“The best marketing strategy is helping people,” says Daniel Cmejla, VP of Community and Brand at Chili Piper. “Since we are all wired for connection, one of the easiest ways to help is to support authentic community development.”

Daniel defines an authentic community as “a space either physical or digital where people who are not paid to do so choose to interact and provide value to each other.” The other key for him is that “they should not be exclusive or try to lock other people out.”

Authentic communities come in a variety of formats. They can, for example, be customer communities run by a CS team, peer-to-peer communities (e.g., individuals in Rev Ops or Marketing Ops) or idea-based communities (e.g., Women Sales Pros).

Daniel identifies several strategies that a vendor can use to support authentic communities in ways that can build deeper engagement with your company. These include:

  • Sponsoring a community with the financial resources they need to provide services
  • Participating in a community to elevate your voice and authentically provide value
  • Creating new connections with potential customers, presenters, or community members 
  • Replying to questions or information requests with targeted resources to provide value
  • Giving other community members love and comments on social media 

Daniel has used his philosophy of authentic communities to support dramatic growth in Chili Piper’s buyer and customer engagement.  

When he joined the company two years ago, they were receiving 5,000 impressions a month.   Now they get 1M and 3M impressions a month on LinkedIn alone.

I talked to Daniel recently to learn his three key pillars for building authentic communities.

  1. Start with Your Buying Committee 👋 

“Start by surveying your buying group,” says Daniel. “You probably do not need to build your own community, instead you can piggyback on where your buyers already are.“

Daniel’s advice seems obvious, but something we all often forget is: “if you want to know something just ask.” Our buyers and customers will tell us exactly how they want to be served.

Daniel suggests asking your buyers or those influencing your buyers to learn:

  • What influencers do they follow? What blogs or news journals do they read?
  • What events or conferences do they attend? What podcasts do they listen to?  
  • What are their preferred formats for peer-to-peer engagement (e.g., email, LinkedIn groups, Slack groups)?
  1. Identify Your Community Goals 🎯 

“There are a lot of different ways to leverage authentic communities,” continues Daniel.” You have to be clear about your goal. Otherwise, there is a risk of accomplishing nothing at all.”

Daniel suggests a number of ways authentic community can be cultivated to the support different company objectives:

  • Deepening branding with social support and increased social presence
  • Offering product feedback and input as you grow or tap into new markets
  • Providing referrals and warm introductions that may turn directly into SQLs
  • Improving access to best practices for different processes and job roles
  • Building connections to job talent to support hiring and a candidate pipeline

You might start with a couple of goals, prove them out, and then add new goals.

  1. Measure Your Community Health 🌡

A third key pillar of authentic community is measuring community health. Daniel recommends six key measures: Membership growth, membership churn, new threads, posts per thread, unique posters, and number of events and attendees

“I would recommend creating a metrics dashboard to harness these six measures of community health,” concludes Daniel. “Measure every two weeks. If metrics go into the red, take actions to stimulate that community.”

Measurement can help identify what is working and not working as a community moves through discrete stages of health — from identification of ideal customers to identification of evangelists to achieving high NPS happy customers, high visibility, and active customer participation.

Authentic communities are a powerful antidote to an environment where we all feel inundated with sales pitches coming at us from websites, cold calls, email blasts, and social media.

Authentic communities give us the opportunity to interact and provide value to one another without any commercial strings attached!