The Community Flywheel
At Tribe, we believe that branded communities should not live in silos — they must be fully integrated with the entire customer lifecycle to deliver the maximum efficiency in customer acquisition, engagement, and retention. The community flywheel is Tribe’s conceptual framework to showcase how community touchpoints can be added in the buyer lifecycle and why companies need to adopt this community strategy.
Traditionally the customer journey has been visualized as a funnel and it has generally worked for businesses. It is so common that you would invariably find this everywhere from educational institutes to boardroom meetings.
However, in the last couple of years, the majority of the companies have started to realize that the customer journey is much more intricate and it doesn’t move in a linear manner. Rather the customer decision-making process moves in a highly intricate manner through multiple steps that encompass a dizzying array of channels.
And every channel in which the customer traverses can be reinforced by word of mouth and customer referrals. This is crucial as new-age customers are more inclined to accept and trust the communication from their peers in comparison to the messaging sent by the brands.
According to a report published by Forrester, close to 70% percent of US online adults trust brand or product recommendations from friends and family and 46% trust consumer-written online reviews, while only 10% trust ads on websites and 9% trust text messages from companies or brands.
This is the primary reason why brands should move away from the status quo and align themselves based on present-day consumer preferences. Online communities are an important component in the customer journey and now they have gone mainstream with close to 60% of US adults already being a part of self-service web forums.
Hence, it is crucial for companies to align their community strategy according to the change in consumer behavior and keep the community integrated into every customer touchpoint. This involves a two-stage approach -- first, we need to transform the linear customer funnel into a customer flywheel and in the next step, we need to apply community touchpoints to this flywheel. Customer flywheel was first introduced by HubSpot based on the Flywheel concept by James Watt.When we merge the customer flywheel and the applicable community touchpoints, community flywheel emerges. This is a new-age conceptual framework that delivers a comprehensive community strategy in line with the way customers move through various channels in the buyer lifecycle.
What is customer flywheel?
In sharp contrast to funnels, flywheels are highly efficient in accumulating your efforts and channeling the same in a contextual manner.
Consider this — when a company uses various resources to become visible to the potential customers, moves them in a funnel and finally turns them into clients, the outcome just ends there. The company simply gains a customer, but there is no way for the company to leverage existing and new clients to help with other aspects of the business such as customer acquisition, support, and research.
In short, a funnel strategy doesn’t allow you to realize the full potential of your customers and the resources invested in acquiring customers.
In the case of the flywheel, a company would put the customer community at the center to acquire new customers, engage them, boost retention, deliver better support, grow repeat purchases. This is not an old-wine-in-a-new-bottle plan -- we’re talking about a complete change in the approach towards customers.
When you consider your business in terms of a flywheel, all the strategic decisions will be much different than what you would generally plan with a funnel.
How community flywheel works
The community flywheel is based on three broad goals:
- Attracting prospects
- Increasing engagement
- Boosting loyalty by delighting them
The majority of the companies investing in different customer communities should largely align their goals around these three. For instance, if a company uses its community strategy to showcase successful clients, they would be able to pass on this information to the prospects as well.
The key point to note here is that every company is unique and the way the goals would be set for the community flywheel would entirely rely on the business model. So, the company has to find out the departments of the business that can have a significant impact on the selected goal. Then it would be a matter of amplifying the effort put in those areas, increasing efficiency, and decreasing any kind of obstacle for its integration in the community.
The obstacles can be removed by simply understanding the way your company’s departments are structured and how cross-functional teams sync. Uncover the reason why clients are churning, and where you are receiving objections from the customers in the entire decision-making cycle. All this should be aligned with the community strategy as well.
Internally, you need to ensure that the employees from different teams have access to the right data, fully motivated, and don’t get stuck while moving forward. The more you increase the efficiency with which your business operates and remove the frictions while aligning the goals with the community, the powerful your community wheel will become.
Finally, you should be able to build a giant base of evangelists both externally and internally which would be driven by the community that is distinctively yours.
The customer journey and community flywheel
Perhaps you are wondering about the way the community flywheel can be aligned with the customer journey. At Tribe, we absolutely believe that the community should be an integral part of your company by seamlessly merging with different touchpoints such as website and product.
In this section, we’ll cover how you can use your community to integrate with the customer lifecycle:
- Leverage the user-generated content in your community to drive discussions around both highly targeted topics and broad industry topics. This is a great way of boosting the power of content and becoming visible on the web (via search engines and third-party sites) to get into the consideration set of prospective customers and attract them.
- You should also use a community solution to add certain components of the community inside the website. FAQ sections are greate examples -- your community can add dynamic, engaging, and up-to-date content to the otherwise static pages.
- Use the community to showcase your successful customers and share their stories. This can positively impact the buying decision.
- Once you get new customers, all your training material (knowledge base articles, videos, webinars, infographics, etc.) can be hosted in a dedicated community hub to onboard customers and deliver everything they need to be successful.
- Again the peer group in the community can further help the new customers get up to the speed. This exchange of value between peers allows your brand to create customer networks. The ability to empower customers via self-service and deliver solutions to common issues via community truly increases the efficiency of the customer support and success team.
Also, your community content can be smartly integrated inside your product to deliver highly contextual information and solutions so that the users can access the right content and engage with the members without leaving the product.
Here is an example of one of our clients delivering community experience inside their website by selecting and integrating the discussion component of the community via a pluggable widget.
- You can also treat your community as a large focus group and build member cohorts based on their behavior, interaction, and engagement level. Then your community management, success, product, and marketing teams can align to uncover valuable insights created by candid discussions of the members.
- Apart from attracting new customers, your customer community can also reveal the prospects who are further inclined to become your client. You can find this simply by looking at the members who are particularly asking about specific features and asking for feedback from the existing customers. This is a great opportunity for your sales team to assist the prospect in a consultative manner and win new business.
- You can leverage the communication tools available in your community to keep the members informed about your product and send notifications to remain on top of their mind.
- Finally, your community is essentially the central hub to recruit the future advocates of your company. Find out the customers who are active, helping other members, providing references and happy with your product. Bring them into your advocacy program and tap the network to bolster your brand and attract new customers.
This completes the entire cycle and it is quite evident that the community can be integrated with every single touchpoint.
Shameless plug: Tribe allows you to completely achieve all these above-mentioned use cases and integration of the community in the customer lifecycle via widgets, API, and customization options.
The customer journey and community flywheel
The strategic shift delivered by the community flywheel is a unified model to visualize and act on the comprehensive set of factors affecting customer experience across the touchpoints.
The activities driven by the community will affect all of the teams. Marketing efforts will impact the volume, quality, and speed with which you would attract new customers and move through the sales process. The sales team would be making sure that potential customers smoothly become customers. And finally, your product, success, and support would be putting effort to retain the customers and eventually turn them into evangelists.
Customers are increasingly relying on third-party review portals, suggestions from peers and becoming more receptive to word-of-mouth messaging. These elements constitute the major force behind the decisions your customers make. In the modern age, a substantially higher number of people are discussing various topics in different online spaces.
No wonder the way you delight your customers would impact the efficiency with which you are able to attract new customers. Essentially, the community flywheel framework brings all the factors concerning the growth of your company in a holistic manner and offers robust methods to improve customer experience powered by collective and trustworthy crowd wisdom.
Tribe and community flywheel
Tribe completely embraces the community flywheel and empowers the clients by delivering all the tools and techniques required to deliver an outstanding customer experience via tightly integrated online communities.
Tribe’s modular and API-first approach to community building coupled with embeddable widgets and complete customization options allows customers to fully integrate the community in the buyer lifecycle and leverage the power of crowd wisdom to the largest extent.
It’s quite clear that in modern times, the customer experience that you deliver can be amplified by a trustworthy and honest community-based approach. This is important because customers are more receptive to peers in comparison to your marketing messages.
This is the reason why companies must keep the customer community at the center so they can grow in a much better way. At Tribe, we promote this by allowing our customers to grow with their clients in a collective manner as a community by forging long-lasting and meaningful relationships.