How to Make the Whole World Love Your Product from Bevy, Atlassian, Salesforce and Slack (Video + Transcript)

Join Derek Anderson, Co-Founder of Bevy alongside Atlassian Sr. Director of Customer Engagement, Leslie Lee, Salesforce VP of Community Erica Kuhl and Slack Developer Marketing Manager Elizabeth Kinsey for a session on building communities.

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Derek Anderson, Co-Founder @ Bevy
Leslie Lee, Sr. Director of Customer Engagement @ Atlassian,
Erica Kuhl, VP of Community @ Salesforce
Elizabeth Kinsey, Developer Marketing Manager @ Slack

FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW

Derek Anderson: Well thank you so much for being here and thank you to our wonderful panelists for being here. My name is Derek Anderson. I’m the co-founder of Startup Grind, a community of entrepreneurs and more recently a software tool for building community called Bevy. Let me quickly introduce our wonderful panelists. I’ll start with Erica Kuhl who is the Vice President of Community at Salesforce where she heads up programs like the MVP program, User Groups, on and offline communities, answer forums and IdeaExchange. Leslie Lee is the Senior Director of Customer Engagement at Atlassian and she spent the last 20 years doing B2B and B2C marketing. She currently heads up all of Atlassian’s online and offline community and user group programs and Elizabeth Kinsey, who’s currently in the developer marketing program at Slack where she heads up many of Slack’s community initiatives.

Derek Anderson: Prior to that, Elizabeth was with Branch and was the director of marketing on their community programs as well. So as we start … Today’s panel is talking about … Was that all right? Did I introduce everybody okay?

Leslie Lee: Yeah.

Elizabeth K.: Yes.

Derek Anderson: Okay. Today’s panel is talking about building communities and developing superfans and as we were talking about who could possibly have the best things to say about this, these three women rose right to the top in terms of things that they’re building and so we’d love to start Erica, with you. 17 years at Salesforce, I’m sure there’s been many evolutions of how Salesforce looks at community. Tell us how you look at it today and how it’s changed over the last five or 10 years.

Erica Kuhl: Yeah, it’s been a massive change. It started out as a side project, as a vision and a risk that I took based on just a dream that I had and it’s evolved into a strategic differentiator for our company. It’s something that our CEO talks about passionately. He knows many of our community members very, very intimately and is building the company around it now. So it’s been an incredible evolution.

Derek Anderson: Yeah. It’s sort of one of these things like the Trailblazer Community. We see these characters now on the billboards, it was not like that in the very beginning, right. That’s something that sort of evolved and has come to be over time. How has Salesforce sort of taken these community programs and this sort of different feel for the brand and really tied it into everything that they’ve done?

Erica Kuhl: I think the most fundamental thing that’s happened is that we’ve centered and anchored everything on the trailblazer. We gave our community members a name and that really changed the game for us. We went from calling them community members to calling them trailblazers and then we united them by giving them something like a hoodie that says trailblazer and making them feel like they are part of something bigger. And then everything happened from there and we really rallied around them at the center of everything we did and that’s what definitely changed the game. It didn’t become about marketing, it didn’t become about sales. It became about making them successful and then anchoring everything around that.

Derek Anderson: Leslie, talk to us a little bit about how Atlassian thinks about this. We know the products, Jira, Confluence, Trello among many others. How do you … how do you cultivate that sort of top 5% of your user base?

Leslie Lee: Well Atlassian really depends on this word of mouth marketing. So these fans and superfans of us are really integral to our business. We land in one part of the business and because of word of mouth and how they’re using our products, it gets spread to other parts of the company. And I think we were really lucky that our products were easy to use and loved by so many people that it kind of naturally organically happened. And what we had to do is identify kind of these folks and really give them more resources to help them do what they were already doing. And in some ways it was kind of giving them the platform and content to be able to connect with each other and then get out of their ways and many cases.

Derek Anderson: And is it … it’s simple as just so you … Some people in this audience maybe already have a customer base and some don’t in terms to draw from, but was it … for something like Atlassian has tons of users everywhere at this point, all over the world. Is it as simple as just putting it out there and seeing who applies and who wants to get involved and just giving them an opportunity or is it something that you actively reached out to people and said, hey, we know you’re one of our most engaged users or customers, we’d love for you to be part of this. How much of it is a pull versus a push?

Leslie Lee: It’s both and I think both of those strategies are important. We had a very kind of clearly laid out, this is what it means to be a user group leader and here’s the benefits that you get, here’s what it means to be part of the community. And then people can apply for it and we can review and people that are not even known to us or to our partners. And then through our partners and our ecosystem, through folks that we know and through our account managers, then we also identify evangelists within organizations. And people who are already starting user groups within their companies and connecting different parts, different departments and sharing how they’re using the products, identifying those evangelists and helping them, giving them more resources and connecting them with each other.

Derek Anderson: Elizabeth, so you’ve just recently joined the Slack team. Previous to that you were at Branch running the community there. We think … How many people in here use Slack?

Erica Kuhl: Wow.

Derek Anderson: Okay. So it’s kind of a funny product to think like they’re just now sort of kicking this off. There’ve been some smaller initiatives here or there, but now it looks like it’s sort of ramping up and how … As mature as a company as Slack is, how are people thinking about it internally? Why do it now? Why not have done it two or three, five years ago or why not wait five more years? Why is now important?

Elizabeth K.: I think now is important because it’s the right time. There’s enough resources available, there’s people there that want to do it and also we figured out how to do it internally. I think that one of the other things to think about is that, Slack grew very naturally and organically through community, through word of mouth and through these different kind of grassroots initiatives and nobody really wanted to mess with that. Let people do what they need to do and observe and figure out where to support. And now that we have a good idea of that it’s the right time to move in and start to kind of galvanize all of those efforts and take that groundswell and really set it on fire.

Derek Anderson: I think one thing that’s interesting about each of your products is that the way that I got exposed to them, this may not be everyone’s experience, was through someone else. Like with Jira, someone on the engineering team said, hey, we need to use this product. With Slack, it was someone on one of our teams that said, hey, I have to use to communicate. With Salesforce, someone on the sales team or someone managing the customers. I wonder, do you think that in terms of building community and maybe Leslie, we could go to you with this, do you have to have a product that is crushing it, that is about to IPO allegedly or is has already IPO, like when is the right time of the life cycle do you think to start thinking about building community?

Leslie Lee: I think you can start at the very nascent stages. It does have to start with a product that people love and that is easy for people to adopt and take from there. I think that’s kind of a critical ingredient, but you don’t have to wait until you’re at a certain point in the life cycle. Like, okay, now it’s the time where we can now invest in community and the fans. Actually from the very beginning, I think that’s a very important part of the marketing piece, actually the most cost effective and probably could have the piece that’s going to have the longest term … return in the long run.

Derek Anderson: Erica … and it’s really easy now to say, oh a trailblazer, such a no brainer. Look at … It brings life to the brand. You’ve got all these passionate people walking around Dreamforce repping Salesforce. But in the early days, I guess in this same sort of question, when is the right time to think about community because it seems like almost today if you’re not thinking about it, at least from my perspective, you’re already behind if you’re not playing for it at very early stages. But in the early days of Salesforce, how did people start to get behind the idea and believe in it?

Erica Kuhl: I think it was just giving … This is so long ago that it really wasn’t a thing. So really I just anchored it on something that we know we had a problem. We had a problem keeping up with scale. We were already bringing on so many customers so fast and then a way for them to connect with each other. And this was before there were designated Salesforce jobs, so people were doing Salesforce and other things. They’re by themselves often at their companies just trying to make a movement happen, trying to transform their business and they have a way to connect with other people. So I just saw a problem and I figured out a way to solve it. And that is the absolute way that it started, is just identifying something very specific that we needed solved. And I didn’t have any money and I didn’t have any resources, but I knew what was right. And I knew that we had customers that needed that and that’s how it started.

Derek Anderson: What is the … sort of talk us through the profile of someone at Salesforce that engages in the MVP program or the Trailblazer groups program. Who is this person? What’s in it for them, if I can say it so selfishly? They’re repping Salesforce every … You sort of see what’s in it for Salesforce, but what do they get out of it other than, you said a hoodie earlier. I know they get a lot more than a hoodie, but what else do they get? What’s in it for them?

Erica Kuhl: Well I think that’s one very critical thing is to build successful programs, you do need to know what they want out of it. And so I felt like this was a critical opportunity to do something that people forget, which is just ask the people what they want and why they’re doing what they’re doing. So I took that critical step and asked instead of thinking that I knew the answers. You build a community for a reason and I was kind of right and I was kind of wrong. So when I finally got this group together that would eventually be my first MVPs, they told me they wanted basically access and reputation. Those were the two things they wanted. Some of them wanted both, some of them wanted one more than the other.

Erica Kuhl: Access to product managers, access to prerelease information, access to me, access to each other, something that could make them better at their job, more effective, more efficiently and then they wanted reputation. They wanted to build their brand. They wanted to be recognized at our keynotes, they wanted to meet executives and they wanted a brand they could put on their resume that would propel them forward in their careers. And everything that I did to build these programs was anchored on those two things still to this day. And it’s … that’s what the … that’s the essence of what I think an MVP or a community group leader wants, is they want those things. And I give them as much as I can because the … Like Leslie was saying, the output back is enormous to Salesforce. So we just want to keep the balance more towards what we give them.

Derek Anderson: Leslie, I know Atlassian that after every single event that you run, you have a huge survey rating, NPS, process gathering feedback. Could you talk about the role the feedback plays in Atlassian’s process of helping these people?

Leslie Lee: Yeah, well we think it’s very important to always close the feedback loop. So one of the elements of access is that user group members and people within the community have access to Atlassians and to our product managers and giving feedback gets routed back into the company. And so … and when we looked at the survey results, so after each user group, what we found is that people who attended User Groups actually have higher NPS than people who don’t. That’s correlation and not causation, but when we kind of put all these points of correlation together, we saw there’s something really powerful happening when users come together and sharing use cases. We’re not the experts in their use cases. We’re not the experts in how it’s deployed in automotive and with certain ISO standards, but they are and when they connect together, they’re getting more benefit out of it and their engagement is higher. Their NPS is higher and the satisfaction so that’s kind of all part of what we get from the surveys.

Derek Anderson: Elizabeth, when you were running the community programs at Branch, Branch was a very small company at the time. It’s now much, much bigger. I think they’ve raised over a hundred million dollars at this point, but maybe you could just talk a little bit about how in a smaller company, in the earlier stages, how the company looked at building this community and how that over time as the company grew, what impact it had to start kind of early and small and take it from there?

Elizabeth K.: I think originally the really important thing was that it wasn’t about the company. The community was about sharing knowledge and making sure that we were connecting the right people in a room that could communicate with each other and help each other grow. It was no surprise. It was called mobile growth and that was the whole point, figure out how to build a business on an app. And I think that one of the things that we thought about in the beginning was how do you make sure that you still connect your brand if it isn’t about your product necessarily.

Elizabeth K.: And a lot of that as the company continued to grow, that became more and more important. And I think one of the things that was the kind of anchor through all of the changes that happened and all of the different decisions that were made was that it was really about the people that were showing up to the events. It was really about the people that we’re engaging when we had an online forum. It was really about the people that were at the center of it. And even though I needed to make sure that I was justifying my existence in my role, I really was a champion for them as well.

Derek Anderson: Yeah. I think one of the things too that those events that you did was you started to … Of course there are potential customers in the audience. There are existing customers in the audience and then you also … you brought these people onto the stage as well. Could you just talk a little bit about what you did with that?

Elizabeth K.: Yeah, I think that one of the things that worked really well with that was identifying the people that we thought were really amazing and experts and making sure that there was a diverse set of people that were up on the stage that really helped to make people feel like they were part of the community and that they could show up and see someone like them talking about the same problems that they had. And by making those people experts and by really helping them feel like they knew what they were doing, it built their confidence, but it also built their confidence in the business and built their confidence in their interactions with us. And it was a really powerful thing to do to say, you’re not our customer but we think what you’re doing is amazing and we want you to be able to tell that story. And it really made people happy to hear that it wasn’t about us.

Derek Anderson: There’s a … we’ve seen … We’ve seen this sort of backlash to the digital world, social media. Alexis Ohanian recently said we’ve hit peak social. Forrester has said that 2019 is the year to invest in humans. The backlash over chatbots and AI is starting to really bubble up and we see this in the news literally almost every day. But I wonder Erica, as we talk about … The bottom line for everybody is, what these things come down to is I’m trying to figure out which programs am I going to invest in?

Derek Anderson: What types of marketing am I going to build for the future for … Community marketing is one of these things that sort of is historically, this is totally changing, but historically sort of sit in this sort of gray world of like, is it a nice to do? Is it a must have? Is like … sort of hard to measure. And I wonder if you could just talk a little bit about how over time, how you all have … How you justify these programs with people inside the organization? How … which apparently Mark Benioff now gets it, loves it and is all on board, but I assume it wasn’t like that from day one.

Erica Kuhl: No.

Derek Anderson: So how have you done that?

Erica Kuhl: Yeah, it’s an evolution and it starts with little quantifiable things and I think that you can have aspirational goals for what you want to achieve with the community, but you have to be anchored in the person and the human at the beginning or else they’re going to be able to sniff it out. So … but that still doesn’t mean you can’t have little milestones along the way that you’re trying to achieve. And for me it was about finding little things that my executives could say and regurgitate quickly. Early on, we had pretty much only an answers forum. And so it was about getting them cost offsets and about answered questions and about how much was peer-to-peer versus how much were experts within our own company. And when I gave them those little tidbits, they could say them and then they could regurgitate them up the chain and that was really good.

Erica Kuhl: Then it was about skipping to the next level and figuring out now how can I make this more impactful to the business and I … A community strategist historically is not very data driven back in the day. Now we definitely have to be. So I got great advice, take a step back and really think about how to attach it to our overall company metrics. And I sit in the product organization and what matters to the product organization’s a certain thing. And I made sure that I could correlate the data directly to the top four metrics that matter to our product organization and that’s driving pipeline, driving ACV, annual contract value, driving adoption of our product and attrition. And so was able to take a step back and because we have access to a lot of data at Salesforce, I was able to bring some really, really strong metrics, but it took me a while and an evolution to get there. It started with something as simple as how many questions are getting answered to now being able to correlate it to bottom business line value.

Derek Anderson: Leslie, when we started working together about two years ago, it was Atlassian User Groups and now you have … you have Confluence, you have Jira, you have Trello, you have these kinds of … it’s expanding, it’s growing. And I wonder if you could talk about … answer that same question, how have you all developed buy-in across the organization, which seems to be growing and expanding the program?

Leslie Lee: Well, I agree with Erica that it’s an evolution. It really is kind of a buy-in journey. When we started … when I started almost four years ago, we just had the User Groups offline and like I was saying earlier, we started to prove, okay, people who attend User Groups are more likely to renew our products, are like less likely to churn, have higher NPS. It’s kind of not surprising. They’re more engaged but also from survey data that we do after each user group, we see that, okay, they’re saying that the User Groups are helpful for them in being able to spread Atlassian within their organization, being able to use the products better. And then when we expanded to online, we kind of went with the small measurable steps. Okay, how can we deflect support volume? And we know that in a very kind of known and quantifiable way what it means to have one support person be deflected onto the community to answer more questions, that support volume and that was able to quantify.

Leslie Lee: But every step along the way, we still have to … When we launched online community, what I would have loved is a mandate for all product managers, must spend x amount of hours in the community engaging with customers. We didn’t give that mandate. We’d still had to kind of create buy-in with each of the product organizations and what we did is identify a product manager that was friendly and open and have them see success in how they’re interacting with customers, how it’s improving, kind of how they’re building features and then have that success story spread within the product organization. Also with engagement and revenue, running in-app experiments where communities in the evaluation funnel or within kind of the … within kind of after usage of 30 days. Introducing community to product users and then seeing kind of A/B testing, if they’re using the products more. And so being able to prove all those things has helped in many different kind of ways, has helped to increase the buy-in within the organization.

Derek Anderson: I’ve heard it referred to, sort of what you’re describing as like C2C or customer to customer marketing, where you sort of empower and engage your customers to then sort of take the torch for you to then advocate for new customers and finding value for them across that chain. And that really is the story I think of Slack’s growth is, someone tells someone else tells someone else and that’s sort of how it’s grown. What do you, Elizabeth, again, as you all start to put this or putting this program together, how are you thinking about outreach, about getting it started, about getting people to sort of latch on from the beginning to eventually turn it into something much bigger?

Elizabeth K.: I think we’re really lucky in that we already have a lot of superfans. So it’s … In one way that is a huge advantage because there’s already people that are really passionate about how Slack helps improve their life and makes them better at work and streamlines processes and they can only go to one place where they have to do all of their work and they don’t have to context switch all the time. So people are really excited about that already. On the other hand, there’s so many different kinds of Slack users. There’s Slack developers, there’s people who are administrators on Slack and each one of those groups has a different need and the community that we build around them is going to be a little bit different. So I think that we’re thinking about it both from the kind of what is the segment of a user and person that’s going to be in these individual communities?

Elizabeth K.: How do we tie them all together? But I’m really lucky with the developer community, they were some of the first adopters of Slack. They are some of the folks that are the heaviest Slack users and so they’re extra passionate. I don’t know if you can exponentially turn up a superfan, but that’s what our developers are and we’re very, very grateful and lucky. And so for me a lot of it is surfacing the people that are already doing things. There are people out there who are already creating presentations around what they built on Slack, how they were able to streamline some kind of process. There are people that are just passionate about figuring out little hacks in Slack, like how can I make an app do this?

Elizabeth K.: And so a lot of what I’m doing right now as we’re putting the program together, is figuring out who are those people, what will they get out of the community in the same way that Erica was talking about, so that we can continue to build that. And a lot of it as you get going is about focusing on a couple of people with an eye for scale, but not anticipating that that’s what it’s going to turn into. If you kind of tried to do … if you try to build a program thinking this is going to be the biggest thing in the world and it’s going to blow up and it’s going to be so amazing, you’re not really focused on what your purpose is, which is serving those people, right. You need to tie it back to a business goal and there’s always something that you can connect it with, but before you get to the massive scale, you have to build something small.

Derek Anderson: Sometimes when I talk to people about building community, they’ll say that they have concerns about what … that it could negatively impact their brand. So you have like superfan evangelists, that’s great, but at some point it maybe gets to like fanatic and extremists inside of the brand or something. I don’t know where the scale is of engagement, but do you all have, Erica or Leslie, either of you, have you … Do you worry about that? Do you have issues? Does it not happen? Does it happen? What … how do you … you’re handing your brand over to somebody else and it’s kind of scary.

Erica Kuhl: Yeah, of course it happens. And if you think you can control it all, you shouldn’t be in the business of community because the business of community is not controlling things, but it’s creating some boundaries. It’s like the bowling alley with the bumpers, that’s what you need to do. But there’s going to be negativity and your goal is to turn that negativity into superfans and it happens. And it’s unbelievable when it does, when somebody … My theory is when someone has a passion to voice their concerns to you, it’s passion. It means they care. And so you can do … you could take it and you can turn it into something great.

Erica Kuhl: And I have a million examples of how that can happen, I won’t go into all of them, but I think that I love passion. And I feel like another thing is, if you don’t provide them a mechanism to say it, they’re gonna go say it somewhere else and then you don’t get to see it. And they’re just going to talk behind your back and so why not provide them an infrastructure to say it to you and then allow you the opportunity to react to it, but it’s going to happen and you just have to have a way to respond to it and be transparent. And I can’t stress that enough, is transparency is probably the most critical thing in building a really passionate community.

Leslie Lee: Completely agree with Erica. I do remember a conversation where we had with executives about are we okay with these negative comments on the community? Do we want to control it? And I mean our culture is about open. Jay was here earlier talking about our open culture and that extends to our customers and the transparency we want to give to our customers. And so, no, we didn’t want to and it’s going to happen and we want to know about it. We want to engage with customers around that.

Leslie Lee: And there’ve been some really tough times when, for example, when we announced the end of life for Stride and the partnership with Slack, that was really tough. We had some champions really upset with us and being very vocal about it in our community. And it is a little … it can be a little scary, like how do we engage? But the point is, you have to engage and then that kind of engagement that helps to diffuse the anger and just being really honest, like we’re very sorry and we know that it’s … that it can really hurt and here’s the decisions behind it. And that really helped the community to rally behind that decision.

Derek Anderson: When we were building Startup Grind, this is one of the things I always feared and it was this fear that never happened really. I mean of the 10,000 or something events that we’ve done, I don’t know, 15,000, maybe two or three things that I wasn’t … or I was really concerned about. But of all the millions of interactions that happen, the thousands of events, the millions of emails, tens of millions of emails that went out, I think as long as we found these people that matched our values and what we were really about and we made mistakes on some and we got it right sometimes. As long as we got the right people there, generally speaking, we had good results from those people. Is that Erica … is that your experience at Salesforce? Is it … How important are just picking the right people or getting the right people engaged?

Erica Kuhl: Yeah, I don’t think too much about it that way. I just want to create a really trusted open environment. Salesforce, I feel super fortunate to be at a company like Salesforce. It’s rooted really, really strongly in values and I’ve anchored, again, I’ve said anchored like four times, but it’s true. Like all these things, they’re based on values and I think as long as we have these shared values, the community has grown up with those values and they take it on and it’s there. It’s their home, it’s their environment. They protect it and they keep other things out.

Erica Kuhl: They provide them with almost templatized responses. What they can say to help you keep out some of that negativity. So it draws the right people in that way and so I don’t go picking, pick particular people, but I’m also just am lucky to have a leader that’s so passionate about customer feedback. He craves it, he wants it and the worst, the better actually. So it’s a really lucky environment to be in where we can create this really, really open, transparent world where customer feedback has to happen. And that’s been a lucky combination for us having rooted values and a really, really open leader for customer feedback.

Derek Anderson: Elizabeth at Slack, what types of engagement metrics affect the bottom line or ultimately the marketing organization? What types of things are they looking for? Say like this is important to us, this is important to us, this is important to us. What moves the needle?

Elizabeth K.: Well, I can only say so much, kind of a quiet period. I don’t know if you heard, there’s some stuff going on at Slack.

Derek Anderson: I’ve heard.

Elizabeth K.: But I can say that what we look for constantly is the level of craftsmanship in affecting those metrics. I think that that is what moves the needle the most and what has been one of the hallmarks of why Slack has been so successful is the craftsmanship and those values that we’re talking about are at the center of everything. So I think that when we look at what we want to do to move a metric or what kinds of things that we’re measuring ourselves again … against, a lot of the time it comes back to … If we’re being thoughtful and if we’re caring about our customers and we’re creating that craftsmanship and that value for them, we’ll be able to pull out the right information and move the bottom line in the way that we want to.

Derek Anderson: Yeah. How about you Leslie at Atlassian, what types of things are important metrics to hit in community or maybe not even Atlassian, in your other experience with other communities?

Leslie Lee: Within the community, our main metrics are around monthly active users, the number of visitors into the community, the people that return within the 90 days, so the retention and the number of contributors. So those that visit the community, how many actually go on to contribute. So that’s kind of how we measure the health of the community. There’s also the support goals around percentage of questions that are answered within 24 hours and first response rate and accepted answer rate. So there’s kind of a … that’s also kind of the support element. So we measure all of that to look at the health of the community.

Derek Anderson: Erica, how about you?

Erica Kuhl: Yeah, definitely health in metric, health in wellness and I ship out all of that data on a monthly basis to a number of different cross company stakeholders that care deeply. We have a very hub and spoke model, so we and the community team enable our organization to be able to run their own metrics and check the health and wellness of their subcommunities they run on the Trailblazer Community. That is every … I look at it almost every day, but I alluded to this earlier that there’s four overarching metrics that drive all of my business and it also has driven the size of my team and the size of my budget.

Erica Kuhl: And it’s very unique because in a community environment, the size of your budget just goes right back to the community so they’re very proud when the budget grows or when your team grows, which is a unique thing but we’ve been able … similar to drive correlation, very strong and tight correlation that individuals that contribute to our community and this is not a huge amount of contribution, it’s posting, voting, commenting, asking a question or answering a question in a 12 month period of time, which is not a lot. That’s table stakes. They are driving two times larger deal sizes to Salesforce.

Erica Kuhl: They’re two and a half times larger ACV. They are driving 40% higher adoption of our products and they’re four times less likely to attrit and these are insane numbers and they’re jaw dropping to our leadership because it’s … you would think that this is common. You’re creating this environment where people are engaging your product manager in there, you’re providing them input to your feedback or to your product. But unless you can prove it and Salesforce is big time data, so if you can’t prove it, it doesn’t matter what Forrester says, doesn’t matter what Gartner says, if Salesforce is able to prove it, then it matters. And so those numbers drove the success of community at Salesforce almost fundamentally.

Derek Anderson: Can I just drill into any one of those that you’re up for talking about?

Erica Kuhl: Sure.

Derek Anderson: Just how do I just logistically figure out that number? So someone comes into a Trailblazer user group event in Des Moines, Iowa and then they give you their email address and their information and then what … How do you then find out what kind of value they’ve … how that value increases?

Erica Kuhl: I mean this is not a Salesforce plug at all because this is Bevy but I sit on top of Salesforce, so my community lives on the top of our CRM. And our CRM has all of this data and I’m not a data scientist and I don’t know anything really about driving deals at Salesforce because that’s not my job, but I have access to it. I know that when you log in that you’re Derek from Bevy and Bevy has x number of deals and I know how you’re using our product. I know what products you’re using, I know how often you’re using them and then I grab that data and I match it up to someone that’s not in a community group.

Erica Kuhl: And then I just look at you side by side and I say, well Bob is not in the community and he’s not contributing to our community and Derek is, so therefore Derek is more successful. Now I know you’re out there probably thinking, well you could kind of look at it the other way around and that’s totally true, but I choose to look at it this way and I think it’s strong. I think the correlation is strong and we prove it over and over again. We used to do just login. We just were doing when you logged into the community, now we’re doing contribution and we saw similar numbers. So it’s data, it’s having access to data is golden, is golden. Drives every decision now we make.

Derek Anderson: As we look … and we’ve got three experts, decades of experience in building community here and probably the rest of us do not have as much experience. So if I’m trying to figure this out and I want to get ahead of what’s coming over the next few years. Let’s start with you Elizabeth and then Leslie and then Erica, just tell us what do you see coming? What is the future of community look like and it could be exactly what you’re already doing, but where do you see things going? If I want to stay ahead with my company?

Elizabeth K.: I think generally the future of community is in connecting the online with the offline. I think that figuring out a way to continually activate the people that are in your community is going to be very beneficial, not just for brands, but also B2C. I think there’s a lot of really great companies out there that are doing really interesting things to connect the online and the offline, but I think-

Derek Anderson: Any in particular?

Elizabeth K.: So I think Duolingo is a great one. They have a great community online. They have a great community offline. They give a lot of autonomy to their community and I think that that’s a big key in successful communities, is letting people do what they want to do within constraints, within those kind of bumper rails. But I do think that a lot of what the future is, is figuring out what the balance is between those two because they won’t stay separate forever and you’re going to have people that go back and forth no matter what.

Leslie Lee: I agree completely. I think another element of where community going is that it’s … it’d be a critical part of the extension of your brand. And so it’s critical to get that piece, right. It’s going to be a customer speaking on your behalf for your brand. So one thing we found out is that when we put social ads on and we can put our own ad in, that when we compare it to a community ad that’s around … someone in the community that’s written an article about how they’ve used Jira or Confluence, we get higher click through rates, lower CPC rates. So it’s people want to hear from other customers rather than product marketers like within Atlassian. They want to hear from each other to sell the brand. So I think that’s really kind of where community is going in and it’s important to see it critically as a part of your brand.

Erica Kuhl: So I would say that I’m excited about AI. I think that that’s my next evolution is how do I take these amazing advocates that we’ve grown and let them do something new and more sophisticated in our community. And take AI and really pump a lot of that into our community so they can answer the questions now instead of our amazing advocates and they can have a new evolution of what they’re going to. So I’m really excited about that. My brain can’t even bend around all the ways that I think we can use AI in our community, but there’s definitely in our answers forum, in our IdeaExchange. We have some great ideas and I think it’s that’s the evolution for us, is AI.

Derek Anderson: Hey, let’s give it up for Elizabeth, Leslie and Erica. Thank you for being here.

Published on May 28, 2019

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