How To Gain An Unfair Advantage with Community-Led Growth

Community-Led Growth

Community-led growth has emerged as a growing trend, but what is it exactly? Is it a function of marketing, sales, or product? Why does it matter and what are the benefits of a community-led growth strategy? In this article, I’ll dive into how community-led growth (CLG) can fuel business growth, the fundamental elements to a successful strategy, and key steps for implementation.

Why Community Matters: The Power of Belonging

CLG flips the script on traditional growth strategies. Instead of solely pushing messages outwards, it focuses on building a thriving community around key issues and topics directly tied to your brand. This community can become a powerful engine for growth - fostering user engagement, brand advocacy, and organic user acquisition.

Although it seems that everyone is obsessed with AI and what it can unlock across all aspects of business, at the end of the day, we are still social creatures who crave connection. Building a community around your brand can provide a sense of belonging, shared purpose, and valuable social interaction that can’t be replaced by even the best chatbot (at least not yet!). CLG can also become a powerful motion throughout your customer journey. 

Here’s an overview of how CLG can augment performance across each stage of the revenue cycle:


Why A Well-Nurtured Community Is Good For Business

Brand Building

CLG can enhance your brand’s image through building authentic connections. Positive user experiences shared within the community create a powerful form of social proof for potential customers. Community members become passionate brand advocates, sharing their positive experiences and promoting your brand organically.

Valuable Feedback Loop

Communities provide a platform for ongoing user feedback. Especially in early stages when products are being developed dynamically, startups can gain valuable insights into user needs, preferences, and areas for product improvement.

Fuel For Growth

Engaged communities can become a self-sustaining source of user acquisition. Happy members recommend the product to their networks, attracting new users organically. They can also be a powerful retention tool. A strong sense of community fosters user loyalty. Members feel valued and connected to the brand, leading to higher retention rates.

Key Elements of a CLG Strategy: Relationships, Resources, Recognition & Referrals

Thinking about how to start a CLG strategy can be overwhelming. Keep in mind that you don’t have to create everything all at once. To simplify things, here’s four key elements that distinguish CLG from other types of growth strategies. Start with one or two of these elements to begin building your community:

  1. Relationships: Communities are first and foremost a way for people with similar interests, goals, or challenges to interact in a safe and trusted environment. Your brand plays a role in the community, but it’s not the star. In order to foster deep connections amongst your community, start by being very specific. Large, monolithic communities can be overwhelming for users and will dilute the purpose. Develop niche communities focused on unique interests or user types. A great place to start is a Reddit community.

  1. Resources: Communities are becoming more than just social hubs. They're evolving into knowledge centers. Consider creating educational resources, tutorials, and user-generated content (UGC) repositories within your community to foster engagement. Develop a high-quality content strategy that provides value to your community members. This could include blog posts, tutorials, user guides, webinars, or AMAs (Ask Me Anything) sessions with industry experts - all of which are designed to empower users to learn, fostering a culture of knowledge sharing and deep product understanding. 

  1. Recognition: Like any social platform, there will be a subset of influencers that emerge,  those that most actively contribute to the community overall. Empower these users by highlighting their perspective in your broader marketing strategy. Position them as experts in areas that align with your brand’s value proposition and feature them in your content and campaigns. You can also recognize your top customers and contributors with rankings or badges that incentivize them to continue to advocate for your brand. At Google, I worked on our annual Partner Awards contest which recognized excellence in Google Ads within the agency ecosystem. This was consistently one of the most valued programs across Google, and winners like Closed Loop would tout their achievement across their social media channels.

  1. Referrals: CLG can be a powerful acquisition driver. With Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC) on the rise, pouring more money into paid advertising runs the risk of eating into your margins. Instead, consider testing a monetary or valued-based referral incentive to grow your community and acquire new customers. People are more likely to try your product if they are referred by someone they trust. You’ll see this strategy used quite frequently among fitness brands like ClassPass: 

You can also offer exclusive perks or early access to new features for community members who are top referral sources. 

Building Your Community: Practical Steps for Implementation:

So, how do you translate these ideas  into action? Here's a roadmap to help you establish a thriving community:

  1. Define Your Community Goals: Align your community with your overall business objectives. Are you aiming for increased user engagement, product feedback, or brand advocacy? Having clear goals will guide your community strategy and help you measure success.
  1. Identify Your Target Audience: Who are you trying to connect with? Understanding your Ideal Customer Persona (ICP) is crucial for creating a community that resonates with their needs and interests.
  1. Choose the Right Platform: Select a platform that aligns with your goals and your target audience’s preferences. Popular options include dedicated community software platforms, social media groups, forum platforms, or even custom-built solutions embedded within your product. Bettermode is a great option for building a code-free, customized community platform
  1. Invest in Community Management: Identifying someone to be responsible for nurturing the community, fostering engagement, and addressing user concerns is crucial for long-term success. This could be a core responsibility for a marketing manager on your team, or could be outsourced to a consultant or agency.
  1. Measure and Analyze: Track key metrics to measure the success of your community efforts. This could include engagement rates, user sentiment, growth in membership, and brand mentions within the community.  Analyze this data to identify areas for improvement and refine your strategy over time.

Building a strong community takes time and dedication, but it could be the thing that gives you that unfair advantage- leading to sustainable growth, brand loyalty, and a passionate user base that becomes an integral part of your brand’s success. 

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