The second primary method by which organizations generate increased revenue from an online community is to increase the number of customers. There are several methods by which an online community can help generate additional customers. These include:
- Lead Generation. Lead generation refers to the number of leads generated by the activity. A lead is typically an individual or company who has expressed an interest in the organization’s product or services and has provided their contact details. In a community context, a lead might be every member who has joined the community or individuals who have undertaken specific purchase-intent related activity. The stronger the purchase-intent activity, the stronger the lead. Once a lead has been proven to have buying power they typically become a prospect (although terminology often differs). Lead generation includes increasing search traffic and customer advocacy. A lead is typically an individual or company who has expressed an interest in the organization’s product or services and has provided their contact details.
- Lead Identification. Lead identifications refers to methods the organization employs to identify leads as a result of the behavior they perform in the community (or behavior influenced by the community). If an organization knows people who watch three videos and attend two webinars are more likely to buy, they can identify members in the community who perform that behavior. Likewise, a community member might highlight a problem that the organization’s products or services can solve. The sales team already know they have a warm lead and a problem they can focus on solving.
- Lead Conversion. Lead conversion is the % of leads who convert into paying customers. The number of leads who become customers is influenced by the quality of the lead (Do they have a pressing problem the organization can solve? Do they have the ability to make buying decisions? Do they have the resources to purchase the product?) and how the lead is nurtured (quality of contact with the organization). An online community may improve lead conversion by connecting prospects with existing customers who provide quality testimonials, reviews, guide people in what they should buy, providing further information about the products, and via social proof (seeing others using/liking the organization’s products/services). This is sometimes referred to as ‘assisted buy and sell’.