If marketing is like the family I was born into, then community is the friend I chose.
My dad was in sales and always believed I would be a great marketer. We have similar traits, but he didn’t want me to have the stress that comes with carrying a quota. He bought me all sorts of business and marketing books that I loved reading. In fact, for my 14th birthday, my dad gifted me the famous How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. That book resonated so deeply that I decided my dad knew best. A degree in marketing it was.
In my second job after graduating, I was the sole marketer at a B2C live video streaming startup. It felt lonely not having anyone to learn from, so I joined a meetup group that was all about showcasing hot startups. The meetups happened every first Tuesday of the month, and they couldn't come fast enough. After about a year, I was offered the opportunity to run the meetup — I leapt at the chance to take the reins as the organizer.
Of course, being a community group organizer has its own set of challenges, so I joined a group of other community organizers for guidance and support. I was shocked when I found out that one of the members had recommended me for a role at Microsoft. I had no idea that my hobby was a skill that a company like Microsoft would actually want.
The rest, of course, is history. I spent the next decade of my life in and around developer communities.
Thankfully, my marketing skills and experience have not gone to waste — I’ve found so much of them to be transferable to my community work! Here are five marketing skills and learnings I’ve been able to apply in my years in community.
The number one rule in marketing is to know your audience. The same goes for the community. You must know who your members (and potential members) are.
Marketers obsess over their ICP (Ideal Customer Profile). We are constantly evaluating and re-evaluating personas — who would buy our product? Who would use the product? Who would champion it?
Similarly, Community Managers should obsess over the kind of person we would want to be active in your community. What vertical are they in? How big is their company? What team are you targeting? What role are you targeting? Figure out who that person is and build a plan to get them engaged.
No one would ever build a product if there wasn’t a market for it — you need people to want it badly enough to buy it. CMs should think about their program in a similar way. There are two ways to approach this: is there a product-community fit? Or is there a community-market fit?
Ask yourself these questions before jumping in. Before we started our community at Gong, our Customer Support Managers would regularly receive emails asking if we had a space where folks could ask their peers questions. After enough emails, the team determined that there was a product-community fit!
Before joining Gong as the Head of Community, I was the Head of Marketing at a B2B startup. Every week, I ran a different experiment, testing out a different channel or tactic. I would measure my success around what garnered the highest number of leads for Sales.
Do not be afraid to experiment with your community to see what will bring in new community members, more vocal community members, or even lead to great UGC (user-generated content).
The most important part of experimenting? Don’t be afraid of failure. I recently ran an AMA and no one asked a single question. That sounds like an experiment that failed, right? Wrong. Somehow, this was one of the top five most-viewed posts in the community. People wanted to read the post but they didn’t have questions. I learned that with this particular content, an AMA is less interesting than a detailed post.
In my time working with Facebook's Developer Community, we used to say, “If you didn’t measure it then it didn’t happen”.
Everybody's work has some ROI — uncover it, share it, discuss it, and learn from it. Not only should you be tracking the health of the community (community members, posts, questions answered, case deflection, etc.), but you should be tracking both causation and correlation of the community to your key business goals.
Understand what the top three company goals are, and work to align how the community has either influenced or directly impacted those three goals.
Finally, as a marketer I was responsible for millions of dollars in budget. I remember one particular quarter where I had to spend $1 million. You use it or lose it, they always said. If you’re lucky enough to have oversight of your community’s budget, be rigorous about tracking every dollar — and then track how your expenditure has benefited your community.
Here’s some math for you.
Here are your two ROI data points:
It cost just about one cent for one touchpoint, or awareness of your community. Old school marketers live by the Rule of 7. It takes roughly 7 touch points to make a sale and you just paid one cent for one touchpoint CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) of a community member is ~.90
Now these are correlations and not causations, but if you frame it up in the right conversation or the right deck at the right time, it could hammer a very important point home: a healthy community needs a healthy budget!
I’m grateful to have found community as a full-time role, and that I was able to bring so many useful skills to my new position as I pivoted. Community naturally lends itself to marketers who index towards building connections and relationship-building — just as community is a natural extension of myself.