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Launching A New Community – Geotab’s Success Story
By the beginning of 2019, Erik Rutten, Geotab’s Digital Customer Experience Manager, knew he needed to build a community.
Since the company’s creation in 2000, Geotab had grown to become one of the biggest names in the telematics industry and was still expanding. In the past decade, Geotab had made Deloitte’s list of fastest-growing companies a remarkable eight times – including each of the past three years.
However, a rapidly growing customer base requires a rapidly growing support experience. In recent years, Erik, a passionate advocate of self-service support and knowledge sharing, had established Geotab Support’s knowledge management practice. This was helping thousands of customers find solutions to questions.
But this practice alone couldn’t answer every question Geotab’s stakeholders had. It also couldn’t take advantage of the collective wisdom of Geotab’s rapidly growing ecosystem. Erik knew he wanted everyone in the ecosystem – customers, resellers, partners, and employees – to have a place where they could ask questions, share advice, and help one another.
Erik also knew the only way to make this happen was to build a community.
After some research, Erik quickly realised Geotab needed expert help to bring the Geotab community to life.
“After reading the book, “Buzzing Communities,” I learned a lot about what it takes to build a thriving digital community, and realized that one of the main pillars of success would be a well thought out and dynamic strategy.”
At Geotab, we abide by the adage that “you can’t manage what you don’t measure,” so it was important that we chose to work with a company that prioritizes data-driven results as key measurements of success. Impressed with their research-backed and data-centric approach, we hired FeverBee in July 2019 to help us create a clear strategy and work closely with our team to help ensure the community was a success.
Multiple Audiences, One Community, Plenty of Stakeholders
This wasn’t going to be the easiest of communities to develop. While Geotab had a fantastic product and a popular brand within the industry (which certainly helps) they also had a diverse audience including customers, resellers, partners, and integrators.
Each of these audiences had unique needs which had to be identified and satisfied within the community. The challenge would be to create a strategy which supported each group and created an ecosystem structure where every member was engaged to contribute to the growing community.
But even before Erik and Richard could begin working on this challenge, there was a far more important group who needed to be engaged and supported; internal stakeholders.
Step One – Getting Everyone Aligned and Onboard With Community
Both Erik and Richard knew you couldn’t build an external community without being a strong internal community of supporters first.
The diverse number of audiences meant there were many different stakeholders who needed to be engaged in the process of developing the community. It was critical the community learned from each department’s expertise, addressed concerns, and ensured they knew how the community could support their work.
Over several months, Richard and Erik met with over 30 different internal stakeholders to explain the value of community, how they could be involved, and what they could expect from the community. As Richard explains, real-time interaction was crucial:
“You really can’t do this by email. You have to be in the room with people understanding their needs, learning from their expertise, and ensuring you can address any challenges. The more time you invest with stakeholders at the beginning, the more support you have for the community when you launch.”
After several months, Richard and Erik had not only built support for the community from the CEO on down but also put together a comprehensive list of stakeholder requirements from across the organization. This detailed every stakeholder, every benefit, and every concern they had. From this list, it finally became possible to clarify the community’s goals and ensure everyone pursued a clear vision going forward.
Next, it was time to identify what members needed from the community.
Step Two – Finding Out What Members Want
A common mistake when building a community is to decide what members need without doing enough research. This often results in a company creating a community where few members participate or even visit. To ensure this didn’t happen with Geotab, FeverBee undertook deep research through interviews and surveys to identify precisely what members wanted in the community.
As Richard notes, the results proved illuminating:
“Our research showed each segment had different needs – but there are some similarities there. One interesting finding was that members weren’t looking for a community to bond with one another, but instead, they wanted to get access to information. We had to prioritise delivering the best possible question and answer experience over shared events and bonding activities.
We also knew that resellers had very unique needs and developers needed a private area to engage with one another. Better yet, we also identified the precise issues they cared most about and could give those topics the most attention when we launched.”
Once the stakeholder and member needs had been identified, it was time to address the biggest challenge yet; getting the technology right.
Step Three – Getting The Technology Right
In recent years, Geotab has built a strong reputation for protecting the privacy of its customers and the security of its data. As Erik explains, this was a key factor in selecting the right platform for Geotab.
“Selecting the right platform wasn’t just a matter of picking the option which was best for members. It was about finding a platform that matched Geotab’s principles and could deeply integrate with the systems we had.
FeverBee created a request for proposal for us based upon these attributes, solicited proposals from five vendors, and then ranked the solutions”
However, it’s one thing to set up the platform, it’s another to customize it to support the needs of different audiences.
Working with an implementation partner, Paladin, FeverBee recommended a design which emphasized simplicity and prioritised the latest questions over any other activity. The design also included specific areas for developers and newcomers. As Richard explains:
“The common mistake is to have a huge hero banner and bury the latest activity. But we had data showing exactly what members wanted. So we designed the community to prioritise precisely what members needed most.”
Richard continues: “We knew we could add more things later, but right now we needed to ensure the community reached a critical mass of activity.”
Better yet, the list of questions made it easy for staff and top members to browse the community frequently to see if there is anything they could respond to.
Step Four – Recruiting A Community Manager
Erik knew that he needed someone hands-on managing the community. While FeverBee could create a community strategy which explained what needed to be done, someone still needed to do it.
Erik recalls how he selected the right person
“I interviewed a few candidates. We knew we needed someone with ‘hands-on’ community experience who would be happy getting ‘in the trenches’ and engaging directly with members from day one.
After speaking to several candidates, we agreed that Genevieve Bouchard would be the best fit. She had good experience, a huge amount of passion for the work, and was eager to execute the strategy. She even moved to Las Vegas to support the team”
Step Five – Developing The Full Community Strategy
In mid-January 2020, Geotab would be hosting Geotab Connect, their annual conference. This was a perfect audience of customers and resellers. As Erik describes, agreeing to a fixed deadline was useful to get everyone on the same page about when the community was going to ‘ship’.
“It put a fire under all of us to make sure the launch was as good as it can be. It also meant we were often still developing the full strategy while implementing the earliest phases of it”
The full community strategy created by FeverBee included a roadmap divided into three phases. The short, intermediate and long-term.
The first phase began prior to Geotab Connect and ended the week after the launch. This phase detailed how to get the community to the crucial critical mass of activity. This focused on building a group of founding members, seeding the community with early activity, and guiding the community manager to nurture a handful of top members.
The second phase explained how to rapidly expand the community beyond an initial core group and deliver clear value to Geotab. The final phase was the long-term vision of the community. This showed how to steadily expand the value of the community to both members and the organisation over time.
As Erik notes:
“The level of detail in the strategy impressed me. It didn’t just include a generic list of tactics, it explained and prioritised each activity. It identified when each activity should be undertaken, included clear examples to follow, and highlighted the resources required to do the tactic well. This helped us plan out the activities in advance”
The full strategy covered every aspect of the community. It shared personas of each member group, methods to engage each group, unique user journeys, a superuser program for top members, gamification plans, and what metrics should be measured along with a plan for measuring them. With the strategy complete, the community was ready to launch.
Launch at Geotab Connect
The community was launched on stage by Geotab’s Executive VP of Sales and Marketing, Colin Sutherland, at Geotab Connect. It received an extremely positive reception.
Within a week the community was attracting a dozen questions per day with an answer rate nearing 95% – a staggering result for a brand new community. The secret to the success of the launch, Richard reveals, is having everything lined up long in advance.
“We worked hard to make sure everyone was ready, from the CEO, staff members and our ecosystem, to promote and support the community the day it went live.
Our CEO even took the time to individually write notes of encouragement to some of our top members. It was a collective effort and it really shows when you look at how the community immediately sprang to life and has continued to grow ever since!”
A key part of the process was also nurturing superusers early. The community team had a booth at Geotab Connect to help build relationships with potential superusers. These were early members who were directly encouraged by the community manager to provide feedback, support, and help other customers.
Perhaps even more impressive was how positively the community was received within the organisation. Within weeks, Genevieve explains, she was getting interest throughout Geotab:
“Very soon after the launch of the community, I began getting requests from people throughout Geotab eager to get more involved in the community and see how it can support their work. It’s become widely known as the crown jewel in our customer support assets”.
Perhaps most significantly, the community has been listed as one of the company’s most important events in the past 20 years.
RESULTS OF COMMUNITY
Today, the community is a thriving hub of activity with almost every answer receiving a response within 24 hours.
In just a few months since its launch, the community report card is remarkable:
Erik summarizes the community experience so far.
“We wanted to launch at speed and we wanted to get it right the first time. From almost every metric we’re seeing so far, from levels of participation to the answer rate and even the satisfaction of customers with it, we’ve definitely achieved that.
In our follow-up survey, 87% of customers said they found the answer they were looking for within the community. That’s thousands of customers every month who don’t have to call customer support thanks to the community. That’s been a huge win for us.