Your community was likely created to achieve a single, major, goal.
You’re likely pursuing that goal as effectively as possible.
The danger is ignoring secondary benefits. These can add up to a significant amount. On some occasions, they surpass the main benefit of the community.
Very often when we need examples, we’re stuck on a problem, or looking for inspiration we might ask the question in our community. This might save us an hour or more of searching online. If we do this 2 to 3 times per week and estimate an average staff cost of $100, that’s $300 per week in time saved (or $15,600 per year).
A few months ago, we tested LinkedIn ads for recruiting a staff member. The cost was around $1.5k to put together a list of 60+ applicants. This week we published a job advert here. We also posted it in our community and via a few social networking channels. We’ve now found some very strong applicants. I imagine we recruit a few staff members per year (say 3 to 4). This could be a cost saving of $4.5k to $6k per year.
When a prospective client contacts us, we usually invite them to our community to prove our methods work. I’d imagine this has helped us assure an extra 1 or 2 clients per year. The profit from these might range from $40k to $150k. Let’s assume a low-end return of $80k per year.
Our community is built on Discourse and involved a tricky migration. We often field requests from organizations looking for help to move to a Discourse community. I’d attribute around $10k in revenue from Discourse-related requests per year .
We might see a complex problem shared in our community we believe we can solve. If this turns into a client who wouldn’t otherwise have hired us, this might add another few consultancy projects per year. Let’s estimate a low-end value of $120k per year.
The community also exposes us to challenges our audience faces. We can see what people talk about without us prompting them. We often identify challenges people face. Some are quite common others are unique and complex. This changes our focus for training programs, consultancy projects, and topics of future events.
If we’re launching a new course, we can solicit the feedback of members early on to improve the course. We can collect useful testimonials from members. We can share information about the program in the community, provide discounts to members to incentivize signing up etc…
We could also calculate the value of first-time traffic generated via increased search results, or have the ability to test research and new ideas in the community to determine what really works. We could calculate the value of answers to questions from course participants in the community (and involving others).
All things considered, we might be able to conservatively attribute some $250k+ in value per year to the community.
None of the above was the reason we created the community, they are all secondary benefits.
But the thing about secondary benefits is you need to proactively pursue them. You need to use the community for recruitment, save on research time, generate more traffic, identify more leads, convert leads to clients, identify opportunities etc…