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How to Get Buy-In to Launch an Online Community

Many of the purchases we make are driven by emotional factors, with one Harvard professor claiming that 95% of purchasing decisions are subconscious. Clearly, tapping into that emotional chord is key to brands and marketers; but it’s also an essential step to successful customer engagement online. People want to be appreciated for their loyalty, and people want to connect over the things they are interested in (or see value in).

Engagement drives how customers feel. The more engaged a customer is, the more positive they are about a brand. So what’s the best way to tap into that emotional engagement? Crafting a community for your customers.  

However, in order for you to develop a community, you must have buy-in and support internally. Easier said than done, right? Well, here’s how to do that.

Start at the top. Community does not just happen, and certainly not in a vacuum. You need to build a program and build your pitch so you can get buy-in with your execs. 

While you know the advantages of an online community, you need to be sure the benefits are communicated in a way that makes upper management see it that way too. Here’s your chance to show them what you’re made of! Carefully prepare your pitch with these tips.

  • Who, what, where, when, and how. Identify your target audience. Define the user experience. Decide on a platform (be it within social media or walled gardens, like forums). Plan for launch, development, and improvement. Build an operation plan for moderation, support, and community management.
  • Line it up with the company’s objectives. Review the organization’s business strategies and goals, and show how the online community will contribute to the success of the overall organization. How will it strengthen performance? This approach gives them real data on which to base a decision and shows that you understand the company’s needs.
  • Have an implementation plan. C-level execs are going to want to know how this project will be accomplished, and what resources are going to be required. Be realistic. Look at past implementation strategies for successful and unsuccessful projects, so you know what works. Show them how you will accomplish your goals and sustain the project.
  • Use a proven online community ROI model. How will it boost revenue? Will it improve retention? Pull examples from your industry and create KPIs to help track development and growth. Don’t forget about indirect benefits like increased employee productivity.

Identify your stakeholders. Within your company, who may benefit from your community? What departments? Which teams? Marketing and customer support teams often have immediate interest and need from a community. Developers will be curious about feedback. Brand reps will be interested in the brand presence. Depending on your organization’s structure, your stakeholders will vary. Ask these three questions to identify them.

  • Who is impacted by your online community? In addition to departments that are responsible for interactions, identify the staff members and teams that will be impacted by what is discussed within the community. For example, if there are product complaints or suggestions for improvements, your product management team will be impacted.
  • Who may be interested in the development of your community? Campaigns can help drive product, “surprise and delight” can help influence your product, and ambassador programs can help develop a feedback loop with some of your most loyal customers.
  • How is upper management involved? You definitely need buy-in from C-level executives that oversee digital experiences, such as your CMO. This person is ultimately responsible for the community, as well as the departments that are impacted.

Get support from other departments. Cooperation and collaboration from staff is essential to your success. However, other departments may be focused on their own priorities. How do you get their attention? Their support? Focus on value. How will the online community benefit their particular department?

Describe how the online community will fit into their everyday workflow. Applying non-disruptive training tactics, managing expectations, calling out opportunities for brand/product celebration and customer appreciation, and providing a direct avenue for support will ensure employees are excited about the new opportunity.

Having your listeners’ best interest in mind and being equipped with a well thought out plan will ensure your online community gets full buy-in. Once it’s up and running, it’s up to you to maintain the health of that community — and that’s another exciting adventure altogether.

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