EpicBrainstormFor the last four years, I helped organizations and businesses design and set up private online communities. I was recently challenged to design an engagement strategy for customers of a new SaaS product. Naturally, I started to think about what the similarities and differences were between community engagement and customer engagement.

I believe that businesses are inherently networks and communities working together for a shared purpose and creating value. So when I began my design process, I chose to follow the Community Engagement Workbook that Gretchen and I wrote for businesses who were setting up online communities (i.e., private social networks). I was curious as to how many of the community engagement techniques and strategies could be applied when creating a customer journey experience.

I opened the book and started filling in the worksheets:

  1. Understand your audience
  2. Define success for your organisation
  3. Define success for your members/customers
  4. Choose an area of focus
  5. Make decisions about data collection (purrrr)
  6. Define deadlines
  7. Create a strategy blueprint
  8. Test, scale, and tune (from Gail Goodman’s MUST WATCH video “The long, slow, SaaS ramp of death“)

Then I looked at my techniques for creating community:

  1. Create a community that members find useful
  2. Look for opportunities to introduce people to each other
  3. Encourage members to start projects and share resources
  4. Welcome people in a personal way
  5. Create a conducive environment for communication
  6. Offer valuable content
  7. Organize shared experiences and invite people to participate
  8. Thank people for their contributions

And then one step further, I added the basic engagement and retention strategies recommended for online community managers:

  1. Appoint a community manager
  2. Identify champions inside and outside the community
  3. Share resources generously
  4. Make it easy and infuse fun
  5. Inspire dialogue
  6. Trust organic growth


I realize that it’s a lot of processes and questions, but it’s been interesting to piece together the various ideas I had about creating online communities and apply them to creating a customer journey experience.

Throughout the process, there were some EPIC brainstorming sessions with the team – lots of sticky notes being shuffled around, and ideas flying for how we could delight people! That’s always my favorite part. In the end, it’s all about building authentic relationships. And so far, the idea that businesses are communities is only being strengthened. I look forward to diving in further.