Enterprise Communities: The What, Who, Why, When & How with Venafi Head of Community Holly Firestone (Pod 560 + Video)
How do you build a flourishing community around your SaaS business? How can you get your audience excited enough to contribute, and how can they derive value from the community? Holly Firestone, Head of Community at Venafi, taps into her impressive experience in building communities to share the secret to success.
Firestone defines community as a group of individuals connected through a network of platforms, programs, resources, and a shared set of values. These commonalities give your audiences the power to build together, support each other, contribute to business goals, and find their paths to success.
In a thriving community, people connect over a shared set of interests, and your company is the glue that sticks them together. However, avoid rushing into community-building as a way to promote your business. As Firestone says, “Community is not an opportunity for you to build your connection or your channel with your customers or audiences. It’s really about them connecting with one another. That’s where they’ll see the value, and that’s where you’ll get the most value.”
Without this people-first ideology, your community just becomes another marketing channel, and it won’t deliver value.
No, not the band. The “who” refers to all the individuals connected to your company. This covers a wide range of audiences, like customers, prospects, developers, partners, thought leaders, and employees. Essentially, it can include anyone who cares about your work and the problems you’re trying to solve.
You don’t have to include everyone right away when you are starting out. Instead, you can prioritize your most important segment and build there first, but keep future expansion in mind.
In a nutshell –– community delivers ROI across your business, from product, to marketing, to customer success. So when you’re creating your community, think about your overall business goals and pain points, and leverage the community to help you achieve your targets.
Firestone provided examples from her past experience, which included leading communities at Salesforce and Atlassian. She shared some data that reflects the positive impacts that community had in one of her previous tenures:
- Community Drives Growth & ROI
- 2x pipeline
- 2x bigger deals
- 33% higher product adoption
- 3x lower attrition
- Community Deflects Support Costs
- 4,000 monthly answered questions in the community
- 83% peer-driven responses
- $2 million per month in support savings
- Community Amplifies Success For Audiences
- 93% of community members surveyed said they discovered new products and solutions
- 81% reported higher productivity
- 82% higher ROI
With these impressive results, it’s no wonder that Firestone says, “Community is an integral part of your business strategy. It’s no longer a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have.”
When should you start building community? The answer is a resounding “NOW.” It doesn’t matter if you are a large enterprise or a small startup; you want to get started immediately.
A lot of effort and moving pieces go into building a community, but Firestone shares a few general tips to get started.
- Hire an experienced community professional. They have the expertise to build your strategy and lead effectively.
- Community is an investment. Commit to providing adequate resources and budget.
- Align community goals with top-level business goals and get everyone in leadership on board.
- Trust is everything. Build trust with your community through honesty, humility, and authentic engagement.
- Stay authentic, and put your audiences first. Prioritize them finding value, or you won’t be successful.
- Community brings ROI to your entire business.
- Be sure that your community is tied to your most critical business goals.