Developing Community Strategy, Goals & Measurements (Community Value Part 3)

Note: this is the third in a series of posts about community value. If you missed “A Perspective on Community Value“ or “Understanding the Community Opportunity“, I’d recommend starting there.

Co-Author: Brian Pagels

This post (part 3 of a 4 part series) builds on the concepts outlined in “A Perspective on Community Value“ and “Understanding the Community Opportunity” and illustrates a process for developing a community strategy, as well as how to think about goals, co-created value and analytics related to community strategy. I’ve also included many examples and tools from our work developing community strategies for large global organizations at my firm Structure.

Developing Community Strategy

The (mildly) unintuitive thing about developing community strategy is that it is both a collaborative process (that guides the overall effort) and a set of tools and methods (to develop the actual content of the strategy). The process model we (Structure) use is based on a set of methods that informed the development of what we now know as “design thinking” – in short: community strategy development as a creative design exercise.

In our experience, the specific framework and labels matter less than these essential components and attributes:

  • An aspirational vision for the future state. You need to know what you are hoping to achieve with community and how both your customers and business will benefit from these efforts. (Generally developed in the Research and Definition phases listed above)
  • A list of concrete methods for achieving that vision. Choose your preferred terminology, and decide which specific programs, strategies and tactics you will deploy to reach your goals. These methods should ideally be derived from customer research that reveals their needs and willingness to contribute to community content and activities. As illustrated in the shared value diagram (below), community value is created where member needs and offers overlap with those of the host.
  • Key measures to track progress. You need to develop a series of indicators that are directly impacted by your priority methods and roll up to report on progress toward your vision. Specific guidance on developing these measures is included in the next section.

The community strategy development process should be participatory – including stakeholders from within the organization as well as external stakeholders (customers, partners, institutions). We (Structure) typically facilitate design working sessions to explore, interrogate and develop answers to the key questions raised in the development process.

I’ve included two MURAL templates below (think virtual whiteboard) that can help guide strategy working sessions, the first to explore the future vision for a community, and the second to guide initial definition and decision making:

  1. [TOOL] Community Strategy Vision Session MURAL Template

2. [TOOL] Community Strategy Definition & Design Sprint MURAL Template

Developing Community Goals & Measurements

Your community’s purpose should guide all decisions – it is your intention (and commitment) for hosting and participating. Your vision is an articulation of the desired state of your community 3-5 years out. Naturally, as markets and business strategies change, this vision should evolve over time. Methods and goals for your community should reflect the current and near-term scope of your community program, with an eye toward expansion and growth based on value produced and opportunities presented. The challenge in all of this is balancing organizational objectives and strengths with customer needs and behaviors.

[TOOL] You can find a Google Slide deck with an editable version of the diagram above here.

A Range of Community Initiatives

Community initiatives generally comprise one or more of the following types:

  • Customer Support & Success. Forums and knowledge base content to answer customer questions, deflect support cases, and improve customer usage of the product.
  • Partner Engagement. Arming partners and resellers with the tools and support they need to be successful. 
  • Advocacy. Identifying, empowering, and rewarding top customers who evangelize on behalf of you and your offerings.
  • Product Innovation. Spaces for product feedback, ideas, and co-creation.
  • Communities of Practice/Purpose. Connecting customers with shared roles and goals to improve practice and advance in their careers.
  • Knowledge Management & Collaboration (Internal). Tools and processes for sharing and discovery of explicit and tacit knowledge, and facilitating team collaboration.
  • Niche Social Networks (Corporate Alumni). Venues to encourage connections and sharing among contacts with a shared identity.

Goals for these different flavors of community can vary significantly, but regardless of the specific measures, they must clearly contribute to overall company success.

In Measure What Matters, John Doerr highlights this challenge:

Once top-line objectives are set, the real work begins. As they shift from planning to execution, managers and contributors alike tie their day-to-day activities to the organization’s vision. The term for this linkage is alignment, and its value cannot be overstated. According to the Harvard Business Review, companies with highly aligned employees are more than twice as likely to be top performers.

Unfortunately, alignment is rare. Studies suggest that only 7 percent of employees “fully understand their company’s business strategies and what’s expected of them in order to help achieve the common goals.” A lack of alignment, according to a poll of global CEOs, is the number-one obstacle between strategy and execution.

Measure What Matters – John Doerr

Doerr goes on to recommend a “cascading” approach to solve the alignment challenge, whereby a Key Result at for achieving a corporate Objective becomes the Objective for a team or business unit with its own set of Key Results and so on.

A Community-based OKR Example

An example of implementing this in practice for a community program could be as follows: 

Corporate Objective: Expand product usage among new demographic

Key Results: 

  • Identify key product needs and use cases for this demographic
  • Improve brand awareness among this demographic by X%
  • Convert Y% in demographic from trial to subscription

Customer Success Objective: Convert Y% in demographic from trial to subscription

  • Trial version of product released
  • Create/update user-centered product documentation inclusive of target demographic
  • Respond to 100% of customer questions regarding trial product

Community Objective: Convert Z% in demographic from trial to subscription (via community)

Key Results:

  • Trial version of product exclusive to community members released
  • Community nurture campaign for trial customers in this demographic implemented
  • (Significant #) of trials among this demographic initiated via community

Framing Goals: Reach, Participation and Impact

There are myriad ways to categorize goals and analytics – we’ve found in our practice that keeping these categories fairly simple is a helpful way to organize. Consider leveraging the model of Reach (performance to TAM/TOM), Participation (meaningful activity in the community), and Impact (valuable outcomes and externalities from community participation).

How Reach, Participation & Impact might show up in an Analytics dashboard – you can images click to enlarge.

Establishing SMART Goals

In establishing specific goals, we recommend adhering to the time-tested advice from George T. Doran, first published in the November 1981 issue of Management Review:

Ideally speaking, each corporate, department, and section objective should be:

* Specific – target a specific area for improvement.

* Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.

* Assignable – specify who will do it.

* Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given the available resources.

* Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

Notice that these criteria don’t say that all objectives must be quantified on all levels of management. In certain situations, it is not realistic to attempt quantification, particularly in staff middle-management positions. Practicing managers and corporations can lose the benefit of a more abstract objective in order to gain quantification. It is the combination of the objective and its action plan that is really important. Therefore serious management should focus on these twins and not just the objective.

There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write managements’s goals and objectives” George T. Doran

From the Field: Measures & Business Impact

From Q4 of 2018 through Q1 of 2019, we (Structure) convened a small working group of Community & Digital business leaders to share their strategies for measuring and articulating community value. During the working sessions, several participants shared specific community measures that mapped to business impact. These are documented in the table below, along with the formulas used for calculation.

Business ImpactContributing MetricsSample Value & ROI Formulas
Contact Deflection
* # Solution Views
* % of Questions Answered / Accepted
* Survey Success Rate
* (Total Customer Visits to Content Pages) x (Survey Success Rate) x (Survey Contact Support Rate) = Estimated Cases Deflected
* (# Deflections) x (Cost/Incident) = Cost Savings from Deflections
Product Innovation
* # Ideas Contributed
* # Votes
* # of Original/Valuable Ideas
* # of Ideas Implemented
* # of mentions in press / online / social
* (Sample of Original Ideas Implemented) x (Revenue from Ideas) / (Total Contributed Ideas) = Average Value of an Idea
* (Total Value of Ideas) / (Program Budget) = Innovation ROI
Community-based Advocacy (MVP)
* # of Advocates
* Advocate Productivity (e.g. # monthly posts)
* Advocate Quality (e.g.
* Accepted Solutions Rate)
* % of Questions Answered by Advocates
* # of acts of unpromtped advocacy
* (Hourly Rate of Staff Contractor) * (Hours Contributed by Advocates) = Estimated $ Contributed
* (Estimated $ Contributed) / (Program Budget) = Advocacy ROI
* NPS of (active) Community Members vs. Non Members
Customer Loyalty & Revenue
* Customer cohorts
* participating in community
* revenue participation
* revenue impact
* Spend of (active) Community Members vs. Non Members
* % of steps community is in purchase path / revenue (micro-econometrics)
* Q/Q or Y/Y comparators of behavior, by account, relative to community engagement

This post covered a lot of ground in describing an approach to the community strategy development process, how to think about the specific value co-created in communities, and how to measure and articulate that value.

In the next (and final) post in this series, I’ll cover how to communicate the value of community to your organizations, and how to ensure you sustain interest and investment in the community over time.

I hope you have found this post helpful – if so (or if you would like to discuss your community strategy) please message me.

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