engagement
Beth McIntyre, Director of Community
Acquisition and Engagement.
We have a number of Community Programs that drive both goals, A and E. The programs that have the biggest effect on our Acquisition goal are:
To prove our goal of Acquisition, our number one metric that proves the business value of our community is MQLs - how many community-sourced leads do we drive. We also track sales influenced leads - tracking the journey folks take through the sales cycle, and how CMX programming directly impacts that cycle and the conversations our sales team is having.To prove our goal of Engagement, we track many metrics for each program:
We started tracking MQLs in Q1 of 2021. Before that, we were unable to truly prove the business value of our community programs. We’ve seen awesome growth since implementing tracking and reporting on this metric, namely an 18% increase in MQLs sourced from Q1 2021, to Q1 2022.For engagement and growth, since Q1 2021, we’ve seen a 68% increase in membership in our Slack Community, and a 62% increase in engagement. Since Q1 2021, we’ve seen an 11% increase in membership in our Facebook Community, and an 87% increase in engagementFor the CMX Connect Community-Led Events Program, we’ve seen awesome sustainable growth in the number of events year over year. Seeing a 43% increase in the number of events, and a 21% increase in the number of attendees. We also saw a 17% increase in our attendee NPS from 64% in 2020 to 75% in 2021
It is possible to run an acquisition community and still keep the members in mind, it just needs to be talked about! At CMX we are very transparent about the purpose of the community, and I don’t think any member would be surprised to hear about the business goals of our programming.There is a balance that needs to be found between driving business value and driving member value, and in an acquisition community, this balance needs to be at the forefront of every decision you make, every program you implement, and every change you introduce into the community. Your members should know that the purpose of the community is to drive sales, but the community shouldn’t feel like a place where members are being sold to.This balance needs to be talked about internally as well, and expectations need to be set with your executive teams – they need to know that the member’s experience, and driving member value is just as much a priority for you and your team as driving business impact for the bottom line. Without the authentic member value, there will be no business value.
A community for your brand can be a strong competitive advantage, with the potential to grow brand awareness, increase customer acquisition, and drive pipeline growth.The power of community is undeniable. However, building a community can be challenging. It takes a lot of time, energy, and resources to create a safe space where people can build meaningful relationships.That's why we created The CMX Guide to Building a Community.Using our most popular frameworks, we are going to help you build a strategy and launch your own sustainable brand community from scratch. We’ll start with defining member value and then dive into the business, community, and tactical strategies you can use to build a thriving community.