Whether you’re a seasoned community manager or just starting out, gaining support for your community project can be a difficult task that requires various levels of approval, a commitment of resources, and a dedicated budget. While this may seem daunting, with the right process in place, you’ll be sure to secure and maintain community investment in the long run.
We’ve provided five steps to help you win the necessary budget (time and resources) to develop and support a thriving community for your organization:
- Develop a Strong Business Case
- Seek Executive Buy-In
- Understand Cross-Functional Stakeholder Needs and Concerns
- Clearly Communicate ‘Wins’
- Follow Up (and Keep Following Up)
We tackle each more in depth below.
One: Develop a Strong Business Case
Gaining support for your community becomes much easier if you can demonstrate how the community aligns with the organization’s broader business strategies:
- Understand the problem(s) your organization is trying to solve. What are your goals? Areas of improvement? How does community fit in?
- Determine how the community can benefit the organization in both the short and long-term. Imagine the time and money saved by product managers being able to receive feedback from the community before a product launch.
- Connect with teams across your organization to better understand how each team could be impacted differently by the community. Marketing, Legal, IT, and Customer Support are a few of the departments you should be sure to include in your rounds.
Learn more: Growing Customer Value
Navi Vaid, VP of Business Development here at Chaordix, shares some examples of the types of conversations you should be having.
- Ask Market Research how they’re conducting research or inviting feedback. Tell them what you’re thinking of doing and ask them how they would like to use the community.
- If you’re approaching the CX team, ask them what the current retention strategies are and how those numbers can be increased.
This is also a great way to simultaneously find and build internal support, with the possibility of securing internal champions for the community as well.
You can also gather your own secondary research to further your case for community. There are plenty of community-focused organizations conducting valuable research to better understand and prove the ROI of community. The Community Roundtable, CMX, and Commsor are just a few that come to mind.
Learn more: The Impact of Online Communities
Two: Seek Executive Buy-In
Now that you’ve done your research and connected with different teams across your organization, it’s time to take it to the big guns.
By now, you should be able to answer the following questions:
- Where in the organization does the community add value?
- What teams will be the most impacted by the community?
- How does the community help achieve different business objectives?
- Who should be involved in the creation and management of the community?
- What types of people do we want to invite into the community?
It’s important to make the value-add clear from the start—no matter how well researched or inventive your solution is, if the value isn’t obvious or persuasive, you won’t obtain funding or any other necessary support. Be sure to emphasize not only how the community can help the organization achieve its current objectives and plans, but the potential opportunities community brings as well.
Additionally, it is much easier to gain executive buy-in if you understand what unique motivations each stakeholder has. This may appear time-consuming at first, but it can substantially boost buy-in to a project, and will actually save you time and energy in the long run. Individuals and teams in the same organization may be driven by entirely different perspectives. Forming a connection between the community project and business goals, as well as between stakeholder values and motivations, is critical to achieving overall buy-in.
According to Vaid, this can take the form of “helping stakeholders understand how the community could potentially benefit them, what toolsets are going to be involved, and how they can extract information to capture important metrics.” You need to identify the team members who will be building or moderating the community, the tentative timeline, and the expected outcome or value achieved at the end.
Three: Understand Cross-Functional Stakeholder Needs and Concerns
In the previous section, we mentioned the importance of addressing stakeholders’ individual concerns in order to gain supporters (and potential advocates). Here are a few key ones to focus on:
- Attach a dollar figure to the benefits of community, such as the cost savings by offsetting cost centres or driving up brand value.
- Look up previous presentations and their outcomes. If previous projects have had any problems, you should have a response prepared.
- Determine beforehand what the technological barriers for the implementation of a community could be and what departments need to be involved.
Consider providing decision-makers with a sneak peek at your presentation ahead of time and soliciting their feedback. You may then integrate their suggestions into your presentation, increasing their stake in your success. If you give the decision-makers the impression that they helped produce your content, they will not only support you but also feel empowered as ambassadors—they will feel as if they’re championing their own concept.
Four: Clearly Communicate ‘Wins’
Now that you’ve won your first budget and you’ve started getting some wins for your internal departments, the question becomes how do you continue to grow the community investment from the company?
This is your opportunity to communicate the value and growth created by the community and start connecting outcomes to different activities within the community. Vaid suggests following up with the functional leaders you originally involved and ask them: “How did that project go? I gave you those data points from the community—how valuable was that for you?” Then, take those data points and grow them.
Not only will you have a strong business case to back you up when you need a larger budget or team to grow the investment, but you’ll also be able to incorporate more functional areas and use cases into your community—creating more value overall.
When community is used as a micro-marketing exercise to encourage your raving fans, members, or customers to actively engage, the possibilities are seemingly endless across functions.
Five: Follow Up (and Keep Following Up)
Lastly, it’s important to establish a process and routine around how you’re championing the community in order to maintain awareness and investment. Communities are often public-facing spaces that are accessed by a broad cross-section of users, so it is important their distinct voices are heard. Be sure to go back on a regular basis and communicate: this is what we’re accomplishing and this is what we can achieve if we continue to invest further.
Out With the Old, in With the New
Getting a new idea approved at the executive level can be a nerve-wracking process, especially when that idea requires time, resources, and a healthy budget. To improve your chances of securing the proper resources for your project, you’ll have to prove to them the value of the idea you’re suggesting. This involves making a strong business case, finding and building support internally, staying results-oriented, and taking those results back to the individuals who supported you on a regular basis.
We hope this article provided you with the necessary steps, examples, and overview to take your idea to the next level. For more useful resources check out our Learn page.
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