We begin this post with a community tale from years ago.
A team I was working from Bangalore, India, wanted to show their appreciation to a superuser named Gautam. They asked how they could “surprise and delight” Gautam. On our brand community, Gautam was practically all of the product support on their forums. They were a customer helping other customers on an entirely different level.
How could they possibly say thanks? Should it be a t-shirt or some product sample? No!
What the Bangalore team came up with instead was the experience of a lifetime. In working with teams, my thought process on community reward is always dreaming big with small wins.
The Bangalore team came up with the idea to have Gautam be a judge on their annual design competition where various teams worked on projects they hoped would win the ultimate prize.
And then it got a whole lot better!
What Gautam didn’t initially know was that the former President of India in Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam would be presiding over the final judging competition. So not only did Gautam get to participate as an overall judge, but they got the photo opportunity and meet and great of a lifetime by getting a chance to meet Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam (Missile Man).
Afterward, Gautam shared that photo on social media and quickly had family, friends, and coworkers immediately congratulating him. Customer value through a community can be priceless.
So when building a community, don’t forget about customer value but don’t entirely focus on that value, only being an arms race of who can give away the most gift cards or t-shirts. By focusing on the value that we could give to Gautam as a customer and community member, we were able to make a difference.
Dream big with small wins!
When starting out building a brand community, the business plan has to start with:
- What is our community story?
- Why are we building this community?
- How will this help our customers?
While I will talk about items 1 & 2 in future posts in this series, let’s now focus on number 3.
Starting with Customer Value
A brand community can help out many types of companies ranging from reducing support cost per user to helping them better understand customer pain points and needs.
The entire focus of any business plan for a new community, however, must focus on the value it will provide customers.
- Why should customers care about your community?
- How will your community help them?
- What value will you be giving customers?
- What’s currently missing in the company offerings that you can address with a community?
- How will your community create a rich experience they can’t get from your competition?
- Which audiences do you hope to attract and acquire with your community?
Don’t stop there! Create your own unique list of the value your brand community will bring to your customers. Go through the exercise of knowing the “why” and “how” to each of these.
A community starts with real human beings wanting to connect. The ties and networks that communities build between individuals, each other, and companies can be profound when done right.
When a community is built without the customer in mind, it’s doomed to fail.
As I showed in the story of Gautam, customer value in community building extends well beyond swag into dreaming big with small wins.