A recent benchmarking report from Demand Metric on Customer Lifecycle Marketing illustrates the impact of aligning marketing efforts around a customer journey model. The report also illustrates a number of blindspots that are derailing Customer Lifecycle Marketing efforts.
The missing ingredient? Community Management.
First, highlights from the report (direct quote):
The analysis of this study’s data provides these key findings:
- The study found that less than 20% of organizations are currently marketing across the entire customer lifecycle.
- Participants spend twice as much of their marketing budgets on acquiring new customers as on retaining existing ones. (Yet most of their revenue comes from existing customers!)
- Almost 90% of the study participants indicate that marketing currently owns the understanding and management of the customer lifecycle.
- Of the lifecycle stages – Awareness, Consideration, Purchase, Retention and Advocacy – Awareness enjoys the greatest clarity of ownership, with marketing owning the stage 88% of the time. Retention is most fragmented, with few organizations defining clear ownership of this stage.
- The Awareness and Consideration stages enjoy “adequate” or “ample” levels of investment for over 70% of study participants. Retention and Advocacy both fall at the “minimal” to “none” level of funding for 55% of study participants.
- The greatest benefit to executing a customer lifecycle marketing strategy is greater customer engagement.
- The greatest challenge to marketing across the customer lifecycle is understanding customer content needs.
- 72% of strategy adherents are experiencing a revenue lift from customer lifecycle marketing.
- Over three-fourths of participants plan to increase their commitment to and investment in customer lifecycle marketing.
Clearly Customer Lifecycle Marketing is incredibly valuable when all stages of the lifecycle are addressed. So what is the problem? Based on my direct experience and years of studying the intersection of marketing and online community, I would assert that building meaningful relationships at scale is still an undeveloped function in the majority of most organizations. Further, as the data from the report shows, the “ownership” for customer retention is scattered among many departments. Add to the mix the eternal debate about “who owns social / community” and things get even more messy.
So what is a modern marketing organization to do? Consider three things:
- Community Drives Customer Lifecycle
A modern definition of online communities expands the location of “community” to be any on or offline touchpoint where customers can meet and form relationships. A modern definition also expands the concept of community management to include any form of relationship building and nurturing. Modern online communities produce a range of value for customers and businesses. Peer to peer support is the classic example, yet modern approaches include a range of deep collaboration on new product development to expansive crowdfunding campaigns – and everything in between. Community can play a valuable role in every stage of the customer lifecycle, and can often be the connective tissue to hold the entire experience together.
- Treat Engagement & Retention as a Community Management Opportunity
The practice of building and nurturing customer relationships is a job modern community managers understand very well. In particular, Community Managers can be very effective as resources in Customer Nurture campaigns during the consideration phase. I had my community management team at Autodesk reboot a nurture campaign that supported a 30 day product trial, and the results were amazing.
Further, Customer Advocacy programs grew (at least partially) out of Community Advocate / MVP programs. It is a relatively straightforward process to scale current Advocacy programs to include different customer types. There is also a massive opportunity to harmonize Influencer programs (which typically look outside of existing communities) with Advocacy programs. These are essentially two sides of the same coin – Advocates have typically been nurtured through a hosted community and Influencers have established their own communities and networks. A modern Community Manager treats these contexts as part of the larger community ecosystem.
Treating engagement and retention as a community management opportunity allows the staff with the skills to manage relationships at scale do what they do best. This is a huge missed opportunity in marketing.
- Get Real About Digital Transformation & Social Business
A modern approach to online community takes into account the entire digital ecosystem, not just single online touchpoints. A modern approach to community management nurtures engagement across the digital ecosystem. So if Community Managers know how to address the key gaps illustrated in the Demand Metric report, what’s the problem? Why isn’t it happening? There are many answers, but one factor that has had a huge negative impact is the trend of Digital Transformation initiatives absorbing (or in some cases, abandoning) Social Business efforts. I expand on (and in some ways, rant about) this in my 2015 recap post. Most Digital Transformation initiatives have focused on technology at the cost of customer engagement. Many Social Leadership teams and organizations have been disbanded or fractured and embedded to the point of being ineffective. Customer Experience initiatives often focus on superficial and in the moment customer engagements at the cost of growing the life long relationship.Bottom Line: We need a new Leadership model that addresses not only the Company : Customer relationship but also the complex network of Customer : Customers : Company relationships.
Netting it out:
- To create successful Customer Lifecycle Marketing initiatives, modern marketers must include online community and community managers.
- Community Managers can help address the current engagement and retention gaps in Customer Lifecycle Marketing programs.
- Organizations need to renew focus and investment in Online Community Leadership to drive growth via Customer Lifecycle Marketing
I am working with a portfolio of clients on evolving their community and marketing programs (lifecycle, influencer & advocacy, community management). I am also kicking off the year by offering a complimentary consultation session (for a limited time & very limited slots). If you would like to get feedback and guidance on your 2016 plans, feel free to register for a consultation here.
I got my start building online communities in 1999 with the launch of TechRepublic.com. We grew from a cold start of 0 to 2 Million members in less than 2 years before being acquired by Gartner – it was an insane ride.
I was first asked the question of (more or less) “What makes a thriving community” during the first few months of our growth, and frankly, I didn’t have a good answer at the time. I was primarily focused on designing the site, rolling out new features (like one of the first peer networks in the space), and tweaking architecture. One night when we were working on what was essentially a Social Q&A feature, I checked into our forums to look for inspiration and ideas around how people typically ask technical questions. What I stumbled into was an exchange in the forums about configuring Windows NT for a very specific enterprise environment. Probably 100 in the entire world were capable of having a meaningful conversation about this topic, and we had attracted 10 of this. For TechRepublic at that time, a thriving community meant attracting the most knowledgeable IT Pros in the world, and incentivizing them to share and participate.
I’ve asked myself the “what makes a thriving community” a lot over the years, especially when my practice takes me into a new domain. What worked at TechRepublic in ’99 and Autodesk in 2001 wasn’t necessarily the same criteria for the large NPO communities and collaboration spaces we did at Forum One, or even the range of communities we built and nurtured at Dell.
I was asked to think about the question again last week, and I put together the following list. Given where brands generally are with their social and community efforts, I feel like this is a good and succinct list – by no means comprehensive – but directionally correct.
Attributes of Thriving Communities
|Attribute||What it looks like to host:||What it looks like to member:|
|Shared Value||Business value in the form of answers, content, connection, expertise, & advocacy.||Value in the form of answers, content, connection, expertise & access.|
|Shared Identity||Members rally around, inhabit, and shape community brand.||Helps birth and shape community brand.|
|Vibrant Participation||Visible, regular and quality member participation and contribution.||Regular Host presence, contribution and facilitation.|
|Community Leadership||Defined rank and reputation model; extending management to members.||Meaningful ranks and status; clear paths to achievement and privileges.|
|Quality Content||Content base growing and evolving to most valuable state.||Contribution, curation and feedback to evolve content quality.|
|Expertise||Community attracts and develops SMEs.||SMEs from host are regular community participants; opportunity to learn & develop.|
|Culture of Trust||Culture of openness and civility. Members air grievances respectfully.||Feel connected to host, part of governance & free to provide critical feedback.|
|Elegant Experience||Mature community & social tools, fantastic UX, committed roadmap.||Easy to participate and contribute, needs-driven features.|
|Growth & Responsiveness||Base follows growth curve of brand / product. Base guides features & policy.||Steady influx of new & quality members, participation in community governance.|
What would you add?
File under: blog posts I never thought I would be writing – but excited that I am.
It’s been an interesting journey to get here (and I’m certain it will continue to be), but I’m very pleased to announce that we will hosting the Online Community Unconference in Mountain View, CA on May 21ist.
The Unconference planning team is rooted in the #OCTribe meetup and is made up of me, Kaliya Hamlin, Randy Farmer, Scott Moore, Susan Tenby, Gail Williams, Rachel Luxemburg and Maria Ogneva. Our plan is to closely follow the successful format of the Online Community Unconferences that ran from 2007 – 2010 in the Bay Area and New York that I produced when I was at Forum One – specifically:
- Personally inviting key professionals in the industry to ensure a knowledgeable and experienced group
- Adhering to the principles of Open Space Technology to ensure a quality event experience & maximum content – no filler / no talking head keynotes and no recycled presentations that you’ve seen from “noted experts” at other conferences. This is about real professionals having real conversations
- A great location in the Computer History Museum
- A commitment to document the proceedings – see an example of the Book of Proceedings from the OCU 2009.
- A fun and collegial environment
I’ll have more details as we get closer to the date, but the key things for now are:
- Registration is open now with early bird rates @ $85
- We are currently looking for a modest amount of sponsorship (feel free to email me)
- Our hashtag is #OCU2013
- We hope you can join us on 5/21!
And lastly… its nice to be back 🙂
Today (ok, technically tomorrow) is Community Manager Appreciation Day, or #CMAD. As I mentioned before, Jeremiah Owyang will be tracking the global celebration via his blog: 4th Annual Community Manager Appreciation Day: Jan 28, 2013 In my last post about #CMAD, I encouraged everyone participating to “find there own A”:
I originally chose to support #CMAD because I believe that most organizations are underinvesting in and not properly prioritizing the role online communities can play in their marketing, sales and support strategies. I see #CMAD as a way to raise the visibility of the role of Community Management in addition to a whole lot of gratitude for Community Managers being passed around.
My “A” is still appreciation, but I wanted to call out a handful of people in the industry who have really helped shape my thinking about Community Management, and consequently, my career in the industry. Specifically, I wanted to acknowledge:
Howard Rheingold: @hrhreingold
Howard is one of the true pioneers in the space, and if you are unfamiliar with his work, you really are missing key pieces of the foundation of the Online Community industry. Howard’s work in and impact on the space is incredible, from his seminal book “The Virtual Community“, to his early participation in The WELL, his book on mobile social Smart Mobs, and his recent work in social and collaboration including classes at Stanford. A brilliant man and a gentle soul.
What I specifically appreciate: Howard laying the foundation for an objective conversation about online communities and collaboration.
Amy Jo Kim: @amyjokim
I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Amy Jo Kim in real life, but I consider her book “Community Building on the Web” on of my best Community friends. The book is almost 7 years old, but still remarkably useful in day to day practice. In particular, I find her definition of online community as the one I always go back to:
My working definition for community is a collection of people who have come together for some common purpose, interest or activity, and who are able to get to know each other better over time.
Excerpted from this great interview with Nancy White.
What I specifically appreciate: Amy writing the first book on online communities that was both strategic and practical.
Randy Farmer: @frandallfarmer
Continuing the list of pioneers with Randy Farmer, one of the first Community Architects and also an expert in Reputation Management Systems. I first got to know Randy in 2007 through the Forum One Network events that I developed and hosted with Jim Cashel. For me, Randy has consistently been one of the smartest, most pragmatic, and most helpful voices in the online community industry. We’ve worked together personally on a couple of projects, including an RMS project for Dell’s Communities.
What I specifically appreciate: Randy’s guidance and advice as the industry transitioned from Virtual Communities 1.0 to Social Media and beyond.
Joe Cothrel: @cothrel
Joe Cothrel is Chief Community Officer at Lithium (disclosure, Autodesk is a customer). Though not as widely published as the previous folks that I have mentioned, Joe is truly one of the smartest strategists and practitioners in the industry. Joe was another connection that I made via Forum One events, and I’ve always found his opinions and feedback valuable. Joe is particularly great at brand communities and the organizational issues and opportunities with online communities.
What I specifically appreciate: Joe’s advice and feedback on the best ways to create value with brand communities, and how to describe that value.
No #CMAD list would be complete with giving a shout out to Jeremiah Owyang. Although Jeremiah covers many parts of the Social Business spectrum, we has consistently tracked, reported on and researched online communities and the role of community manager throughout his career. Jeremiah has been supportive of many of my personal community building initiatives, including my early Online Community Roundtable meetups and Forum One Unconferences. Jeremiah continues to study the value and impact of online communities and the fact that he continues to steward #CMAD is icing on the cake.
What I specifically appreciate: Jeremiah’s ongoing interest in, and quality coverage of, the Online Community space.
How about you?
Who is on your list? Who are you most appreciative of on Community Manager Appreciation Day?
PS – Looking forward to seeing Bay Area folks at the #CMADSF event on Monday night.
I just put together a short list of our best interviews from the Online Community Report for 2007. We had a great group of Community experts sharing their experiences, and I think you will agree that the content is worth a second look.
Shawn Morton, CNET
“The big lesson … was to follow the needs of the community first, not the latest new thing that analysts, journalists or bloggers are raving about… unless your community is geared toward analysts, journalists or bloggers.”
Steve Nelson, Clear Ink
“They (communities) form themselves, so what corporations can do is to foster their organic growth, not force it. Understand that they will be equal players at the table, respect them and let them thrive.”
Lee LeFever, Common Craft
“In my experience, there is a much needed focus on the role of the community manager. Companies are starting to understand that community isn’t a technology that you plug in and leave alone – it’s a way of doing business that takes time and hard work. In the best success stories, there is almost always a person or small group that understands community processes, sets expectations, and balances the needs of the community and the organization.”
Scott Moore, Schwab Foundation
Regardless which definition of ROI you want to use (return on investment, information or interaction), I am hearing more and more community managers who are focusing on helping community members increase their return as a main goal. This doesn’t mean that the organization hosting the community gives up on return, but that it’s not the only bottom line (and it’s not just a monetary bottom line).
Bill Binenstock, CBS Interactive
“The good news about our industry and our space is that there are so many incredibly cool things to do and so much innovation taking place. The bad news about our industry and our space is that there are so many incredibly cool ….”
Guy Kawasaki, Garage / Truemors
Not everything has to be a Google or YouTube to be a “success.” Small sites
can be great “lifestyle” businesses: no outside investors, work in your
underwear at home, and use any Macintosh that you want. Life is good in the
(editors note: my home office is in my garage, but I generally put pants on)
Jake McKee, Ant’s Eye View
“But even as this awareness grows and the tools get better and better (anyone seen Facebook lately??), we still advise our clients of the same thing we have for years: build relationships, don’t implement tools. Relationships are the crucial part of any “social” activity, whether online or offline, whether business focused or personal.”
Joi Podgorny, Ludorum, Inc.
“It has been said before a ton of times, but I will keep saying it until it becomes common knowledge – Communities are hard work. They take resources to design and plan, but more importantly, they take resources to maintain.”
Susan Tenby, TechSoup
“Enlist your most opinionated and helpful volunteers and create a “management group” of sorts. Connect with them every month, outside of the larger group, if possible, through a conference call, take their agenda items and and help them help make the community a success by forming the structure of your community with their ideas and your vision.”
Know an online community expert with an interesting story to tell? Or are you one yourself? Email me, and you may be the next expert interviewee!
I’m doing a webinar with Matthew Lees from the Patricia Seybold Group this Wednesday about how the community team functions and is funded in the corporate environment.
Please join us if you can.
Who Owns Community? – Webinar
Aligning Business Sponsorship and Responsibility with Community Goals
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
11:00 AM Pacific / 2:00 PM Eastern
Free Webinar hosted by Forum One and the Patricia Seybold Group
Online communities and social networks are changing the ways
organizations do business in this customer-empowered, Web 2.0 world.
Different companies have taken different paths in defining the
ownership of community initiatives.
Join Matthew Lees of the Patricia Seybold Group and Bill Johnston,
Director, Community & Research of Forum One Communications, for this
live Webinar in a discussion of these questions and issues:
• Who should be responsible and accountable for it? Who should fund it?
• What problems can arise — both within the company and within the
community — if the “wrong” group owns it?
• Do the answers to these questions depend on the industry, the type
of community, or other things?
Space is limited. Click here to register.
I had the pleasure of participating in a webinar yesterday with George Jaquette of Intuit and Aaron Strout of Shared Insights.
Aaron just posted the webinar archive and transcript on the Wearesmarter.com site.
Additionally, I wanted to post my notes from the event, which more or less sum up what I said (or meant to say: ) ).
Question 1: How do I create a value-driven community strategy?
It is important to remember that value is relative to your organization and also to your community. As an organization, you need to do some research (and soul searching) on why you want to host a community, what value you need to get out of the activity, and most importantly, what value YOU can bring to the table.
Hint: making your customers happy is generally a path to growth.
Question 2: Which metrics should I be measuring? (Measuring value in traditional and non-traditional ways)
The short answer? It depends on your community goals. It should be a mix of quantitative and qualitative.
Traditional Web Metrics ( a few examples)
Page views, time on site, referring sites, referring search engines, referring search terms
New Community / Social Media Metrics ( a few examples)
Member engagement: activity and “investment” in community
Member Loyalty & Satisfaction
Membership Growth and Attrition
Member referrals (also a sign of engagement),
Quality of content and exchange: For instance, resolution time, days thread was active, ratio of validated responses. Support communities are leading the way on best practices and reporting.
Tracking the brand through the “Community ecosystem”: Tracking brands and community members as they travel through the larger community ecosystem that spans sites, technologies and devices.
Impact of the community on revenue: Particular attention is being paid to the value of members, both to the host communities’ revenue, and the organization’s sales or fundraising.
Mobile interactions with the community: including views and posts from mobiles.
This question is explored more thoroughly in our Online Community Metrics 2007 report, which can be downloaded for free here.
Question 3: How do I manage my community, and how can I enlist my community to help?
First, you don’t “manage” a community. You host. If your intention in engaging in community building activities is to manipulate the community in some way, don’t bother. Members will run away in droves.
With that said, there is a role in every community for a manager or moderator that ensures that the community is a “clean, well lit place”, or at least keeps to the culture and values expressed in the community policies. Policies and norms of expected behavior should be clearly articulated and easily accessible. This leaves the community moderator / manager to more interesting activities than deleting all the posts with “f@ck” in them, like actually participating in the community.
Give your community the tools to help manage the community , including the ability to rate and flag content, escalate issues to the moderator, and provide feedback on the user experience.
Find your influences and evangelists (typically, the most active (and positive) members), and put them on a pedestal. Sean O’Driscoll of MS has a lot of great things to say about the topic of engaging influencers.
Question 4: How do I grow my community without losing intimacy?
I’ll be honest, I didn’t exactly get this question. If you design a community UX poorly, event one with 100 members will feel anonymous.
My feedback was to basically grow from your base, and stick to your values and culture. Give members the ability to create subgroups, and allow members to create rich profiles.
Question 5: Within our company, who should blog and who shouldn’t?
Those with a point of view, subject matter expertise and a PERSONALITY should be blogging. I made the point that good blogging candidates in a company are likely already blogging outside of the company. Good corporate blogging often times feels like corporate “reality TV”, providing access inside the corporate membrane in an informal, interesting and (hopefully) lighthearted way.
There were great questions via the phone, and a great back channel chat happening during the call. Again, the transcript can be found here.