This is the second part of a two part series on how to think about and build a Go-to-Community strategy. You can find the first part here.
Today, Orbit has more than 13,000 users managing nearly 30 million community members in total, and most of those communities are connected to product communities.
Our users understand that communities can drive business value, but they also know that value capture follows value creation, and there are lots of ways to create value for your members. For example:
Community growth occurs when you understand how the value you create for community members relates to business outcomes downstream. But arriving at this kind of alignment requires a strategy. Below, we’ll explore a framework for defining your Go-to-Community (GTC) strategy and walk through several examples from Notion, Unsplash, and Miro. Here's how.
Every company has a Go-to-Market team, and their efforts are usually described as a funnel, both as a metaphor and measuring device. The funnel has defined most go-to-market strategies since 1898! It’s focused on optimizing every step of the process — from awareness and discovery to evaluation, engagement, and sales — pushing leads through linearly and extracting value at each stage. The funnel is great for measuring value captured, but it doesn’t tell the story of value creation.
Go-to-Community, on the other hand, isn’t about pushing people toward a binary endpoint, but rather creating an environment so compelling that it naturally attracts people toward its center.
In other words, healthy and active communities have gravity. A “high gravity” community is one that excels at attracting and retaining community members. Gravity is built through value creation in a community, which empowers community members to interact, make connections, and build stronger relationships. Communities should use frameworks like the Orbit Model, which were built from the ground up to understand and measure community.
If you’re thinking about community and want to nurture it, you need a Go-to-Community strategy to complement your Go-to-Market strategy.
If you visualize the Go-to-Community strategy it will take the shape of an ice cream cone.
The ice cream at the top represents your community. To capture maximum value, you must create value for your community to increase gravity. As gravity increases, members in your community begin to understand the value of your products and services via community engagements or word of mouth, which trickle down through the sales funnel, represented by the cone.
Both value creation and value capture have their role to play in growing organizations, but critically, they need to be aligned. It can be tough to achieve success if everyone has different underlying assumptions about how they connect. This usually leads to a mismatch between activities and expected impact. If you’re creating value without capturing any for your organization, then it’s an expensive, unsustainable exercise that’s unrelated to your business goals. While only capturing value ignores the opportunity to leverage the entire audience around your business.
The good news is that with a little bit of planning you can align your Go-to-Market and Go-to-Community strategies. When you do this, you create a flywheel effect. As you create value for your community and customers, a feedback loop of advocates grows around your product that helps you find new customers and improve your product over time. Here’s how.
Awareness is how customers are introduced to your product or service. From a community context, this will usually happen via word of mouth from community members.
Acquisition is about how you nudge community members to sign up or purchase an offering. Inspiration and social proof from within the community encourages curious members to trial the product. Once members sign up, they are officially a part of the community although they are likely to have low gravity at this point.
Activation is about the community providing answers, resources, and encouragement to keep users moving ahead. This encourages community members to become more engaged and active, increasing gravity and pushing users to their inner orbits.
Retention is about maintaining and growing usage in the long term thanks to a deeper sense of connection to the product through other members.
Referrals happen following positive community experiences. Members will want to tell others about your product or service because it stems from a point of pride. These people will become your word of mouth advocates.
Product feedback is given by your innermost advocates. They want your product to work better for them and they want to help shape its future. This is an opportunity to get high-quality feedback and ideation from the people that know and love your product.
To show how this works in reality, I've highlighted three examples below, which are all based on real companies that use community to drive value creation and value capture for their communities. Here’s what a typical journey might look like.
Notion is a customizable workspace to take notes, track projects, and build templates that help you with just about anything.
Nick, a college student, is looking for ways to organize his class notes, minutes from ASB, and internship applications for the summer. He hears about Notion via recommended TikTok videos from other Notion community members at colleges and universities around the world.
Nick signs up for Notion for free. He starts taking notes for class and shares them with classmates while studying.
Nick realizes the power of Notion. He joins the Notion community on Reddit to learn about automations and email reminders.
After finding huge improvements in productivity, Nick starts creating his own templates with built-in automations and uploading them to the Notion Template gallery.
Nick decides to share his templates via TikTok and gets thousands of downloads when his classmates view and share. He is even asked by a Community Manager at Notion to present at a local community panel and to join their Ambassadors program, getting some swag in return.
As Nick makes more templates and is asked to join more panels, the product team at Notion contacts him to provide feedback on some of their newest features. Nick agrees and uses the experience to launch his own career in Product Management, while shaping the future of his favorite note-taking software.
Unsplash is a stock photography platform that has built a strong community of photography enthusiasts and creatives.
Marine, a novice photographer, hears about Unsplash from a co-worker who recently had one of her photos picked up from the platform by a prominent nature magazine. This sparks Marine's curiosity. She has always dreamed of becoming a professional photographer and is constantly looking for ways to better hone and promote her craft.
Marine creates an Unsplash account and joins community events to learn to photography techniques and find inspiration.
Marine begins uploading some nature photos to Unsplash. She reaches out to other photographers for tips and is even contacted to share her techniques with fellow photographers.
As Marine builds her skills, she submits a photo to the Unsplash Awards. She is selected as a finalist, which gives Marine the confidence to continue to improve her craft, help others improve their photography skills, and submit more entries to the Unsplash Awards. At the same time, publications start using Marine's photos and accrediting her for her work.
Marine shows her friends, colleagues, and followers her photography, accrediting her growing success to the Unsplash community. This inspires others to start submitting photos to Unsplash and working on improving their photography skills as well.
As Marine becomes an Unsplash expert and active part of the community, Product Managers at Unsplash contact her to be a part of a Beta group for a new feature they are testing. Marine gives her feedback from a user perspective and helps shape the new experience.
Miro is an online collaborative platform for brainstorming, workshopping, and presenting.
Maurice is a Creative Strategist for a marketing organization. Tasked with creating a thought leadership series, he wants to create a mind map, but his current tools aren’t collaborative enough. He hears about Miro from a friend who runs a podcast and uses Miro to plan upcoming guests and editorial themes.
Maurice signs up for Miro for free and starts using the mind map to plan out topics for magazine articles and get feedback from colleagues. He even joins the Miro Community Forum to learn how to use Miro and find inspiration.
Through the community forum, Maurice realizes there are many different uses for Miro. He uses template apps to quickly manage his workflows, build customer journeys, design marketecture, and even build presentations.
Maurice’s co-workers also join Miro to collaborate with him. Together, they are able to convince the executives at his small business to pay for a business license and apply for a $1,000 credit through Miro’s startup program, which they use to run workshops and invite guests to join. Maurice even starts making a few templates of his own to help other magazine strategists get started quickly. He shares them to the Miroverse, a community sourced template gallery, so others can also save time in the same way he does.
Maurice becomes such a fan of Miro that he and his friend decide to do a podcast episode about the Miroverse to share their learnings and templates.
Some Product Managers at Miro listen to the podcast episode on their commute to work. They decide to reach out to Maurice to be a part of their advocacy program. Maurice is not only able to produce award winning magazines and help build a brand, but he is also able to grow his favorite platform to better serve his day-to-day needs.
As you can see, community played an outsized role in not only pushing these users to adopt these services, but eventually advocate for the platform via word of mouth, and work to improve the creator experience over time. These users are willing to do this because your software helps makes their lives easier and achieve their goals.
You too can make community an integral part of your business with a Go-to-Community strategy. By prioritizing value creation for your members you will create stronger, healthier relationships that provide mutual benefits for both members and your business