A go-to-community strategy (GTC strategy) is a plan that specifies how an organization will create and engage with its community, provide value to its members, and derive value for itself.
The purpose of a GTC strategy is to set out a blueprint for the processes, tactics, and outcomes of creating and encouraging a community around an organization's products or services. It considers factors like the programs, personnel, and channels employed to enable connection among community members and between members and the organization, and how the success of which will be measured.
The go-to-community strategy helps a company consider why it's creating a community, who is in the community, and its value to and between members. Then, it creates a plan around conversing with, listening to, and engaging with current customers, potential customers, and those exploring something new.
The GTC strategy aligns stakeholders and establishes a timeline, actions, and measures an organization will employ to deliver community success. Overall, go-to-community strategies provide the following benefits within an organization:
To create an effective GTC strategy, an organization needs to clearly understand who comprises its community and the wider environment it exists within. New workflows will need to be created, and existing ones clarified to revise and evolve the GTC strategy over time.
Communities are complex systems, which means understanding the relationship between input and feedback can be difficult or not show up for a long time. Consequently, it is useful to define testable hypotheses based on the questions above. For example:
The act of discussing and debating these questions and hypotheses will bring more clarity and alignment about the purpose and impact of the GTC strategy, and engage teams in a creative discussion about how to create value in many forms.
While all kinds of organizations can benefit from carefully considering their go-to-community strategy. Organizations with communities formed around, related to, or sponsored by a specific company or brand tend to benefit most from a go-to-community strategy. A GTC strategy ensures the rigor and discipline needed to drive success in organizations where community is critical to their business.
If I have a go-to-market strategy, why do I need a go-to-community strategy, too?
The inputs, incentives, and outcomes are different between go-to-market vs. go-to-community strategies. These can be summarized as the difference between value capture vs. value creation.
Value capture is about generating pipeline and qualifying and closing prospects. These are your demand generation experts, SDRs, SEs, and AEs who are generally aligned and compensated on, capturing value.
Value creation exercises include many of the activities carried out by community teams, developer advocates, content creators, and event organizers. This includes creating content and tutorials, developing training materials, hosting events, and creating spaces where people can share ideas and connect.
When these two operating modes aren't clearly defined, it can be hard to achieve success as everyone harbors differing underlying assumptions about what’s at stake. For instance, you wouldn’t ask an account executive to spend time chatting with community members on the forum since they should be focused on closing deals and capturing value. And yet, it’s not uncommon for someone to ask a community manager or a developer advocate a question like, “How many leads did we get from the meetup last night?” The person in this example is asking a value capture question about a value creation activity.
GTC and GTM plans should complement each other. By clarifying the GTC alongside the GTM and describing both plans in detail, companies can reduce their coordination costs and enjoy all the benefits.
What's driving the need to have a go-to-community strategy?
Product-led growth and bottom-up go-to-market are changing the game, forcing organizations to rethink traditional funnel-focused processes regarding their sales and growth. Compared to the old world where software tools were imposed upon workers who had little say in the matter, this world is one where purchasing power has become decentralized; where users expect as much from their work products as they do from their personal apps; and where paywalls and ‘call us’ pricing have been replaced with trials, free tiers, and self-serve plans.
A strong “go-to-community” competency not only helps companies proactively compete in and adapt to this new environment, but also provides the framework and tools to shift from top-down to bottom-up. Go-to-community helps build positive-sum relationships beyond just transactional sales. And perhaps most importantly, it levels up the very notion of community as something that’s not purely company-centric and transactional (e.g., “good for deflecting support tickets”) but into something that impacts every part of the business.