Speaker: Jay Nathan, Chief Customer Officer of Higher Logic & Co-Founder of Gain Grow Retain
|Having co-founded the massively popular CS community, Gain Grow Retain, and as Higher Logic’s Chief Customer Officer, Jay Nathan has a wealth of knowledge about Customer Communities and how to successfully launch (or revamp) them. We asked him to join us for this month’s webinar to discuss exactly how to do that.
Q: Talking about a “best in class” customer community, what does that look like? Is there a department that owns it, and do other departments play a role?
A: Well, what we’re seeing most often these days is that it’s either the CMO or the CCO that are owning it. And under the CCO you typically have things like Support and Customer Success and Professional Services. So, if it starts in Support, then the CCO usually owns it. If it starts as a Marketing Community, then Marketing typically owns it. CCOs are seeing this as more of an opportunity to scale their Customer Success motion. So, more and more you see CCOs actively taking part in this, especially as Customer Marketing comes into its scope, which is happening in some companies today. So yeah, best in class is really CMO or CCO as far as I can tell today.
Q: Have you ever seen Customer Education owning community?
A: [Customer Education is] an integral part of it so yes. Customer Education can own [community] if it doesn’t exist, they can be the catalyst for getting it in play. Part of the idea of a Customer Community is that it’s your central hub for all customer engagement. So, for learning and enablement, for support, for just knowledge sharing through a knowledge base, through peer-to-peer connections. It all sort of comes together as a central hub. So, when you start looking at these platforms, you want to find something that can handle integrating all those pieces. There’s not a one-solution-fits-all provider for all those pieces but everybody should integrate as much as possible so that you can provide a one-stop-shop for your customers.
At the TSIA event last week that Peter and I were at, we had people from Customer Education come up from [Higher Logic’s] customers who didn’t realize they had a community [platform] already, but they were already our customer. They got so jazzed about the possibilities when they started looking at it. These are VPs of Learning and Enablement for Customer Education that have a big job to do. Which is, making sure that their customers are well educated so that they can adopt the software, the solutions that they provide. So yeah, we see a lot of energy out of training and enablement teams for sure.
Q: Would you ever include non-customers or non-employees in your community?
A: Fantastic question. It depends on what you want to do. So, we have Gain Grow Retain, which is a non-customer community, I think of it as an industry community. You can have a community platform that has both an industry section, so it’s open to the public, and then has private areas that are open only to your users that focus on product issues, product resolutions, ideation on your product. So, if you don’t want to make all that public, and a lot of companies worry about that, which I understand, but if you don’t want to make all that public, you don’t have to if you have the right community platform. Remember we’re talking about giving value here to users, because what’s the sense of having a community unless you have engaged members? You have to have enough value to offer those audiences to keep them coming back to make it worth their while to do it. But my answer to that is, from a technology standpoint, it’s pretty easy to do both, the question is a strategy question. Do you want to open up an industry community to bring people in that are not yet your customers in the hopes that one day they will be? Because they’re associated with your brand because you’re giving them value?
Q: If you are launching a new Customer Success Community, how do you offer value right out of the gate?
A: Well one way you can offer value right out of the gate is, remember that community doesn’t have to be a big platform, doesn’t have to be a big technology implementation on day one, it’s just getting the right people together. So, one of the things that you can do – take one of your best product experts, who is the most customer-facing person that you have and bring them into a room and say “hey we’re going to do, you know, Tool Tip Thursday” and just have them start talking. You will automatically build loyalty and the people that you bring into that room, they can become your seed group.
For something bigger, it’s just like we did with Gain Grow Retain, we brought 50 of the smartest people, we could find on LinkedIn, they all came together, miraculously in the first weeks of Gain Grow Retain and, in the pandemic, and before you knew it, they were providing the value. And so, I think if you can gather people together, that’s the best way to start. Start a monthly call, start a weekly call, start a small roundtable series. Don’t wait to start embracing your community, the whole title of this thing is ‘You Already Have It,’, so just embrace it, right? As you do that, let them pull out from you what they want to do next. Will they engage online? Ask them the question. If they will, then you need to start looking into an online platform to help bring that together. As you do that, then you can also look for ways to unify the customer experience by connecting the learning platform, the knowledge base, and the support system like we’ve talked about. So, I would say, don’t over think it, start small, and hen when you’re ready, you know come talk to Higher Logic, Vanilla. We can help you understand what the steps are to implement the technology behind it when you’re ready for it.
Q: Why do you think people aren’t joining communities?
A: Well, so I guess maybe to refine the question – if people are not joining your community, why aren’t they joining?
Do they know about it? Are you offering them any value by joining it? Or do you just want them in your community to say you have them in your community? What are they going to get out of it, right? I mean we can all ask each other the same thing. If you’re not in Gain Grow Retain, then we probably haven’t shown you anything that would be of value to you yet.
Q: Some people also may see community as a public platform that they’re not comfortable engaging in. Are there tactics or strategies you could recommend to draw those people out who probably have valuable ideas to share?
A: Yeah, there’s a challenge that exists in every community in that probably 10% of the members of that community are the ones that actually contribute to it. A lot of people read and that’s it, but that’s okay. That’s the answer – make it okay for people just to come in and get that. I have people all the time that tell me, “I’m not really active in the community, but I do come in and read what’s on Gain Grow Retain” and I’m like, “that’s great, you’re getting value, do it all day long. If you find somebody asked a question that you have some particular knowledge about, answer publicly. If you don’t feel comfortable with that, hit them up on LinkedIn, send them a DM.” So, I do empathize with that, because not everybody is, like some of us are super comfortable being public, but other people aren’t and that’s okay. So, you just let them receive the value, instead of asking them to give.
Q: What are your thoughts on having both a standalone online platform and a Facebook page? Like you said, LinkedIn can be a community, similarly, Facebook can be a comparable scenario.
A: This is a super question; we hear it all the time. So, there’s a couple different angles on it. If you’re a product company, the question is, do you want to have some ownership and ability to moderate and engage with all those back-end tools with the community or not? I have worked with different software companies that have more of a B2C feel to them that have very vibrant Facebook communities and it’s awesome. But for most B2B use cases, the company tends to want to have a little bit more engagement and control over guiding the discussion where it needs to go. So, that’s answer number one. Answer number two – it’s good feedback because I don’t think we’ve ever considered having a GGR Facebook page, but just you asking that question is me learning so, now I’m thinking well, maybe we should have a Facebook page. But I can tell you this – your choice of which social media platforms to use is really based on who your target audiences are and where they live. Most of Gain Grow Retain’s target audience is already on LinkedIn. So, go to where your audiences are in terms of which channels you choose. It goes back to that whole idea of being multi-channel, use email, use billboards, engage people wherever you can get their attention, wherever they are, and you can get their attention.
Watch the recording of this webinar to catch up on the full conversation!