6 Steps to create an effective community strategy
If you don't know where you're going, it's hard to plan. Therefore it's important for your community to set meaningful goals and then plan the steps for how to fulfill these goals. Whether you’re looking to set new priorities, outline plans for growth, determine a product roadmap or plan your investment decisions, you’ll need a strategy. Because a community strategy is essential for every community’s success, we will help you with the first steps. Let's have a look at them:
Step 1: Gather the facts
To know where you are heading, you have to know where you are right now. So, before you start looking ahead, you should review the past performance or the current situation. Look at each area of the business and your community, then determine what worked well, what could have been better and what opportunities lie ahead. There are many tools and techniques available to help with this process, such as SWOT analysis.
Step 2: Get to know your business needs
In this step, you will revise the business purpose of your community. Answer these questions: Why did you create your community? What value does your community bring to your members and your company? What distinguishes your community from others? Do you know the SPACE model created by CMX? It is the framework for defining your community’s business value. It is crucial for the community strategy to be incorporated in your business strategy. It has to be clear to everybody in your company how the community contributes to the success of the business. All communities can derive their business value from one of the following areas:
If you would like to learn more about the SPACE model, read this article.
Step 3: Get to know your community members
If you want to build a successful community you have to be sure that you fulfill your community members' needs. Try to create a trusted learning environment where your people can be heard, have an opportunity to give feedback and bring new ideas. Don’t make assumptions and ask your community members or conduct surveys. This will provide insights into what the customers really need and helps you to deliver better value. The questions must emphasize both ‘why’ and ‘how’ to get a clear picture of what has to be accomplished in order to provide superior customer experience. And don't forget that the members' purpose and the business purpose must overlap. This overlap is called a shared purpose and will become the baseline for your community.
Below, you can find 5 tips on how to get to know your community members:
Build member personas (Focus your efforts on improving the experience for real people and use cases.)
Do not underestimate the power of the onboarding process (Welcome new members and collect data during the onboarding process.)
In-person activities (Events are great opportunities for community members not only to get to know other members but you as well and vice versa.)
Collect feedback on a regular basis (Gather feedback so you can adjust your community strategy and activities to better meet community members' needs.)
Use online data (Collect and analyze all data which your online environment provides you. They are a goldmine of community data.)
Learn more in this article.
Step 4: Set a vision statement
When you are aware of the community purpose and you know the needs of your community members you can start setting a vision statement – the description of the future state. What do you consider a successful community? How will your community look in 1/3/5 years? The vision statement should be motivational, ambitious and realistic. This serves as a guide for creating objectives and goals in the community, thus providing a road-map that is to be followed by everyone from your team. Unfortunately, despite the importance of vision statement, many communities do not have it. This creates confusion in your team that makes it harder to achieve the set objectives and goals.
Step 5: Measurement
Creating, managing and reviewing a strategy requires you to capture the relevant data, break down large chunks of it, plan, prioritize and capture the relevant information. Data is POWER. The more information you have, the better equipped you are to update your community activities and strategy. It is important to keep in mind that every community has its own metrics. There are probably unique elements in your community that you'll want to measure, as these will generally lead incrementally towards your overall community goals. We can divide metrics into two categories:
Operational metrics (number of members/tenants, number of events and attendees, etc.)
Business impact metrics (cost savings, retention etc.)
Read more in the article What to Measure in Your Community? and don't forget to measure what matters!
If you don’t have measurable value, then you don’t have a budget - and if you don’t have a budget, then you don’t have a community. You have to show measurable value in what you are going to do in the community.
Step 6: Action plan
You have all the data, you know your community purpose, vision, and values; you know your members, you have identified the shared purpose and you have set goals and decided what to measure. In other words, you should be able to describe the current state and the desired state in the future. Now it is time to create an action plan and think about the individual steps needed to reach your final destination. The last step in the process of strategic planning is to think about how many people and what budget you will need for all these activities. Best of luck!
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