The rage is all about data these days, but it's critical we don't forget that your emerging community is full of people. Yes, you can get data on your first 50 customers. But you can talk to them too. And when you are building a community there is nothing more valuable than interactions with your members.
The dirty secret here is, of course, time. Who has the time to connect with 50 people in a meaningful way? It means a lot of work to set up a connection...and then the conversation only leads to...more work. You can see how this can easily spiral out of control!
It's time for us to think outside of the box...
Reverse the Game for an Easier Way
You want a personal connection without all of the personal work it takes to get started. Most community builders invest his time on the front end, sending messages, emailing back-and-forth about calendar times, setting up a meeting room or conference link. It's a great deal of work and you still don't have anything yet! Worse yet, you are leveraging the resource that you simply can't scale: yourself.
The key here is to reverse your investment. Do as much automated and repeatable work as possible to identify specifically who you should talk to personally. That narrows down the amount of options that you have, allowing you to be focused it with your energy instead of broadcasting it everywhere.
First you will want to determine the right time to communicate with your members. Inside Endurance Nation, our members are training for events and follow a regular weekly schedule. This means everyone has a similar cadence.
The depth of our interactions depends on the level of membership. This is either weekly -- for the high end clients — monthly for the engaged clients and quarterly for our self-directed members.
Your community might have a different cadence period. It might be project based instead of time-based period.
It could be course-based instead of time-based period.
It could be annual based on the budget cycle. For example a community of accounting professionals might have specific milestone period around April 15th.
Whatever that cadence is, capture it and build around it.
Now we dive into the mechanics – time to create a Google form (or your form of choice.
I chose Google not just because I'm already on the platform. Google forms are a simple, straightforward way for me to create a form -- without flair – that can be part of my automated workflows.
Why is flair not important?
It's not important because it's easy to get distracted and you can lose an hour of your day picking the right background for the header of your form theme or trying to re-learn markdown when it doesn't really matter.
Your members aren't here in this form because of a header! They're there to talk with YOU. Dedicate the time to the questions instead of the format.
It's really important that you choose the proper questions to ask. Since this is going to be a repeat endeavor, having something that you can compare over time is really helpful.
To that end, we ask specific training questions and then ask the athletes to rank their performance on a scale of 1 to 3.
- One is NOT improving.
- Two is staying the same.
- Three is improving.
The we have two more open-ended questions that gives room for the athlete to include additional details if they want.
Once you have completed your form, do your due diligence . Open the form in an incognito window and complete the form yourself.
- Did it make sense?
- What would you change?
- What does the output look like?
- Does the output make sense for what you are looking for?
Being able to assume the mindset of your members is a critical component to creating relevant and effective modes of communication -- even automated ones, period.
Next Stop: Automation!
Now we're going to take the output from the form and get it in front of you. We are connecting you to some critical information – member feedback – in a timely way.
It's really important to make sure that your automation puts this information in to your daily workflow. Putting it into your over-crowded mailbox is a total fail.
Inside our community, these message go into our Customer Support Slack Channel. This is a team-wide channel so everyone can see what's happening with this member. Just as important, they can also be a part of the answer process if needed.
You might not use Slack, but don't worry Zapier has you covered. There are hundreds of possibilities for different apps or you can go mainline and put it right into a text message for you.
You have plenty of options here. Inside Endurance Nation, I place my reply inside that slack channel and tag my assistant. My assistant will then copy that reply and place it into the athletes online space where we communicate tagging the athlete.
This allows me to answer several athletes very quickly in short order and a very effective way. It also eliminates the time I would have spent clicking around inside the site.
It also puts the reply back into the community, where I want the athlete to spend their time and attention!
Why Streamline the Reply Process?
Mostly because heading into your community is an opportunity to see the other 17 things that also need to be worked on!
This can be a real time suck and get your way off track with your day.
If you're focused on generating replies, answering one person and then fixing three fire is not going to help you achieve what you set out to do!
So, You Don't Have an Assistant?
No worries! There's lots of other options for you in terms of getting back to these athletes.
Depending on where you stack their submissions, you can dedicate a certain amount of time to answer them and then deliver them all at once.
It's possible your form doesn't even need a reply now; you might be able to wait until the next live event or scheduled check in to close the loop.
What Else Do You Struggle With?
I hope you found this article helpful. Scaling your time and attention isn't easy, but with the right direction it's amazing what you can do with a little bit of help from technology.
But let's not stop here. What else do you struggle with on a regular basis? What keeps getting pushed? Reply in the comments below and I'll be sure to add it to my list.
You can also schedule a call with me to connect...I'm happy to give you some time to help you make the best possible decision the first time!