Answering the Question of 'Why'

Lithium Alumni (Retired)
As a father of two, I hear "why" a lot:

"Why do you get goose bumps?"
"Why are traffic signals red, yellow and green?"
"Why does [best friend] have [shiny object] and I don't?" (the Internet can only help so much)

Perhaps that partly explains why the first question I like to ask new customers is "Why do you need to build a new community?"

Most of the time the first responses I hear are "our customers are asking for one" or "our competitors have one". And these are indeed very powerful reasons, but they are not necessarily business objectives that you can track to measure success. In the excellent book Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, they refer to this in their POST method as your objectives for creating an online community. I would go even further, that objectives must be measurable for an enterprise community for them to have any lasting value. After all, in the enterprise measurable results are often the only ones that matter.

During our planning for the Lithosphere, we focused on three business objectives we wanted to achieve:
  • Build customer loyalty: Includes traditional customer satisfaction metrics, as well as others like increased rate of feature adoption.
  • Improve Lithium's products and services: Both through direct product feedback, but for Lithium there is also the opportunity to learn lessons from using the products we sell (i.e. "eating our own dog food").
  • Increase sales: New sales are important, but as a SaaS provider we also benefit from the greater success of our customers' communities through tier growth.
By choosing objectives with measurable success in mind, you can not only begin to build your case for ROI; you can lean on these objectives for each decision you make about your community and back it up with a clear relationship to what you are trying to achieve.

Here are some other objectives we've seen executed effectively in enterprise communities:
  • Case/Call deflection
  • Increase brand loyalty
  • Strategic savings for multilingual customers & long-tail customer support
  • Discover brand success stories
  • Backup to the standard support setup/Spike handling
  • Track success of marketing initiatives
  • Faster identification of issue clusters
  • Grow 3rd-party development around your platform
Hardly comprehensive, but hopefully this list is a good starting point to help think through what your community success will be. If you can think of others, or want to share which objectives have resonated most with your community please let me know!

Message Edited by scottd on 06-18-2008 10:15 AM