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