Engaging customers is now more important than ever. Not only do positive experiences help retain your customers, but they also drive net-new growth.
Customers who hold a positive view of your company provide powerful endorsements through reviews, stories, and referrals. When customers trust your brand, they’ll do the heavy lifting necessary to attract others to your products and services.
But how do we get there? By building a community that empowers your customers.
Your community gives customers a voice that matters. It gives them an inside look into the future of your products or services. It drives them to relate with your brand at a deeper and personal level, which pushes them to advocate for you to their networks.
Dan Cote, CMO at Influitive, sat down with Kathleen Orazio, the Customer Advocacy Marketing Manager at Trimble Viewpoint, to learn how she built a thriving customer community of over 6,000 members.
Kathleen oversaw a year-over-year growth of over 20%. In 2021, the Viewpoint community had more than 80,000 advocacy activities and over 20,000 discussion posts. The average monthly engagement rate of this customer community is over 26%.
Kathleen gave us a look at how Viewpoint customers treat the community as a home for product guidance, resources, and much more. You can catch the full recording of the webinar here, but read on for a quick recap:
Strategy 1: Re-Engage Thoughtfully & Consistently
Some of your customers may not engage regularly. People get busy and they can lose track. It’s not out of the ordinary, but the key is to never let those members fade away.
Kathleen outlined how she built two distinct re-engagement campaigns:
Not Engaged for 3 Months
Kathleen reaches out to these members from within the Influitive platform with relevant resources and popular content. She also collects their feedback to understand why they stopped engaging.
Not Engaged for 6 Months
For these members, Kathleen contacts them through email. In addition to highlighting key and useful resources, Kathleen also offers these members an incentive to get them back onboard.
Strategy 2: “Authenticity Begets Advocacy – Just Be Yourself”
The quote above was from Kathleen when she emphasized the importance of authenticity. Not only do your customers resonate with authenticity, but audiences overall prefer it.
Kathleen found that customers responded positively when they saw a vulnerable and human side to Viewpoint. This was especially true when Viewpoint sought to help the community.
We got an inside look into two of Viewpoint’s campaigns:
Suicide Awareness Month
Viewpoint focused on an issue that was top-of-mind in the construction industry and its core customers. Under the campaign, it shared industry resources and educational materials. In addition, Viewpoint also provided a space to its members to share their thoughts.
Viewpoint launched this campaign during the peak of the pandemic lockdowns. The campaign sought to address the isolation the members were going through. Besides offering resources, it also opened the floor to members to talk about what they were dealing with.
One thing we learned from Kathleen is that to build authenticity, you need to connect with your customers at a deeper level. Viewpoint worked on this connection by addressing sensitive and timely issues. It also called on member input and, in turn, reinforced their trust in the brand.
Strategy 3: Provide Exclusive Perks or Access
The question, “what’s in it for me?” matters to everyone. If you’re delivering tangible benefits to your members, your community will grow.
Kathleen showed us a variety of ways of providing that benefit.
For its Annual User Conference, Viewpoint created a series of activities to encourage members to uncover the mystery guest speaker. Those who guessed correctly got points. After the reveal, Viewpoint invited the community to ask questions. Those who asked the chosen questions got a perk. Following these activities, community registration went up by 21%.
Preview New Features
Viewpoint’s UX team regularly gives the community a front-row seat in trying out new features. It basically gives members an exclusive sneak-peek plus an opportunity to give feedback.
Besides empowering users to have a voice in the product, the dynamic also gives the UX team a window into understanding what customers want. This tangible benefit helped reinforce cross- departmental buy-in and support for the Viewpoint community program.
Strategy 4: Respect the Community’s Voice
Asking the community for feedback is a given. It creates a space for customers to express their needs or concerns regarding your products/services.
However, Kathleen emphasized the need to “complete the loop” when it comes to collecting feedback. You should show your customers where their feedback went and how it shaped or impacted the product/service.
This will show your customers that their feedback matters. They’ll see that providing feedback has value and that their input doesn’t go into a void.
Kathleen also showed us the importance of meeting where your members are. In other words, make them comfortable and excited to engage. For example, many members preferred giving feedback through conversations instead of structured activities.
For its Spectrum 2021 R1 Product Release, Viewpoint took feedback by facilitating discussions.
In addition to encouraging members to discuss feedback, Viewpoint also got its key employees (e.g. Product Manager) to weigh in and participate as well. The community basically became a place for members to learn about the product, discuss it, and engage with the Viewpoint team.
Strategy 5: Continue the Conversation
Don’t let the audience engagement end with your event. Kathleen discussed how Viewpoint moved the conversations people started at webinar/event Q&As to the community. This gave members the opportunity to continue asking their questions and get answers from the team.
Kathleen highlighted how this approach fueled an uptick in registrations from non-members.
Strategy 6: Provide Fun & Excitement
Kathleen discussed how these activities were mutually-beneficial for both Viewpoint and its customers. On one end, fun activities gave customers an opportunity to have fun. But on the other end, Viewpoint was able to collect customer testimonials and other key assets.
Moreover, Viewpoint also used the insights from these activities to build its customer marketing strategy for the next year.
Conclusion & Key Takeaways
Through each of her strategies, Kathleen kept emphasizing the need to center your focus on your members and to give back to your community.
In terms of keeping the focus on members, Kathleen ensured that each department at Viewpoint had someone championing the community. This is how Viewpoint shaped the dynamic between the UX team and the community where the latter can try out new features.
But at the same time, the UX team got valuable user feedback. In fact, before engaging with the community, the UX team was actually having trouble getting enough people to sign-up for their beta programs. By driving a departmental goal, the community program got executive support and cross-functional buy-in as well.
To give back to the community, Kathleen recommended checking in with members on a regular basis. Spend time talking to them and engaging the community as a whole to show that you’re invested in them. She added that Influitive makes this an easy process as it offers lots of tools for personalizing and engaging members.
Question: “With the higher product or feature adoption (10-20%), do you see that as a correlation to higher renewal or retention rates?”
Kathleen: “It’s a little harder to tie it all back, but yes, we can see that folks who have community members tend to renew without hesitation. One of the goals of our community is to make sure our customers have access to other resources that help them learn and train on the tools. We know that if folks aren’t using your products, they probably aren’t going to renew.”
Question: “How do you measure engagement rates? What is your average number of completions per challenge?”
Kathleen: “We measure engagement by the total number of active members month-over-month. In terms of activities that people complete, we have folks who come in every single day and complete every activity. But then we have members (e.g. C-Suite folks) who come less frequently – around 1-2 a month. These members are attracted to thought leadership content. So, you want to make sure you know who your audience is and that you’re directing them to relevant things.”
Question: “What have you found is the best way to deal with negative feedback and complaints within your forums?”
Kathleen: “We’re fortunate we don’t have a ton of negative feedback. It tends to happen seasonally and around year-end. We’ll have a lot of folks who need support at that time and support tickets get backed up. The way we approach it is that we look at it as a great opportunity to address it. We always treat negative commentary with “kid gloves.” I’m usually at the forefront of that and I’m fortunate to work with the CS team. I can quickly issue a CS ticket and escalate it. So, I can address these issues quickly.
But if it’s negative feedback regarding a product, I can bring in one of our product champions. Usually, we find that it is a misinterpretation or misunderstanding or misuse of the product. So, it’s our opportunity to say, “hey, here’s how to use it correctly.”
Overall, no community will ever be without any negative feedback. But I noticed that those who did leave negative feedback are now advocates for us.”