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Planning a Successful Champions Program

June 27, 2023
Patrick Woods
Co-Founder & CEO
Planning a Successful Champions Program
Welcome to The Observatory, the community newsletter from Orbit.

Each week we go down rabbit holes so you don't have to. We share tactics, trends and valuable resources we've observed in the world of community building.

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Now that you know the benefits of a successful Champions Program, you’re ready to plan your program out in detail.

‍This is a three-part series

  1. What is a champions program?
  2. Planning a successful champions program (you are here)‍
  3. Launching your champions program‍

‍You can set yourself up for success by planning your Champions Program with a foundation based on 3 pillars: your goals, your ideal members, and your value proposition.

Identify the goals for your program, which will help you ensure everything aligns with overall company strategy and goals (and will help you get budget), define your ideal member profile, and pinpoint your program's value proposition. 

Keep in mind that these pillars are equally important, and, taken together, will keep your planning in balance. And you don’t need to approach them in a linear fashion - you might start with any of the three and work outward from there. For example, you might start with who you want to attract to your program, and then explore what you can offer to those people to help move the needle for your business goals. 

Identifying program goals

As you plan out your Champions Program, it's important to identify your goals as they relate to the business. Your program goals should map to your company’s overall strategy to prevent internal tension, confusion among program members, and defunding of the program. Goal clarity will also determine the type of champion you need and the activities you’d like them to do in partnership with your brand. 

A helpful framework for exploring and assessing potential areas of impact is Phil Leggetter's AAARRRP framework, which takes into account the full customer lifecycle. As you work to identify your goals, pick 1 or 2 areas below to start.

  • Awareness - users become aware of your product
  • Acquisition - users signup for your product
  • Activation - users successfully use your product
  • Retention - users continue to use the product and potentially increase usage
  • Referral - users like product and company brand enough to refer others
  • Revenue - users conduct some monetizing behavior
  • Product - users and the developer relations team help define and build the product as well as gathering feedback from users to enhance your product

If your company uses objectives and key results (OKRs), you can then align your efforts with the OKRs in the areas you’ve chosen. 

This early alignment work not only helps ensure your Champions Program is driving business outcomes, but will also influence the types of interactions you plan for its members. 

For example, if your goal is for your program to help drive product activation, you might ask your champions to host virtual onboarding sessions with new users and make sure they have early access to all your beta features as early as possible. On the other hand, if you are more interested in driving awareness, your program may involve collaborating with champions on hosting meetups in important cities or delivering talks at relevant events. 

Define your Ideal Member Profile

In addition to identifying your program goals, part of planning a successful program is to create an ideal member profile. Imagine the ideal person to represent your brand. What kinds of things are they interested in, or even better, passionate about? What types of events or content do they naturally create for their own communities? Does it matter where they live or what languages they speak natively?

One way to gain clarity on your ideal member is to write down your community’s positioning statement. A positioning statement is a short articulation of who you want to be to your audience. It’s okay if you don’t have an existing community — this exercise will help you refine the specifics of who you want in your Champions Program. 

A positioning statement distills the research, insights, and ideas from a community discovery process into a single sentence that becomes the foundation for your community design choices. The building blocks for a positioning statement are audience, description, benefit, proof, and payoff, and they’re applied as follows:

For [ audience ], community_name is [ description ] that [ benefit ] because [ proof ] so that [ payoff ].

For example, let's say your Champions Program is aimed at professionals in the technology industry who are passionate about pushing the boundaries of innovation. Your positioning statement could look like this:

"For tech professionals and enthusiasts, the Tech Innovators Program is a vibrant and collaborative community that fosters creativity, knowledge-sharing, and networking opportunities because we believe that together we can accelerate technological advancements and drive industry breakthroughs."

By creating a positioning statement like this, you define the target audience (tech professionals and enthusiasts) and describe your community as vibrant and collaborative. You also highlight the benefits, such as fostering creativity, knowledge-sharing, and networking opportunities. Additionally, you state the belief that working together can accelerate technological advancements and drive industry breakthroughs.

This positioning statement serves as the guiding principle for your community design choices. It helps you align your goals, content, activities, events, and overall strategy with the interests and passions of your ideal members. When making decisions about the program, you can refer back to your positioning statement to ensure consistency and relevance. We’ve covered creating community positioning statements in-depth, if you’d like to read more.

đź’ś Use Orbit to identify ideal members

Orbit assigns Love and Reach scores based on a user community member’s history of activities and connections within the community, with top members making into Orbit Level 1. 

You can use Orbit Level, Love, and Reach to spot relevant candidates for your program. You can also use Orbit’s advanced filtering capabilities, for instance, members who have submitted three or more pull requests over the last 90 days.

Overall, crafting a positioning statement and creating an ideal member profile are crucial steps in planning a successful community program. They help you define your target audience, their interests, and the unique value your community provides. By understanding your ideal member, you can tailor your program to meet their needs and build a thriving community.

Pinpoint your program’s value proposition  

Your program should go beyond swag. Matthew Revell posits that there are 4 main reasons developers participate in Champions Programs (as mentioned in this exceptional blog post on how to build and grow a developer champion program):

  • Access to key people
  • Progress their career
  • Making friends
  • Access to knowledge

The best programs create more value than they capture, resulting in healthy, robust organic growth. As you think about your program’s value proposition, consider what your ideal members want to achieve: external recognition, the chance to influence the roadmap of products they love, or the opportunity to build relationships within the industry are just a few of the values your members might expect in return for their participation.

That’s not to say you can’t expect value capture from your members. As you refine your program, you should also outline what you’ll expect from members - contributions from them, how you’ll support them in the program, and what sort of time commitment they can expect along the way will be important parts of the program details. You’ll want these defined before you launch, so you can clearly communicate your expectations of program members. 

Once you have pinpointed your program’s value proposition, it’s wise to do some discovery and get some feedback from potential program members, ideally those that represent your Ideal Member Profile. Do your ideal members care about your program’s value proposition? Do you need to refine your ideal profile based on what you’ve learned? If the value seems compelling to them, what kind of contribution are they ready and willing to undertake in exchange? 

Check out the community discovery section of this blog post for more details on how to conduct your discovery process. 

Summarize your plan 

Clear communication is key to building trust and obtaining buy-in from internal and external stakeholders. Once you’ve identified your program goals, defined your ideal members, and pinpointed your value proposition, summarize your plan with the following info: 

  • Program Goal 
  • Ideal Member Profile
  • Program Value Proposition
  • Member expectations (what you want members to do)
  • Program support (how you’ll help them do it)
  • Time commitment (how frequently members will meet, how long the program will last) 

PROTIP: If you can’t fit it all onto a single slide, it’s possible that you have too much information; review and revise for concise clarity. 

As you iterate on your plan, consider sharing your summary with the folks you did discovery with previously. They can help you solidify the language and direction while also providing feedback on the value proposition, expectations, support, and time commitments for your program. 

Once you have buy-in and positive feedback from your first few potential members and from your stakeholders it’s time to launch and grow your Champions Program.

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