Community Unfold: Episode 3

In Conversation with Brian Oblinger, Strategic Consultant

If you’ve been following our newsletter, then you’ll know that we launched the “Community Unfold Series” back in late Feb. Since our debut, we’ve had conversations with thought leaders from different industries and have explored how they leverage community to win the market. But in this episode of the Community Unfold Series, things are going to get more exciting. Like, really exciting!

Do you want to know why?

Because in this episode, we’ve teamed up with none other than Brian Oblinger, to get his insights on how he thinks the community is shaping up in the SaaS world. 

Brian has spent 20 years helping enterprise brands leverage the power of community and CX to increase satisfaction, lower costs, and generate more revenue throughout their businesses. He has always been fascinated with building communities and creating great digital experiences. A community “veteran” in many ways who has been there, done that and seen the rise of communities from close quarters. 

This episode was dedicated to various facets of community management in SaaS businesses with a special focus on business values, vendor selection, as well as leveraging community and marketing together. Discussion around these topics resulted in some golden points which can be applied by many SaaS enthusiasts. So, let’s begin without wasting any further time.

Watch all the 3  videos or look for the one that is most aligned with your role.

Ready. Set. GO.

1. How do you think communities are shaping up in the SaaS world?

Brian: Well, you know, I think it's pretty clear at this point that communities can be a huge driver for U.S. companies and a lot of it has to do with their business model. So a lot of SaaS companies have trial models or freemium models or land expand, retain business models. And of course, SaaS is all about the subscription, right? That's what the last thing is about. And therefore, what that means is you have to keep customers happy for longer, or else they don't renew their subscription. So the community plays a large role in thinking through how do we educate customers? How do we make sure they're happy? How do we keep those retention numbers high and how do we keep them around a long time? And so if you're a SaaS business and you don't have a community, you're not thinking about community, you're likely missing a huge part of the value story here.

2. Why are lots of companies not as "sold" on the idea of online communities, especially when they are considering whether to build one for their own business?

Brian: I think this is changing, right? I think we're starting to see a sea change that a lot of businesses around the world, both new, young, and old, are starting to understand the value of community. There's a number of reasons for that. One is younger leadership in some companies. The other is that we have finally proven the value, I think, to a reasonable degree. And the third is that we're just getting better at telling the story. We've been around long enough now that we have the proof points and we can talk about it intelligently. So I think that's changing. But I do think you still have to put the work in and you have to tell that compelling story. People don't want to just build communities just to do what they need to be told. Hey, here's the value that you're going to get as a business to do it. And once you learn how to master that story, then it's a lot easier to sell communities.

Spoiler alert: For those of you who’re reading and thinking that this episode is going to get over really soon, I’d like to say it’s not. YES! We have a lot more to talk about. It's a vast topic and this list is endless. So, we will be continuing this episode in our next edition as well.

3. How can businesses leverage community and marketing together to drive shared success?

Brian: Erica and I have talked about this on the podcast quite a bit. We did a whole episode about partnering with marketing. But the gist of it is that the marketing community kind of had this history of not getting along and whatnot back in the day. Again, we're seeing this change right. And we're seeing a lot of marketing departments and marketing leaders are actually the ones driving community initiatives that a lot of companies I'm personally partnered with a bunch of CMO and VP of marketing. So they understand the value. They've come around to the idea that we need to be more open, more transparent, and that this is a new way of getting to customers and prospects that maybe they haven't tried in the past. So it's actually been great to see that change and looking forward to working with more marketing folks here in the future.

And there you’ve it.

Warm hugs to Brian Oblinger for giving us such powerful answers into the world of community for SaaS companies and their unique sense of business. Stay tuned to indulge in some more interesting conversations next week as well. And I’m pretty sure, you must be having different thoughts about how building a strong community should be placed at the forefront of the values for SaaS businesses – we'd love to hear it! Please feel free to comment or reply to this email. Till then, let’s just agree to the fact that Community is the future of Internet!