Commarketing. Markommunity. Community Marketing.

Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

You get the point. I’m here to talk about the beautiful relationship between community and marketing.

Here I go again on that whole marketing thing

When you think about Community Marketing, what does it make you think of? Many community teams sit under Marketing teams, so naturally, many people would think that Community Marketing is the community team itself, whose purpose is to use community as a marketing channel. I’ve shared my thoughts on that before, but once again, I strongly believe that community doesn’t belong in Marketing. There’s certainly marketing benefits/ROI that come from community, but that can be said for several other teams at your business as well, so why limit your community like that? Anyway, I’m not here to dig in on that in this blog post, but you’ll see that topic pop up in a future blog post soon. Circling back to what I was saying before I went off on another “community doesn’t belong in Marketing” rant– Community Marketing.

Community Marketing is marketing your community to your audience(s). When a company is building a product, they have to market that product so people know about it. The same goes for community. If your audience(s) don’t know the community exists or why they should care that it exists, you’re going to have a hard time getting people to join your community. Just like marketing for a product, you need a full marketing strategy with specific goals. The ideal situation is to have an experienced marketing professional join your team with this as their focus. There’s an ongoing need for community marketing, and the job will never be done, so I think it’s a valuable use for an open headcount- especially since community has unique marketing needs. However, I know that most teams won’t have the resources to hire someone to do this full time (at least for a while), so you’ll need to work closely with your company’s marketing team to develop a strategy and execute on it.

I get by with a little help from my friends

In order to see success with your community marketing plan, you MUST get buy in, support, and resources from leadership. Your CMO/head of marketing (or the person in marketing who manages the team you’ll be working with) will need to understand what you’re trying to achieve, allocate resources, and prioritize this within their organization. If you go to someone on the marketing team and ask for their help without leadership buy-in, it becomes a side project that will always get deprioritized when something else comes up. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have the head of your marketing team account for this in their planning and commit to it in their goals.

One of the mistakes I’ve seen around community marketing (ok, and I have also made this mistake myself), is trying to go at this alone. You’re probably not a marketer. I’m certainly not. Lean on the internal resources and expertise available to you. Your marketing team has a view of all of the different channels, what’s happening, and when it’s happening like emails, launches, announcements, etc. They will be able to develop a plan that takes all of that into account. That doesn’t mean you drop this in your marketing team’s lap and run. You absolutely cannot do that, in fact. There’s nuance when it comes to community marketing. You need to work alongside that team to educate them on those nuances and continue to work with them to develop and execute on the best plan for your community.

What your marketing plan looks like will completely differ based on your community and your company, but you’ll generally want a combination of email, in-product, SEO, events and webinars, website, social, PR, and more. Again, I’m not a marketer, which is why I’m not going to dig into each of these or create an exhaustive list. You need to work with your marketing team to create a custom plan that fits your community and your available resources.

Is it worth it? Let me work it.

As part of this planning process, you’ll also need to determine budget. Your marketing expert will create this with you, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure expectations are set about who will be paying for what. If it’s easier to roll something like your SEO spend into their Marketing budget, figure out exactly what that looks like. Get this squared away early so there’s no confusion about it later.

Once you’ve created the community marketing strategy, make sure you have regular meetings with your point person on the marketing team to check in on your campaigns. Just like any other marketing campaign, you’ll have success metrics that you’ll want to check in on and discuss. What’s working? What’s not working? Which tests performed better than others? What channels are driving the highest number of signups? How do we want to iterate based on this new information? And so on and so forth. You’ll determine these metrics with your marketing partner when you are setting up the strategy.

So you’ve got a steady stream of people joining your community, all done, right? THINK AGAIN, SUCKA! Hopefully before you’ve launched your community or before you do launch your community if you haven’t yet, you’ve mapped out community member journeys. Part of your marketing strategy will also need to include how you reach members throughout various journey points. If someone hasn’t been active in 3 months, for example, how do you reach them to encourage re-engagement? What are the success metrics for this? You’ll have to build your community journeys based on your goals and decide where you need marketing along those journeys. It won’t be perfect right off the bat, but you’ll learn from what you put in place and continue to work with your marketing partner to iterate over time.

It’s what’s inside that counts

Last, and certainly not least is one of the MOST IMPORTANT parts of your marketing strategy. People always seem to forget this one- Internal Marketing. Every single person at your company needs to know what your community is, how people join the community, and their own roles to support and participate in the community. With community top of mind for every team, you’ll have everyone working toward the common goal of growing membership in your community.

For example, think about your sales team- they are talking to prospects and customers every day. Showing prospects that buying your product gives them access to a community where they can make valuable connections with industry peers and have quick and easy access to resources and answers to their questions is an amazing selling point. Also, when your Sales team is checking in with customers throughout the year, they can continue to raise awareness about the benefits of joining the community.

Now think about your customer success team. They’re also talking to customers everyday. Knowing that there’s a community and what the benefits are, they can work with you to build this into customer onboarding plans. They can also customize community recommendations based on the unique challenges they’re working on with customers.

Every team plays a role in the success of your community (more on that later in a post about employee engagement), so it’s absolutely imperative that everyone at your company has a clear understanding of what the community is.

The Only Constant is Change

So many things have been rapidly changing in the community industry, and nothing ever stays the same in Marketing. Keep this in mind as you develop your plans. You have to be ready to adapt, pivot, and iterate along the way to find out what works. And just remember that what works now isn’t going to work forever. As your company, products, and community evolve, your community marketing strategy will need to be continuously analyzed to ensure you’re getting the best ROI possible for your marketing efforts.

📢 Shameless plug- WE’RE HIRING! 📢

That’s right, our Director of Community at Venafi, Sofia Rodriguez Mata, is hiring a Community Manager for our team. Come join a team of people who LOVE building community- all the way up to our amazing CEO, Jeff Hudson.

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Community Strategist. Currently: VP of Community at Venafi. Previously Salesforce & Atlassian. Challenge me to a pun-off. Twitter: @hollyfirestone

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Holly Firestone

Holly Firestone

Community Strategist. Currently: VP of Community at Venafi. Previously Salesforce & Atlassian. Challenge me to a pun-off. Twitter: @hollyfirestone

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