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    Unlocking growth: The power of user communities for B2B SaaS companies

    Unlocking growth: The power of user communities for B2B SaaS companies

    Building and nurturing an active user community can be a game-changer for B2B SaaS companies looking to drive sustainable growth. Implementing a user community strategy offers myriad benefits, supported by industry data and real-world examples from companies like Gainsight, HubSpot and Rocketlane.

    Understanding user communities

    About six years ago, I led a global team at a B2B SaaS startup company. We reached $40 million in recurring revenue but lacked a forum for collaboration and idea-sharing with our several thousand customers. Customer surveys informed us that our buyers and users were hungry for this type of relational rather than transactional forum. 

    There was also a desire internally from our product management and marketing teams who seek customer feedback in an efficient yet organic way. My customer success and support teams were eager to have another resource to direct current customers for supplementary assistance. 

    Without the internal experience to execute, we went meta and turned to industry communities to learn about community building. 

    At its core, a user community is a digital space for software products where users can ask questions, share feedback and collaborate. There are two types of communities: 

    • Closed communities: Private, restricted access where a user must be logged into the software to access its user community.
    • Open communities: Anyone on the web can access and engage within the community. 

    Due to the intended business outcome of our mission, we opted for a closed community and eventually incorporated live meetups, initially via Zoom (during the COVID-19 pandemic) and later in person. 

    We selected Salesforce Community Cloud as our community software, worked with our marketing and communications team on a catchy community name and devised a plan to pre-seed the community with stimulating questions and topics for user engagement. We drove an awareness campaign both through traditional channels like email and social media, as well as via in-app messaging. 

    The end result was a successful community launch that garnered over 2,000 users in only three months. Many key learnings came out of that project, namely the underscored significance of user communities for technology companies. They are critical to scalable return on investment. Keep reading to learn about the myriad benefits of having a user community for your business. 

    Dig deeper: Why community could be the next big thing in marketing

    The importance of user communities

    There’s a reason that Gartner has seen a 74% jump from 2022 to 2023 in client inquiries about customer communities and why there has been a 22% increase in organizations with community teams since 2020: Community involvement can offer an average ROI of 6,469%

    Today, tech companies can effectively connect their products with users through user communities, a highly effective solution in the digital landscape. They serve as a conduit for feedback and support and foster a sense of belonging and collaboration among users. 

    When executed thoughtfully, user communities can help a technology company achieve the following business benefits:

    1. Feedback loop

    User communities provide a direct channel for users to share feedback, suggestions and even grievances. Rocketlane does a great job of this with their Preflight user community in Slack and with in-person events. This feedback is invaluable for companies to understand user needs, identify pain points and prioritize feature development. 

    Our community launch enabled our user researcher to monitor, evaluate and prioritize customer sentiment in near real-time which, in turn, kept our product development roadmap nimble. 

    2. Product improvement 

    Similarly to the feedback loop benefit, tech companies can iteratively improve their products by harnessing insights from user communities. This approach ensures that products remain relevant, user-friendly and aligned with evolving market demands. 

    This is also foundational for product-led growth initiatives and for companies with multiple product offerings that span varying use cases by industry or vertical. Our research and development teams could mine data like specific keywords and phrases to help inform their product roadmap. HubSpot also does a good job of leveraging its user community for this purpose. 

    3. Customer support

    User communities often serve as an extension of customer support. Experienced users willingly share their knowledge and troubleshooting tips, reducing the burden on official support channels and enhancing overall customer satisfaction. 

    Additionally, people like to self-help. As much as 69% of customers want to resolve their needs independently through customer self service options or through peer-led solutioning and idea sharing, according to Zendesk

    4. Brand loyalty

    Up to 66% of community members say they are loyal to the brand and 66% of companies claim their community impacts customer retention. When users are engaged in the product and in the collaborative nature of a user community, they are stickier and more likely to remain a customer. 

    5. Brand advocacy

    Similarly, engaged community members are more likely to become brand advocates. They share positive experiences with others, contribute to word-of-mouth marketing, and help organically expand the company’s user base. With applications like Influitive, gamifying advocacy is another way to drum up activity. 

    Another tried-and-true approach? Sending company-branded swag (e.g., socks, hats, water bottles) with a request to post a photo of them wearing it on social media is a task most community members are glad to do. I did it for customer success platform Catalyst when I joined their mentorship program and Salesforce even has a whole swag store where you can find a hooded sweatshirt or even a Trailhead stuffed animal!

    6. Innovation hub

    User communities can serve as a breeding ground for innovation. Through discussions, collaborations and feature requests, users may propose novel ideas or use cases that inspire new product developments. This can also be a breeding ground for your next product customer advisory board, similar to how Kantata leverages their community. 

    7. Talent hub

    A B2B SaaS software company’s user community often serves as a dynamic talent hub for system administrators by facilitating networking and peer-to-peer learning. This environment enables professionals to showcase their expertise and innovations, attracting potential employment opportunities within the community. Gainsight has its GameChanger community where Gainsight administrators can find jobs and also join topic-specific sub-communities.

    Cumulatively, a branded user community is a critical milestone in a B2B SaaS company’s revenue growth. In a survey conducted by HigherLogic, 66% of companies said that their community impacted customer retention. The latter of which is literally the main goal of a subscription software business: get customers and keep them to preserve and expand recurring revenue. 

    Taking these key learnings about the importance of user communities, it’s time for you to launch your own initiative for your business. Stay tuned for a follow-up post on how to launch a user community, where I’ll share the best-in-class approaches for getting yours live. 

    Dig deeper: Why now is the time to pay attention to micro-communities

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    The post Unlocking growth: The power of user communities for B2B SaaS companies appeared first on MarTech.

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