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How to Build a Community Marketing Program and Measure ROI


November 13, 2020


July 6, 2021

In part one of our community marketing series, we explored questions to help you determine if community marketing makes sense for your brand. Next, we’ll explore how to build a community MVP, some tools for managing communities, and KPIs to measure the ROI from community marketing.

Building the Community Role and Scope

Once you’ve decided that community marketing makes sense for your brand, and you're ready to dedicate a good 12 months to testing your community model, the next question is: what should a community role (or team) look like? Full-time, part-time, freelance?

There’s no perfect answer here, but it’s helpful to have someone who a) knows your audience or user base to begin with, and b) has some experience building or managing communities. Sometimes this is the same person, but often it isn’t. That’s when it can be helpful to work with a community marketing consultant to collaborate with your team and help build your community playbook.

But having one person dedicated to all things community (whether part-time, full-time, or freelance) is essential, especially during the first 12 months, or the community “startup year,” when there will be plenty to do, build, and iterate on. 

HubSpot defines the community management role as, "the liaison between an organization and its audience. [Community managers] act as the voice, tone, and moderator of the brand through community support, content distribution, and digital engagement to build brand presence and trust, both online and in-person.”

Beyond that, community roles often encompass content creation, social media management, event planning, partnerships, growth and acquisition campaigns, and more. So, make sure your community hire is someone who can wear many hats, get their hands dirty, and be resourceful—the community startup year will be full of firsts!

Building the Community Brand 

Before your community is ready for prime time, you’ll want to lay a strong foundation for your community brand. Here are some things to consider when laying the groundwork.

Brand identity

Will your community be its own separate brand (like Sales Hacker by Outreach, or Trailblazers by Salesforce) or will it be a facet of your company’s brand (like the Yelp Elite Squad, or Miro’s Miroverse user community)? Either way, you’ll want to create specific brand elements for your community.

Inclusive or exclusive?

Will there be an application or approval process (like Amplitude’s partner community)? Or a simple opt-in process for anyone who is interested in your community (like Creative Mornings)? This will depend on your community mission statement (see below) and whether your community KPIs are more tied to growth or engagement.

At CFO Connect, one of our key value propositions is joining a community of experienced finance leaders, so we have an approval process for new members to join, to ensure they have a certain level of expertise to contribute. This means that sheer growth numbers are less important than the quality of members we’re adding.

Along the same lines, some communities charge a membership fee, which adds an additional barrier to entry, but often ensures higher engagement from those who pay to join. 

Either way, your earliest members will shape your community brand, so having some degree of “screening” can be helpful. 

Community mission statement or manifesto

Just as you would for any brand, you’ll want to create a mission statement for your community; a couple of sentences about why your community exists and for who. Here are two great examples:

  • CMX by Bevy: “Our mission at CMX is to help professional community builders thrive, by providing them with world-class community programs and education.”
  • Sales Hacker: “Sales Hacker is the smartest community of B2B sales professionals on the planet. You’ll find every member of this open, free community is committed to 1) elevating the sales profession and 2) supporting and equipping one another on our journey to the top.”

Community personas

You don’t need to go through a super official exercise here, but you should define roughly who your “ideal” community member is, and the various personas that your community will appeal to. This will help you determine where to focus your content and resources. 

Code of conduct

It’s good to get this out of the way early on. You likely won’t encounter troublemakers or trolls in the early days, but it’s nice to have something to fall back on if you do need to officially boot someone from the community for bad behavior. Wifi Tribe, a community of remote workers, has a “Statement of Nos” that serves as both a code of conduct and mission statement. 

12-month playbook

Create a 12-month playbook with quarterly milestones and KPIs. If your company is willing to test a community program, then you’ll be accountable for showing progress and validating the community model.

Our final section explores some ways to measure success. But first…tools!

Choosing Your Community Tools and Resources 

By nature, community is both high-tech and high-touch, and the early days of community building are a rare moment to build real relationships with your ‘founding’ members, before you need tools to help you streamline things. It’s good to aim for a balance between high- and low-touch interactions, even as (or, especially as!) your community scales. 

That said, there are now countless tools for community marketers (200+ according to this recent roundup)—from CRMs to analytics, forums, and engagement software. But, no need to get too carried away with your toolstack. These are the basics you can get away with:

  • Website or landing page: It can be a simple page on your company’s website (like Brainly’s learning community or Shopify’s merchant community) or a completely separate domain (like Spendesk’s CFO community).
  • Social channels: Now that you know your community personas, which social channels will you need to use to reach them?
  • Community Hub: Where will community interactions will happen? There are dozens of tools for this, and the best one is the one your members will use easily and often. Slack has become a go-to community forum because so many of us are already on Slack every day. This means the likelihood of engagement is high. But some other easy-to-use options are:
  • LinkedIn or Facebook groups work as a scrappy solution, with few customization options
  • Vanilla, Discourse, and Circle are forum-style platforms that can be customized and integrated anywhere
  • Disciple and Mighty Networks give you the option to create a white label mobile app where your community can interact
  • TokyWoky is especially interesting for ecommerce brands, as it integrates reviews, gamification, chat forums, and surveys
  • Event tools: Since in-person events are off the table for the foreseeable future, choosing the right virtual hub where your community can gather is especially important. Whether you plan to host more intimate events like workshops or AMAs, or full-on conferences, there’s no shortage of virtual event tools. A few industry favorites are:
  • Livestorm or Crowdcast for webinar-style events
  • Icebreaker and Airmeet for virtual networking
  • Hopin and Bevy for large conferences
  • Also worth a look is Teooh, which lets you create VR-powered 3D event “worlds”

CRM: No matter which tools you use to manage community, you’ll want to ensure they can integrate well into your existing CRM (like HubSpot or Salesforce), so that community interactions can be easily tracked along with other marketing activities.

Speaking of integrations, Commsor is a very interesting new tool for community marketers, as it integrates community data from all your tools in one ‘community health’ dashboard.

Defining Community Marketing KPIs

While it’s tempting to embark on this mission saying, “our community will make people love our brand more!,” you’ll want to measure that love with some hard numbers.

So, ask yourself: what is the most important contribution we want the community to make to the business? Is it pipeline generation? Customer engagement? Pure sales? Define this #1 priority, then measure against it with specific KPIs.

While community will certainly contribute to overall business goals, you’ll want a few metrics that are community-specific, and can be directly attributed to community activities. Some sample goals and KPIs might be:

  • Increased customer engagement (KPI = community accounts for 10% of usage or upsells; average NPS from customers in community > customers not in community)
  • Pipeline generation (KPI = 10% of leads, or $$ of pipeline generated by community)
  • Content contributions (KPI = 25% increase in user-generated content y/y)
  • Brand awareness and evangelism (KPI = # social mentions; # of customer referrals from community)
  • Product adoption (KPI = 20% higher product adoption among community members vs. non-members)

Essentially, you can take any core business KPIs and compare your community members’ average performance on these metrics vs. non members.

Another topic to consider is attribution—since community marketing can play a role in any and every part of the customer journey, you’ll want to decide if metrics will be based on first-touch, last-touch, or multi-touch attribution. Every company has a different way of looking at attribution, so you’ll just want to make sure you have buy-in from the start around how the community will be evaluated.

If you think you'd like to build a community marketing program and are interested in discussing strategy and/or working with a Right Side Up community expert, please reach out to hello@rightsideup.co.

Dominique is a marketing leader with over a decade of experience building communities across various industries, growth stages, and continents. She is currently the Head of Community at Spendesk, a fintech software company based in Paris, where she leads strategy for their global CFO Connect community.

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