Just how valuable and in-demand are customer communities to today’s B2B businesses? According to Gartner, “online communities have become integral — not optional — especially for solutions that rely on subscription-based revenue,” and they anticipate “the expansion of communities in B2B, and the associated use cases, to continue from 2021 through 2025.” One of the major keys to building a thriving community is the steady creation of relevant content.
Rachel Lurie, Senior Customer Advocacy Marketing Manager at Emburse, understands how community content drives advocate engagement to support business priorities. Emburse recently launched its new customer community, the Emburse Collective, where a holistic content strategy was applied across its challenges, levels and badges, rewards and discussion forums.
We recently chatted with Rachel about her content development process, how she involves teams across Emburse, and how community content ties back to Emburse’s business goals.
Congratulations on the recent launch of the Emburse Collective! Can you tell us a bit about the program?
We’ve actually had a community program with Influitive since 2017. But after an acquisition in 2019 where we expanded across additional customer segments, launched several new solutions, and rebranded as Emburse, we realized the community needed to reflect this.
Rather than update our existing community, we decided to start fresh and build a new community from the ground up, designed to bring together customers from across our segments and reflect our new Emburse branding. We began implementation in Q3 2021 and launched the community in October. In the Emburse Collective, we hope to mobilize our advocates to share their spend management success stories, provide product feedback, network with their peers, learn more about our solutions, and have fun along the way.
Walk us through the content planning and creation process for the Emburse Collective.
We’ve created a content calendar where I plan our community activities, and this has been a really helpful tool in staying organized. I typically map out content one month at a time, and create and schedule content about one to two weeks in advance. I try to plan ahead as much as possible, while also remaining flexible since things can change quite a bit depending on shifting priorities and incoming requests. When urgent requests do come up, I ask for at least 2-3 days’ notice so I can switch things around on the calendar and have enough time to program and test the new content.
Our content cadence is typically 3-5 new challenges per week, which usually fall on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. I try not to post more than one “ask” per week, and typically post the “fun” content towards the end of the week.
I try to maintain a good content balance between:
- Education: promoting blogs, reports, product and training resources, event/webinar invites, success stories, and best practices sharing in our discussions forums
- Asks: requesting product reviews, testimonials, speakers, referrals, social shares, and feedback in surveys
- Fun: posting trivia, brain teasers, and seasonal/holiday themed challenges
We often drive customers to discussions through challenges, although we’re lucky in that our advocates are quite active in discussions on their own as well. They love posting questions and sharing best practices, and we continually get feedback that discussions are one of their favorite community features.
I also like offering evergreen content. For example, we have evergreen review challenges that are always available so members can choose if and when they would like to review our products on sites like G2 and TrustRadius. We also have an evergreen “Resources” section at the top of the community homepage where we link to external training materials and other relevant content.
Where do you look for inspiration when brainstorming content ideas?
I try to align community content with broader marketing initiatives, such as brand campaigns or product cross-sell programs. I often look to Emburse resources for community content inspiration, such as our blogs, case studies, podcasts etc., as well as partner with internal teams to brainstorm content ideas.
Influitive’s VIP community is a great source of content inspiration, as well as their templated challenges and campaigns. Influitive’s Professional Services team is amazing and proactively brings great content ideas and recommendations for how to build campaigns to align with our goals.
How does the content you create for the Emburse Collective tie to your program goals, and how do you measure the value and success of your content?
Our primary goals are to:
- Expand our brand presence
- Deliver best-in-class customer experience
- Drive product expansion in customer accounts
Much of our “ask” oriented content supports these program goals, such as:
- Generating public-facing product reviews and social proof to expand our market presence
- Identifying referenceable advocates for success stories, testimonials, speaking engagements and other brand initiatives
- Inviting customers to attend product demos to drive cross-sell opportunities
- Posting educational content to support adoption and optimize customer experience
- Asking for referrals to further generate revenue and expansion goals
We measure success by looking at overall community engagement metrics, as well as acts of advocacy associated with certain challenge types, such as: number of survey responses, discussion comments, reviews, case study or speaker participants, testimonials, referrals, etc.
How does the content you create for the Emburse Collective tie to other parts of the program (e.g., rewards, levels, badges, etc.)?
We incentivize customers for everything they do in the community, and we offer some incredible rewards such as gift cards, Emburse swag, and electronics. Sometimes, we even offer special raffle prizes for participation in high-value campaigns. The more important a particular act of advocacy is to our program goals, the more points they’ll earn for completing the associated challenge. For example, an advocate could earn 300 points for completing a survey, 500 points for providing a market-facing testimonial, 1000 points for completing a product review, and 2000 points for participating in a case study. Each of these actions are also associated with exclusive badges, such as the “thought leader” badge or the “review expert” badge which helps them level up.
How do you involve other departments/stakeholders at Emburse in sourcing content ideas? Do you ever consult your members?
We’re trying to infuse customer voice into everything we do at Emburse, and the community is a vital component of this. I remind internal stakeholders that the community is a resource for them whenever they want to engage with or generate feedback from customers, and I encourage them to reach out to me if they have content ideas or activities they’d like to run in the community. I collaborate across various teams on a variety of community initiatives, including:
- Customer success and training: sharing education, adoption, and training content
- Product: gathering feedback on new features and souring beta testers
- Customer marketing: promoting cross-sell activities
- Brand: generating customer content and testimonials, encouraging social sharing
- Events: sourcing speakers and driving event/webinar registration
I also consult members twice a year in our community check-in surveys, which include questions about the types of content they like and what they would like to see more or less of in the community. This helps in ideating and prioritizing content as well.
What’s one piece of advice you’d want to give someone who is thinking about launching a new customer program?
Do it! If your company is looking for a platform to engage with customers at scale and mobilize advocates for marketing, sales, and product initiatives – building a community with Influitive is the way to go.
My advice is to get internal customer-facing teams and other key stakeholders involved as early in the process as possible. Leading up to launch, create well thought out internal educational resources about the community. For example, create a community FAQ for customer-facing teams and provide them with a demo of how the community works so they can understand the value and how it benefits them and the customers they work with. Provide them with slides and talking points to reference when speaking with customers to help promote sign-ups. The more these internal stakeholders understand the benefits of community, the easier it will be to get them involved with content creation in the future.
Also, consider leveraging Influitive’s Professional Services team. They are best-in-class and have been a huge help in getting the Emburse Collective up and running, optimizing customer experience in the community, and executing aspects of our content strategy.
What future plans do you have for the Emburse Collective and customer advocacy at Emburse?
As we ramp up the community, our goal is to leverage it strategically across the organization to impact everything from marketing and sales initiatives, to education and onboarding programs, to product development. We’re excited that the community will easily scale with us as our organization evolves and we continue to grow and expand our customer base.