Building Community Around your Saas Startup

"Humans yearn to be connected and to gain energy, knowledge, and comfort from others." - Robbie Kellman Baxter

In "The Membership Economy", Robbie Kellman Baxter offers guidance for organizations who wish to leverage the power of membership to build community and foster meaningful connections among their customers.

Designed to demonstrate the difference between an ownership economy and a membership economy, the book illustrates examples of finance, product, sales, and marketing decisions that are useful for startups, nonprofits, clubs, and corporations alike.

For me, it was most inspiring as I considered the impact that community forums have on sustaining loyalty and fulfilling a mission, especially for a Saas startup.

The language used when talking about members is critical.

"Organizations need to constantly confirm that they are reaching the right people," because when you're building a Saas startup, retention matters more than acquisition. So, if the marketing campaign has provided the right solution to the right people, communication with customers is essential as the product evolves. When the entire organization, according to Robbie, is aligned with the membership strategy, product changes are carefully considered.

At WorkingOn, we have a saying: Users are people too. We call them folks.

We value the folks who have chosen to explore ways to improve communication and make work better. As such, seeking to improve the way they work is how we choose product improvements. This relationship that we hope to create is ongoing: communicating with each other is an ever-evolving effort, and we value every opportunity to create assistance in this space.

A powerful community can develop around an organization.

The community manager is a role that is often an afterthought in building a small, stealthy operation. Nevertheless, community management can be incorporated into customer support, operations, and product management.

The community manager needs to be both "the voice of the brand to the community and voice of the community to the brand." - Tim McDonald, founder of myCMGR.com

"Having a dedicated person to connect with and manage the community can pay dividends," Robbie shares. Mike Krieger, cofounder of Instagram, agrees. In fact, even in the early days of product development, Instagram's first hire was a community manager.

Members are able to find and build value themselves when they know they are part of a community. Engagement and learning becomes part of an ever-renewing resource: a company can learn more about its members, members learn more about the company, and the community learns more about each other and themselves.

Members can provide guidance and help to one another.

"Ideally members are given the opportunity to engage not only with the organization but with one another." - Robbie Kellman Baxter

Technology enables us to be connected in ways that were never possible before. We trust folks we've only met online, often based on their willingness to share. We write blog posts to help strangers make sense out of tools built by companies in which we don't even have a vested interest.

There are a number of companies that have created communities using the workplace chat tool Slack. "Since it’s a real-time chat platform, users tend to check in more often than most other types of groups," Buffer shared as they launched their Slack community (now edging toward 1,000 members).

The WorkingOn team and friends have built a publication on Medium

...centered around "collaboration, communication, productivity, and happiness". Writers from across our community are invited to share their thoughts on how to make work awesome. We hope that folks who share similar challenges and goals will gather here to read, learn, and contribute.

I've pulled the community parts out of "The Membership Economy" because it's one of the most exciting things about creating an online business. But you should pick up the book because each section dives deeper into acquisition funnels, pricing, onboarding, and loyalty for any type of organization.

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