In my mid-teens, I spent a lot time at The Playing Fields.
The Playing Fields was a video gaming cafe in London. The Playing Fields loved their community. They loved their community so much that they let their best community members play for free.
Alas, letting your best customers play for free turned out to be a terrible business strategy. The business went bankrupt. No more freebies, no more community.
Almost every organisation at some level wants to make its community happy. And almost every organisation has to draw the line where they can do that profitably.
Let’s put free products/services for community members for life at one end of the continuum and completely ignoring the whims and wishes of members at the other.
You have to draw your line somewhere on that continuum.
How far are you willing to go to please your members? Sure, community members might ‘come first’…but if the company goes bankrupt making members happy then what’s the point?
The thing is, there’s usually far more cost-effective ways to please members than free stuff.
I don’t think we ever wanted to play for free at The Playing Fields. A freebie here and there might help, but we were much more interested in name recognition, a sense of status and influence. Each of these would have been much more cost-effective alternatives.
The magic isn’t identifying the things that the community will love and doing that. It’s identifying the most cost (and time) effective ways to do things the community will love. Track a community sentiment or satisfaction score. Measure how happy members are with the community and test things to see what makes them more happy. You will find, in almost every case, the things that really make members happy are not tangible, they’re psychological.
They usually include being listened to, having their opinion sought, having a sense of influence, being recognised by members, getting fast responses to questions etc…
Not a secret, perhaps, but worth a reminder.