Community led growth is a new model for Software as a Service (SaaS) companies to drive product adoption and scale increasingly faster. In contrast to product led growth which relies on having great products and presupposes the customer already knows what they want, community led growth is predicated on growing engagement with new and existing users to create value and drive growth hacking efforts. If that sounds interesting, we are about to show you how to get started with this.
What is community led growth
A community is created by the common interests of people which prompts them to communicate and engage with each other. Community led growth is the act of facilitating and shaping such engagement. Facilitation of this via platforms and directed engagement can foster that sense of community and interactions thereby generating value for customers, driving product adoption and spearheading growth.
Why is community led growth important for SaaS
Community led growth is synonymous with word-of-mouth marketing.
In a time of ever-increasing information where potential customers are being drowned in a sea of marketing, word of mouth remains increasingly important as a way of cutting through the chaff. Indeed, McKinsey suggests that “word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising in categories as diverse as skincare and mobile phones.” We can thus see the power of turning our customers into our advocates for delivering our value proposition to new leads.
In a world where information is increasingly at the fingertips of every person, buyers are no longer confronted with not knowing what to buy. They now have a much clearer opinion of the tools available but require more than just information alone to make a buying decision. Often times, their community of friends, peers and advisors are the ones they rely on to guide and shape their purchasing decision and it is precisely this that community led growth targets.
Community led growth can generate value for customer usage of your product.
Take for instance the project management platform Asana where their forum has become an important user resource. Customers can exchange ideas on how to set up Asana to facilitate different use cases sometimes in ways that surprise even the Asana team themselves. This community helps create more value than the simple platform itself by enabling crowd sourcing for solutions from others in the community. In some cases the availability of quick “tech support” from other users can be important to the decision to remain on a specific platform.
Community led growth can lead customers to become further invested in your tech ecosystem.
Customers may often times not realise the full potential of your product. They may be looking for a advanced feature or one that can be achieved through integrations which they can easily set up. In the absence of a guide to show them the availability of these, they may think that your product is too limited and instead begin looking for alternatives. In contrast, having a community where people feel comfortable openly asking for solutions and having quick responses not just from the product team but also other users can help them achieve the full potential of your technology and get them more integrated in your tech ecosystem.
A Community Led Growth Playbook for SaaS
The how of Community Led Growth is more of an art than it is a precise science. Nonetheless they key principles are the same.
Establish platforms for community
The first step in community led growth is typically bringing users together on a community platform. The form of the platform may vary but ultimately it is meant to serve as a nexus of communication between not just the product team and customers but also between customers themselves.
Some examples of platforms include:
1) Forums: You may choose to set up a dedicated forum page for customers to communicate.
2) Social Media: Social media can also be an effective form for this. Depending on the customer base, the appropriate social media platform may vary with Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin etc. all being appropriate
3) Messaging Group Channels: Messaging applications like Whatsapp, Slack or Telegram can be effective channels for communication in real time.
4) Expertise specific: Some communities interact better when given the appropriate tools to express technical information. Some examples are Github for Developers or Figma for UX/UI designers. Know your audience and determine how they would like to communicate for better results.
While companies may choose to start on one of these platforms, over time you should aim to see these grow across multiple channels through either manager or organic growth. The types of engagement are also likely to grow.
No matter the format or the size of the community, a well-managed community must be actively managed and engaged. Simply throwing people into a platform does not by itself create a sense of community. Creating engagement requires 1 on 1 communication, personalization of messaging for different segment and needs in the community and leadership to steer conversation. Some ways to get started are:
1) Engaging via polls and surveys
2) Generating focus groups to contribute to product road mapping
3) Giving product updates and looking for feedback
4) Getting users to share their problems & their solutions for others
5) Job boards
Community management is a job that requires full time attention and a quick response. While community led growth can be a great asset to the company, badly managed communities can also lead to magnified mistakes and missed opportunities. Community managers will become increasingly important as the scale and level of engagement increases.
Engagement by customers should also be actively rewarded. Think of this as programs that support your advocates and champions and actively encourage them to contribute and become a proponent for your product.
One way of doing so is via professional certification. Professional validation provided can be important to your champions and also act as a lead magnet for your business. A true win-win for all parties. This can be via certification or awards for recognition, preferably ones that they can then go on to display on your platforms or other professional platforms like Linkedin.
Another simple means of engagement is offering a rewards program. Carrying out a focus group, survey or study which will be used to engage customers? Encourage participation by offering a small gift. Even something as small as a $10 Starbucks Card can be a nice little thank you for participation.
Including Participation in Company Content
Involve your customers in your content marketing efforts through features or including them as creators on your content platforms. Good content marketing done in this manner generates more educational material that can drive awareness or increase activation events. Both of these are important steps in the product adoption journey. It also takes some of the load of generating content purely by your internal team while potentially expanding the network of influence of content by tapping in to the networks of your customers.
Some ideas of how this could be done is:
1) Podcasts – Bring in thought leaders to spark interesting conversations and showcase success.
2) Blog Posts/Newsletters – Interview key stake holders, showcase case studies but also encourage creation of content and guides by users themselves.
Facilitate User Generated Tips and Templates
Depending on the product offering you are bringing to market, there may be guides or templates that users can provide to others on your platforms. For example, on a CRM solution like Hubspot there may be a myriad of ways to run and track a sales campaign and templates for how to do so can be very helpful. By providing tools such as a means to share templates to users outside your organisation that make it easy for users to share or access this information, it can facilitate user communication for generation of value. If users are already generating video tutorials on Youtube for example, it may be worth pursuing to build a video guide community for users to share their knowledge creating a central repository and point of engagement.
Data mining on communities for insights especially ones that track cross platform engagement can be an important tool to help drive actionable steps for growth hacking or increasing engagement. In each and every case what to track and what it means has to be shaped by the type of engagement and the expected results we are seeking from community led growth.
There is an old saying that no man is an island, we see that expressed in the form of communities. The desire to connect has always existed within us but the advent of technology and opportunities for communication mean it is much easier to reach out and have interesting conversations. With community led-growth we are leveraging that innate human behaviour and offering it an opportunity to flourish. Community led growth is certainly not a project that shows instant results but over the longer term it can generate long term sustained growth that is a self-fulfilling prophecy for happy customers and greater returns. Certainly worthy goals for any SaaS company.
Usertip is a digital adoption platform designed to help scale your onboarding, training and support for digital solutions. Our no-code platform delivers in-application walkthroughs directly on your digital solutions. Seamless user experience and on-demand learning are all delivered to your user’s fingertips within seconds. Click here to find out more.