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3 Questions to answer BEFORE launching your Salesforce Community

By August 4, 2014

In August of 2013, worked with a group of our leading customers, trusted partners, and MVP’s to embark on an ambitious experiment — the launch of an online community that would transform the way we collaborate with our customers to be more successful in powering ALL of our missions. Called the Power of Us HUB, that online community will welcome its 10,000th member this month.

In hindsight, having clear answers to these 3 key questions was critical to our success.

1. What problem are you trying to solve?

This seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the hype around digital “engagement.” You and your team might have lots of ideas about how a community could support your mission, but before you jump into launching a community, be sure to spend the time needed to fully understand the specific problem that you are trying to solve, check assumptions about the need, and make sure there is internal alignment around the solution.

With the HUB, we hired an independent consultant to do a customer study to test what we thought we knew. You can see the results in “Nonprofit Study Results: The One Solution Everyone Seems to Want.”

The results from that survey, combined with additional one-on-one conversations with key customers and partners, allowed us to create a shared vision for what the Power of Us HUB could be. When you are facing a diverse group of stakeholders and a myriad of internal and external pressures, it is incredibly useful to have a clear vision statement and guiding principles to keep your team focused and on-track as you build your community.

Quick tip: Create a shared vision statement that will guide your community development over time.

2. Who’s with you? Do you have a strong, core group of believers AND the internal resources to execute?

“If you build it, they will come.”

Nope. Sorry, Kevin Costner, in the real world, that just isn’t true. While our tech team might disagree with me, enabling the Communities platform is the (relatively) easy part. Gathering some like-minded believers to help push the project forward internally WHILE getting your key external stakeholders engaged early is one of the real challenges.

HUB Prototype

Early HUB Prototype

Before we even considered launching the HUB, we built a prototype (even a drawing on paper can help some members of your team better see the vision), we formed a cross-functional committee with representatives from all our organizational departments to drive the project, and we held weekly HUB “happy hours” to talk about the project and demo features, answer questions, and build excitement. This work led to an organizational commitment to hire a Community Manager (check out our sample job description) and to dedicate technical resources to the project (also keys to our success).

At the same time, members of our team also went out and started having conversations with our our core partners, key customers and other stakeholders to gather their ideas. Questions we asked included things like, “Do you think this community would help us solve issue X?”, “What do you think should be included?”, “Would you participate?”, and “What are your ideas for making this community successful?”, for example.

Quick tip: Gather a group of committed believers both internally and externally to help you drive the project forward and participate in the launch.

3. What’s important?

Most organizations with limited resources will have some choices to make around the features and functionality to include when you launch your community. While it is tempting to roll out all the bells and whistles at once, you might consider launching (or soft launching – don’t fall victim to Big Launch Syndrome) with just a few core features that really further the goals of the community which you’ve identified above. You’ll also want to be sure to provide an easy way for community members to give feedback, and then involve the community in determining what should come next.

In the HUB, we soft-launched with our key stakeholders and provided a way for users to give us feedback via a simple form on every page, a Chatter group in the community, and through informal group phone calls. This immediate, “living” feedback allowed us iterate quickly and bring more value to the community more quickly.

Quick tip: Make a list of all the features and functionality you want to include in your community and then cut it in half. Then ask the community to prioritize their needs.

Want to dig deeper into launching a successful community on the Salesforce platform, please join us on August 12th at 11am PDT/ 2pm EDT for “Launching Salesforce Communities: Flipping the Switch and Making them Work.”

Register Now for “Launching Salesforce Communities”

This blog was extrapolated from a longer conversation between Nick Bailey, Sam Dorman, Dave Manelski and Alicia Schmidt that was held at Dreamforce 2013. Check out the recording at:”