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  • Writer's pictureMadeleine Milne

Why now may be exactly the time to develop your community-led strategy

We get it. We know that times are tough and may be about to get a lot tougher. There’s much talk of hiring freezes, layoffs and budget cuts. So why do we think that, instead of battening down every single hatch, now could be the time to take a contrarian approach and invest in developing your community?

Like everyone, I’m suddenly keeping an eagle eye on my discretionary spend. The easiest things to cutting back on are things that I not only don’t really need, but which - now that I think about it - I don’t particularly care about: products, services and subscriptions I realise I was buying almost out of habit. However, that doesn’t mean I’m eliminating everything that isn’t a true essential. So while I might not any longer drop into Starbucks for a latte when I’m solo, I'll still want to meet up with pals at a cafe or a pub for a chat. It’s not the drinks - it’s the connection with people. And the same goes for other things in the “nice to have” category. If someone feels a real link to a product, that they “belong” and are connected to other people who use it, they will want to hang on to that long after they’ve jettisoned some of their buying habits. Sure, they might have to trim back their spend a little, but it's going to take more than an international economic slowdown to make them want to lose the link altogether, and when the clouds lift, their spending level will likely increase again too. Whereas the services and products of companies that seem just to be taking the money and offering no other tangible value could be dropped without a moment’s hesitation. And those customers, once lost, may never return.

Spending on community doesn’t necessarily mean spending more – it can be offset by savings elsewhere. If you can get your customers to write blog posts, participate in podcasts or speak at or run events, this could mean you can free up some time of your in-house team which lets them focus on other key tasks. If you’re a business with a large volume of customer queries or support needs, developing a community which can help other customers can cut your customer support costs dramatically, as well as increase customer success which in turn drives further loyalty, advocacy, retention and usually also leads to increased spend. So, a community may actually increase your bottom line.

Many companies are happy to receive a ROI of 1-2x on advertising and other conventional marketing channels. Well, how about 4-7x, because that’s what well-executed community programmes are reckoned to deliver? Successful examples include:

Duolingo – launched in 2012. Revenue has grown from $13M in 2017 to $250M in 2021. Their whole offering has been based around a community-led design and build model. It's made up of a community of over 300M language learners, a small % of whom have helped develop some of the 90+ courses in 37 languages that are now offered. Yes, members of their community gave their time and expertise to write and develop language courses they wanted to share with others.

Figma – recently sold to Adobe for $40Bn. Again, a community-led strategy at its core. From the beginning they empowered the design community to help shape the product which in turn drove advocacy and adoption. Not only has their community-led approach reaped financial rewards for them, it's the most popular web-based design platform both within the industry and the public.

Notion – the note-taking app. Has a growing army of Notion Ambassadors promoting the benefits of using Notion (search for “how to” videos on YouTube and you'll see how popular it is becoming.) Notion has revenue of $67M and was valued at $10B at its last fund-raise. Over the last three years, its user group has grown from 1M to 30M. I can’t think of many conventional marketing campaigns which achieved 30x growth in such a short period.

Contact us for a free consultation call with our team to explore whether your business could benefit from a community-led strategy. Let us help you navigate the rough seas.


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