1. Encourage Feedback (and Listen to It!)
Whether your team is listening or not, your customers are conversing with one another – in self-generated user forums, on social media channels, on product review sites or at in-person events. Customer feedback – whether on a feature, product or service – offers important insight into the minds of both customers and prospects. Your marketing teams can leverage this perspective to inform messaging. Your sales teams can use feedback to build deeper relationships with customers. Your product team can use it to address bugs or as key considerations for future releases. When customers feel heard, they often feel valued; an effective customer feedback mechanism can help create a strong sense of connection between your customers and your brand.
2. Create Opportunities for Interaction
Your customers can serve as trusted – but unbiased – third parties, offering informal, off-the-record advocacy or more visible, public statements on the value of your product or service. This makes them important engines for new customer acquisition as well as existing customer retention. It’s important to facilitate opportunities where customers can connect with and learn from each other, share their positive experiences with your brand, and be recognized for their support.
Customer forums (both in person and virtual), community associations and annual events can help foster an ecosystem around your product or service. We’ve seen this drive value in ways large and small, including events such Summit-backed Jamf’s “Jamf Nation User Conference,” the largest gathering of Apple system administrators¹ in the world; Summit-backed Odoo’s annual “Odoo Experience” which gathers 10,000+² members of the company’s open-source community; or through smaller, more regular customer advisory board meetings throughout the year. Regardless of the format, it’s important to capture, consider and, where possible, respond to the feedback or ideas shared by your community in these settings.
3. Invest Resources
In our experience, while many communities may evolve organically, those that provide the most value are thoughtfully nurtured by the businesses that benefit from their work. Many of the most successful consumer-facing brands know this well and have long invested in dedicated teams to engage with customers and influencers through social channels and offline experiences. And, these days, many B2B businesses are taking note as well: nearly 60% of the Forbes Cloud 100 list have dedicated brand communities and more than 26% are actively hiring for community roles.3 Dedicated community engagement efforts can help keep a real-time pulse on customer sentiment, actively participate and influence customer conversations, and create opportunities to effectively and systematically harness the power of customer voices to help inform product innovation, customer service, and go-to-market motion.