Developing a trusted relationship with your user base isn’t an easy task, especially when first launching a new product. There is nothing more valuable than earning the trust of your early users and harnessing that trust (and satisfaction) into passionate advocacy. When you consider your early adopters to be an extension of your team and treat them as such your community will pay you back in dividends.
However, laying down the foundational structure for your community ahead of jumping in is a critical key to success. Here are five key things you’ll need to consider before you embark upon your journey:
1) It’s a long term commitment
A community takes time and effort to nurture. If you are not 100% committed to putting the time in, then don’t bother – your efforts will fail and it may end up working against you in the long run. Commitment comes not only in the form of the actual time (daily) it will take to interact with your community, but also in the sense of devout listening and taking action. Of course there is a balance to be struck between playing to your community and moving forward with the best strategic decision for the business. Your community may want different things and may not always tell you what you want to hear but if you commit to listening and sharing the reasons behind your decisions, you’ll find a community that is quite forgiving even in the toughest of times.
2) Transparency builds trust
Things are going to go wrong, they inevitably do – mistakes get made or dependencies happen that may end up making your team look less than stellar. When these hiccups happen, it’s extremely important to be as transparent as possible with your community. Own up to your mistakes… let them know how you messed up and how you intend to fix things. When you’re transparent about what’s happening internally even if it’s a bad, it shows your community the humans behind the brand – no one is perfect and sharing that vulnerability can help to build stronger bonds. Your community can see your struggles and cheer you on along the sidelines – that’s part of the process to building any relationship, being open and honest about your shortcomings and knowing that all parties are in it for the long haul. Communicating these hiccups to your community in a timely manner is critical to building trust.
3) Be the facilitator
Communicating with your community and allowing them to connect with each other is a key factor to building the kind of trusted relationship that turns product advocates into product passionistas. The only effective method for doing this is to leverage an online platform to enable participants to interact, share, ask questions of your team and of each other. We’ve been using Google private communities as a vehicle to communicate regularly with our VIPs, however we also see a lot of interaction taking place amongst our members without any of our involvement. Our community shares pieces of their lives with each other through pictures and even helps to troubleshoot support issues they are facing. They are not only getting to know us, they are getting to know each other and as diverse as their interests may be – their love of Trunx and photography brings them together.
4) Be real: it’s give & take
It’s important that your community really know the people behind the product. Be real, share yourself and your team with them. When people know you and a little bit about you – they start to deepen their trust because knowing you makes you not only approachable, but accountable as well. When your community knows you on a first name basis, they know who they can turn to when they have issues. It’s important to keep it real, because you’re dealing with humans on the other end who have empathy and – its a great way to get closer to your customers and become part of their daily lives. As in any relationship, reciprocity is key for all stakeholders. It’s important to define what those expectations for reciprocity are during the early phases of establishing your community. Understand what you will be looking for from your advocates and communicate those expectations to them. In return, let them know what they will get in return which could range from early access to new features, to promotional items or even unlimited storage. It’s important to set and establish the groundwork early on so that all parties know what they are in for. In our case, we ask that our community respond to our product surveys, rate new features to develop, speak positively about Trunx to their social circles and write reviews in the app stores. We engage regularly with our community and track those that are actively participating to reward them with additional access or gifts.
5) Integrity trumps everything
Nothing goes further to establishing a trusted community of passionistas than a company that stands by their word. For us, integrity starts at our core values of trust, privacy and security which are at the center of every decision we make. Integrity is a core building block to establishing trust.
Integrity means having a steadfast commitment to our word: whether that pertains to the new features we are developing or sharing our roadmap and it means never never over promising. However, our commitment to our community goes even beyond communicating our development schedule and new features – it means we do whatever it takes to keep them happy whether that means a personal call from an executive or even our CEO. We understand that when dealing with people’s most precious visual memories that we have to not only earn their trust, but also go above and beyond to continue to maintain that trusted position.
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