How to Get Internal Buy-In For an Online Community
Are you a community manager looking to create an online community for your audiences? That’s a great idea since it allows you to consolidate all your community initiatives in a single online space. You can connect people, host discussions, run or facilitate events, webinars, and ice-breaker sessions in your community.
Although it sounds good, the caveat here is about convincing your internal team about the online community and securing required resources. Irrespective of the organization type — an enterprise, a startup, a retail business, an educational institution — you are likely to face some obstructions internally. However, there are some simple ways to counter these roadblocks.
The fundamental factor for convincing your team and securing the budget lies in devising a clear plan for presenting your idea. Essentially you need to effectively demonstrate the benefits of an online community for your organization and create an estimate of the resources. Finally, you will present how you will measure the success of the community and the value delivered by the community.
Aligning the benefits of the community with the organization
Just like any other business initiative, you need to look into how the community exactly fits the larger business goals. That will be the foundation on which your proposal will be built. An online community has benefits for various departments. However, you need to focus on one of the critical business areas and show exactly how the online community will help.
Here are some benefits of a community for various departments:
Customer success: Promote self-service by empowering customers to help each other. Share best practices, resources, and create a space to collect feedback. Build a robust knowledge base with both user-generated content and internal contributions.
Marketing: Amplify content creation, distribution, and improve presence in search engines. Add a human element to your brand with authentic customer engagement. Keep members updated with the latest news and events. Identify superusers, potential brand evangelists, and activate a channel for referrals.
Sales: Help prospects with pre-sales questions and improve sales. experience. Showcase the backing of the community and the social proof generated from the member interactions to instill confidence. Get a better understanding of the buyer’s journey.
Product: Collect authentic feedback from the community with candid conversations. Improve retention with engagement and social touchpoints in the customer journey. Share product updates, conduct market research, and bring in the Voice of Customer into the product roadmap.
Engineering and QA: Empower customers by offering a channel to report bugs and issues with the product. Recruit customers for beta testing and identify issues early on. Introduce a direct communication channel so the engineering team learns more about the people who are using the product.
Apart from focusing on the department-specific use cases, your proposal would also have components of the industry in which you are operating.
In software and technology companies, the benefits are aligned around customer retention and loyalty via better customer experience. This covers better support, onboarding, self-service, ideation, feedback collection, etc.
For e-commerce and retail companies, often the community is geared towards boosting repeat purchases, improving product discovery, and feedback collection. In the case of media companies, the community is designed to boost engagement via discussions, traffic, and return visits.
Collecting feedback internally
Listen to the internal team, leadership team, and internal stakeholders closely. When they are sharing feedback and providing suggestions it means they have considered your initial plan and they are looking to learn more as well as address their concerns. That’s a positive signal for your project.
Collect all the concerns your team has and address them by taking some time to collect your thoughts. The solutions that you will devise will only make your case stronger and help you foresee potential risks clearly.
By listening actively and delivering solid solutions, you will be able to instill trust and successfully bring everyone on the same page about the community initiative.
Creating a blueprint for community operations
A critical element in getting the consent to your community project is about presenting your plan for running the community along with risk factors. Here are some of the common points to cover when preparing:
- What would be the size of the internal team for smooth operation?
- How would the community platform help you with the community objectives?
- What would be the cost of running a community operation (including software platform and talent)?
- Who would be part of the team to manage the community and how will you assign various operational activities to the teammates?
- How would you acquire members, engage, and retain them?
- What are the key metrics to measure and score the success of the community?
You would start with the benefits of the community, get them hooked to the idea, and then explain how it’d be achieved.
Being honest about resource requirements
In this stage, you are looking to plan the resources required for the community project. Be as detailed as you can be. For instance, you should factor in the cost of the community software, new hires, and other ad hoc requirements such as customizations.
This shows that you have a comprehensive understanding of what’s required to run a successful online community. As a community manager, it is your job to ensure that people are aware of everything that goes into building a thriving community.
At said, none is perfect and we might miss a few things. However, trying our best to account for everything ensures that we are not looking at something that would catch us off guard.
Clearly laying out the vision
Your online community in the conceptualization phase could be perceived in different ways. Some might think of a simple discussion forum, a chat group, or a Slack workspace. At the same time, some would also correctly consider the online community as a full-fledged platform for discussions, networking, and building authentic relationships.
Hence, it is paramount to clearly describe what’s your vision for building an online community. That way you can easily manage the expectation. Also, a clear timeline for the development, implementation, and production stage would help you secure the right resources. Learn more about community life cycle stages and the general timeline here.
To summarize you need the following for full transparency:
- What are you are looking to achieve?
- How it aligns with the business goals
- What type of resource you will need
- An estimate of the timeline to achieve the goals
Providing proof with a trial run
Trial projects are great for testing new initiatives and aligning people who might not be fully aware of your execution plan. If you are working with a community platform like Tribe that comes with both a free tier as well as a trial for the premium version, you can set up the community project and explain how everything works.
This will help your time envision how it will work with your audiences, employees, partners, and customers. At Tribe, we have witnessed many customers set up a free plan and take their time to set up everything so the team is convinced that everything works perfectly.