In Max Rothery’s session at the 2023 Community Rebellion Conference, he talks about getting community buy-in across the entire business by finding the intersection between community and culture.
Referencing the movie Everything Everywhere All At Once but renaming it to Community Everywhere All At Once, Max says it’s a concept he is very passionate about and trying to push through in the industry. How do you get cross-functional buy-in? How do you have teams outside of your program think with a community mindset? And, how do you get that same mindset shift where people can see the power of community when you start building with your customers instead of for your customers?
People who are great at cross-functional buy-in have a same skill as the main character from the movie - they can jump into different dimensions, or teams, and put themselves in the same shoes to create a strategy that delivers value. But getting buy-in is very hard when you work in community.
Referencing the Gartner Hype Cycle, Max says that we’ve passed the peak community period and are currently in the trough of disillusionment. After what could be considered a community hype period, we’ve seen a reduction in community workforce with a lot of layoffs, difficulty in securing additional resources for community teams, and even a general misunderstanding of what community is. What he’d like to do today, is mark the point of moving to the slope of enlightenment together towards to plateau of productivity.
With less resources, less headcount, less investment, and less confidence, it’s disheartening to see 60% of community people scared of losing their jobs. So how can we convince the company to get behind community when we’re so beaten down? Well, community people are different. We think differently, as the vibe of the Rebellion Conference shows. The reason is that we are empaths. We take the pain of others at our own expense. But this also means we’re bad at flying in our own corner, we get energy from seeing others succeed. We’re amazing people to work with, but terrible at getting things prioritized.
Channeling our internal dimension hoppers, we’re going to turn the empathy into one thing that ignites evangelism across the business. One thing he has never had trouble with is generating excitement about community. But when it came to things like budget signoffs, that’s where things started to falter. Max started with a bottoms-up approach, knowing he had to get community embedded in the culture of the business. If anyone is going to establish community in the culture, it’s someone who can put themselves in other people’s shoes, it’s someone who can lead from the back, and it’s the people who have empathy to understand other people’s challenges.
What Max did was he went to his company and teammates and offered money to invest in whatever they wanted, with a few caveats. (1) They needed to use Finimize, the company, to do the transaction; (2) If they had any questions or encountered any obstacles, they needed to use the community in order to obtain the answer; (3) This exercise was timeboxed challenge for a week where everyone had to keep a journal of challenges they came across. In the same way they were able to build their community programs, it was the participation that forced people to engage. Once they started participating and being in the shoes of their customers, they started to see the same things their customers did, like how much value the community gave them. Finally, they grouped the challenges that were collected from the employees and they worked with the community to prioritize those challenges.
What was really incredible about this initiative is they started seeing problems that were not showing up in the data. Being very experiment-driven, they made incremental wins. What this unlocked was a vision of the future, the product roadmap, which for Finimize, was huge. They discovered a key gap that Finimize’s platform did not currently support.
In addition to being able to build the roadmap, this initiative broke down the walls between the internal culture and the culture of the community. Now, every person at the company thought about how to build alongside the community.
From the groundswell of this initiative, the next thing to do was to convince the executive team. They can build the solution and take action, but first the executives needed to have buy-in. However, one of the challenges of getting buy-in was leading with storytelling - it led to being in the ‘nice to have’ bucket because it wasn’t directly tied to revenue. Then, Max and the team had to ensure anything they worked on cross functionally checked these three boxes:
- It was important: What was the #1 KPI or goal for an executive that quarter and was the initiative aligned with this?
- Immediate: Community takes a long time to build but execs don’t want to hear that, and when you’re trying to enact change, you have to timebox and show impact quickly. All experiments had to show value in 1-3 months.
- Impact: They set a goal to show impact. It’s easy to fall into a nice-to-have bucket but they wanted to change the trajectory of the goals.
Looking at the business model and goals across the company, they built their goals around the various divisions, understanding the one thing that is important for them. Bringing this back to the movie reference, Max mentions needing to be able to jump dimensions and work alongside different teams and be in their worlds.
Community is just a toolkit. It’s not the platform that you use; it’s a set of tools that creates value from people coming together. While an ambassador may be appropriate for one task, perhaps a user group is an appropriate method for a different task. There are so many ways to apply our community skillset to deliver value.
Working closely with the sales team, they were eventually able to show half of inbound revenue to the business came via the community. This is how you get exec support, but it takes a lot of work. They needed to work on integrating platforms, being able to get additional visibility into leads related to community activity. Max also shared examples of working with the product team who were working on building a mobile subscription business, and were worried about retention. By showing the correlation of getting involved in the community and adjusting the user group program, they focused on the first week of involvement in the subscription, and they were able to turn new users into contributors. Doing this led to 2x the retention of the subscription.
Working on a sustainable cross-functional relationship with these stakeholders, it was important for the community team to show the data in a clear and succinct way. Additionally, giving access to the community and the data was important - this empowered the stakeholders to be in the community directly. And lastly, it was time for the storytelling. Being able to show all of the wins across the company and celebrating, both the wins and the failures, helped with the internal connection and getting them to fully experience and feel the community.
November 28, 2023
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