I can’t believe it’s been 8 years since I lost the argument and we decided to launch our own community. (That’s a story for another day – catch me at the 10 year.) Of course, I’m glad I lost that argument, because of all the benefits the community has brought to Lithium, but also for something else: because it’s given us the chance to “walk in our customers shoes,” and experience for ourselves the kinds of things you only learn by creating a branded community for your own brand.
Because I was involved in launching the community and remain involved as the Lithium Community’s “executive sponsor,” @JennC asked if I could put together a list of some of the things we’ve learned. So, here are 8 things we’ve learned over the past 8 years of running the Lithium community.
It’s hard – maybe impossible – to do everything right. We’re the experts, so of course we wanted our implementation to be flawless in every way. Guess what? No matter how intentional you are, or how well you scope your effort to your capacities to plan and manage, you’re going to make mistakes. Recognize them, address them, move on.
When you don’t do something right, sometimes it’s best to just start over. We learned this with our VIP program. After a few years of middling success, we started over with the Stars program, and life is so much better for us and our members.
Community focus will ebb and flow. Over eight years, sometimes the community has been a main focus of attention for our business. At other times, it’s been purely about keeping it going at steady state while other priorities take precedence. Don’t fight it – use this time to take stock and prepare for your next turn in the spotlight.
There is no maintenance mode. While the community might be the focus today and merely the sidelight tomorrow, make no mistake – there is no point at which the community can be put on autopilot. In reality, the community is the focus every day – for those who are using, joining, and participating. Be there for them.
Ownership dictates focus. We all know that community has something to contribute to many aspects of the business, from marketing to sales to product development to customer care. In the end, though, the community has to be owned by somebody, and the things you do best will probably relate most closely to the function or department that funds the community.
Your community team will change. That superstar you have running the community today? In all likelihood, he or she will be moving up or moving on at some point in the future. Make sure you have your operation well-defined, and have other team members who can step in when the time comes.
Your superusers are in it for the long haul. While your community team will change, many members of your community will not. It’s surprising to see how many of our earliest members are still among our most active and influential in our community. Increasingly, they carry the history of our community forward as much as we do.
Your superusers will continuously amaze you. Maybe it’s a fact that people in general are pretty amazing if you really pay attention. Or perhaps there’s just something special about those who devote their time and effort to helping their fellow community members. Regardless, in any venue, from on-sites at our headquarters to dialogues in our private superuser forum, I am always in awe of the insights and perspective these folks have to share. Don’t underestimate yours.
It’s been a fun 8 years – looking forward to many more.
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Great suggestion - thanks for the added info. It could even be a variation on (alternative to) of the purchase intent question. We're getting ready to deploy the new survey on the Lithium community, and I'm thinking that for business like ours -- and yours -- a question around intent to renew (or in your case, not leave) might be more relevant and useful than a question about intent to make an additional purchase. I'll add make sure this idea is part of the of the conversation on around the next release of the feature. If it looks like something we can do, we may run some alternatives by you.
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Thanks for the comments, guys. Glad to hear these improvements are resonating!
@Limydoo I love the idea around churn. I can imagine a question that probes intention to stay/go, much like the question we just added around purchase intent. Interested in any specific thoughts you (or others) might have on this.
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Back in January, I shared some perspective about our new Value Analytics feature, which was made available to all our customers as a core feature of our community platform at the end of last year. Since then we’ve had more than 60 customers turn on that feature in their communities, and they’ve collected results from almost 200,000 users to date. Here are a few results that I’ve found interesting so far:
Companies choose between Net Promoter Score (NPS) and CSAT at an almost 50% split. (Value Analytics asks you to choose one or the other.)
Results from B2B communities so far are skewing slightly higher than B2C across key Value Analytic metrics like success rate, NPS and CSAT.
Early results suggest that CSAT correlates strongly with low Time to First Reply, especially in B2B communities.
In the meantime, our customers have offered a ton of feedback on things they’d like to see added or improved in the feature. Among the most common requests:
Ability to assess the potential impact on sales, rather than just cost savings.
Ability to customize more questions and answers.
More logical flow between some questions.
A more intuitive experience for administrators in configuring the survey.
Better clarity in question format, particularly in relation to the NPS question.
A free-text question so respondents could provide context for their responses.
Ok, so that’s what customers are finding, and doing, and asking for. What about our team at Lithium?
Well, I was super pleased that we were able to do a quick update earlier this year to address some “gotchas” that made it into the initial release – and many thanks to those who helped us spot those. Even better, we were able to release a second, more significant update just a week ago, as part of our version 16.5 platform release. While there are still plenty of improvements we’d like to make, I’m happy to say that you’ll find each of the bullets above are addressed in a meaningful way in this release. Go team!
If you haven’t turned on Value Analytics in your community yet, the new, improved survey is waiting for you – please use it! But if you’ve been already running the feature and collecting data, we haven’t forgotten you. We’ve actually retained the original survey (called the “Impact Survey”) alongside the improved survey (called the “Customer Experience Survey”) so you can plan your migration to the improved survey over time, in a thoughtful way.
Thanks again to all our early adopters, who are pioneering these kinds of measurements in community. And thanks, too, to our internal teams in product marketing, product management, and engineering, for keeping this feature (and all our products) improving and evolving.
For more info on Value Analytics and the improvements in 16.5, please see the Knowledge Base article About Value Analytics, and the Release Notes for 16.5.
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