Ashley Taylor’s recent episode on the PartnerUp podcast with Jared Fuller and Isaac Morehouse brought up some really interesting ideas around community marketing for SaaS organizations. I’d like to share my top insights from the episode here, and build on their ideas with some of my own thoughts.

Communities are having a huge impact in the partnerships and ecosystems world.

Taylor kicks off by explaining that as the first partnerships hire at Clearbit, she relied heavily on her communities for support, advice, feedback, and ideas. This keyed her into the power of communities, particularly in the partnerships and ecosystems sphere.

Taylor points out that when we talk about communities, we’re talking about more than just dedicated Slack channels or online groups like Cloud Software Association and Partnership Leaders. While these are of course excellent communities, the real scope of your community is the entire network of people you can reach out to, whether via LinkedIn, via a DM, or within an online group forum. The key is seeing this entire network as a community and an engine for growth.

Community marketing for SaaS is becoming more prominent as marketing realizes that it needs to leverage the trust factor of emergent communities.

Customers, peers, and partners are all turning to online communities to get recommendations and share advice, even more so since the pandemic forced the workforce to work from home. At the same time, traditional B2B marketing and sales tactics are becoming more expensive and less effective. This is prompting marketing to look for ways to use community as a marketing tool.

However, Taylor argues that community should be the lead, and not just a function of marketing. She points out that much like partnerships and ecosystems, community “touches every facet of the organization,” from marketing, to product, to support and success. It’s essential to keep this in mind when looking to communities for growth opportunities.

Leveraging communities requires intentionally curating resources and providing the experience users are looking for.

“I think the fact of the matter is that community is going to happen whether or not you as an organization intentionally create it,” says Taylor. “But I think that it really comes down to how intentional you’re going to be about curating and providing resources and thinking about the experience, to transform this audience and this community that’s happening into a really intentional part of your business strategy.”

Taylor likens this aspect of community management to how we manage and leverage partner ecosystems. Intentionally building partnerships and integrations with your customers’ other favorite tools and systems allows you to deliver a smooth customer experience and increases your product’s stickiness.

Build community by ‘learning out loud’.

This point actually comes from Isaac Morehouse, who shares a great little insight into how communities can be formed. He recommends embracing a ‘learn out loud’ mentality and documenting your work online – including attempts, failures, learnings, and successes – as you try new ideas. The spirit of learning out loud by sharing problems, ideas, failures, and eventual solutions is at the heart of why communities exist, so doing this yourself is a great way to encourage communities to form around your brand and products.

Taylor agrees, adding that communities are a great equalizer: “No matter how far you are in your career, you’re still learning,” she says. “I hope I’ll still be learning throughout the entirety of my career. And I will always benefit from other perspectives, from someone who’s done it differently, from someone who I can shoulder-tap and say, hey, does this make sense?”

The companies that excel at community marketing for SaaS give their communities a ‘voice’.

Fuller talks about how the best Chief Evangelists and people in community and ecosystem management roles are the people who have extensively shared their own learnings, knowledge, and ideas in various communities, building up a solid stock of trust over time, in much the same way Morehouse describes in the point above about learning out loud. These people know how to connect and educate people without overtly selling.

Fuller calls this ‘giving the market a voice’, and this idea reflects back to something I’ve previously written about on the blog. My article, Why ecosystem voice is the missing piece of your online marketplace strategy puzzle, is inspired by Allan Adler’s work around ecosystem voice. Adler stresses the importance of aligning your brand storytelling and value proposition with that of your partners, and the same concept can be applied when building communities.

Use your marketplace to transform your ecosystem into an engaged and passionate community.

I believe that a commerce-enabled B2B marketplace can have some really surprising benefits for your internal team, partners, and customers. I’d like to finish off this post by pointing out that one of those benefits is that your marketplace can actually be used as a community-building tool. In this article I talk about how you can use your marketplace to communicate a shared mission and set of values, facilitate collaborations, and build trust.

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