First of all, you can call customers a “community” or “partners” until your heart’s content, that won’t make them a partner or part of a real customer community.
Community and partnerships are a two-way street. The hardest part of this is that the customers need to contribute in order for there to be a truly sustainable long term community or partnership.
Build an actual customer community
Firstly, stop labeling your advocacy “products” or marketing initiatives as a community, unless they really are: “We have an online community”. Do you? Does the community actually engage and share knowledge and support each other?
Be realistic – you are one of many vendors your customers use! Look out beyond your organisation and survey the land your customers operate in. If your community isn’t adding value to your customers they won’t become part of it and they also won’t engage or contribute.
Be bold with your customers – people understand the concept of community and partnership. Speak to your customers about it human to human. “We’re a community, you share, we share and everyone feels supported”. You will feel resistance. Not everyone in the universe cares about being part of a community. However, the vast majority do! When you find those that do, you’ll find it’s mutually beneficial and you’re creating something quite unique.
You’re going to have to work at it – as we’ve said in a previous article about trust, this isn’t an overnight win. You’ll need to prove the value of your customer community. Our favourite thing to do is join Customer Success on a QBR and listen to what your customers challenges are right now, and then connect them up with a customer who has successfully overcome the same challenge. Instant community win.
Feel the love from your community
Once your community is truly acting like a harmonious network, it will pay dividends. Firstly, once you’re part of an actual community you don’t want to leave it (hello increased retention rate!) and secondly the stronger the community, the more likely they are to want to share outside of just their group – hello advocacy. Finally, think about all that juicy insight you’ll get!