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3 Customer-Focused Benefits of an Online Community

Differentiate yourself from your competitors by giving your customers an online community. They can connect with each other, and they’ll feel heard by you.

Listening to your customers can be both the easiest and most challenging things to do at the same time. While happy customers don’t always sing your praises, those with complaints tend to voice them loud and clear.

We’ve all seen how stock prices have plummeted after a slew of bad press on Twitter or Facebook. It’s an extremely competitive market, and I’m sure your executive team, along with pressure from the board, is not trying to make headlines as the latest entrepreneurial fail. So, how do you weed through the negativity but give your customers a way to feel heard and valued?

In a global economy where old and new competitors are putting up a constant barrage, how you differentiate yourself and create more value for your customers will dictate your success. Why not use ALL the tools at your disposal to accomplish your goals? An online community is a powerful tool that can harness customer feedback AND integrate with your other customer-focused efforts.

Online communities connect your customers.

New to online community? If so, the general idea is that it’s a centralized digital location where your customers or members can go to collaborate, learn and engage with one another. It should be a place where like-minded people interact about topics that are important to them, consuming educational content around a product or service that will enhance their current skillset. You can provide customers with exclusive resources and information that will make them more successful and help them use your product or service.

Online communities give your customers a place to be heard.

The community and connection in a private space that you own is part of what makes online communities so beautiful. In your online community you can safely share your company’s strategy so that all your customers and employees can be reminded of a singular vision.  If everyone is bought in, then you can all work toward the same mission.

Part of customer retention is helping customers feel heard, and online communities can support this by giving users access to a private platform where their thoughts are being heard. They have exclusive access to you and your staff and can contribute to the development of your product by voicing concerns, potential improvements, or things they like about your product.

Through an online community, you’re giving your customers an easy-to-use collaboration tool to express their thoughts, both professionally and casually, around your product or service, so that you can get their true feelings and adjust accordingly. Your online community gives you multiple channels to listen and respond, or even be proactive to their needs.

Online communities help turn customers into advocates.

When customers have access to the resources they need to be successful, and they also feel heard by your company, you’ve set up the perfect play. Think of online communities as the Michael Jordan to customer success. According to the Aberdeen Group, 85 percent of online communities have a formal strategy to encourage loyal customers to be brand advocates. This type of strategy translates to marketing-influenced revenue growth. When your customers know that you want to make them successful, they’re more willing to be advocates for your organization.

A bonus to this is that when you have an online community, you can use formal programs and gamification to encourage customers to be advocates. You can also use automation to scale the process – your platform can measure engagement and help you understand who is ready to be a case study or reference. Once you know that, you can use automation to send a more personalized message to everyone, rather than having to do this process manually.

According to Bain & Company, “Strategic planning is a comprehensive aprocess for determining what a business should become and how it can best achieve that goal.” When you’re creating your strategic plan, consider how online community can meet your goals.

Download the Community Roundtable's State of Community Management Report

Eversley Sifontes

Eversley is a Startup Associate Account Executive at Amazon Web Services.