You don’t have to be an expert before you start a community, but you do have to learn from your experiences.
Live events are crucial for building a strong community. We forge stronger connections when we interact human-to-human.
Community building is about earning and spending social capital. Be proactive about earning it and spend it wisely.
Can you please introduce yourself and what you do for Catalyst?
My name is Ben, and I manage Community at Catalyst. What that means is that I help grow the company and the brand through community initiatives and programs. Sometimes that means podcasting, sometimes that means planning events, and sometimes that means a dating app for CSM’s. It means creating spaces for community members to connect.
When did you decide to start the CS in Focus community?
I was hired in 2017 to build the CS team at SeamlessMD, so as part of that effort, I reached out to a lot of CS leaders for advice, and then as I started sharing my learnings, people started asking me for advice, so I wrote an ebook called The Beginner’s Guide to Customer Success, and threw a launch event for it.
Then after the event was over and I got the feedback, I realized that while the ebook was a nice thing to put out, the real value of the event was that there’d never been a mass gathering of CS professionals in Toronto before. That’s when I decided to launch CS in Focus, and that was at the end of 2018.
What did you do to grow membership?
I brought in top-tier speakers, made sure every event had quality food and an open bar, I created new assets targeting relevant challenges, I started the Slack team which grew quite quickly (It was the only Slack channel for CS people in Canada), and at the end of the day the biggest driver of growth was DMing people individually inviting them to events and the community.
Get the Catalyst Newsletter
Join more than 30,000 Customer Success professionals to get new events, research, and feature opportunities delivered straight to your inbox.
What was the biggest mistake you made as you were growing CS in Focus?
I think the biggest mistake though was trying to do too many things at once. I was working full-time at SeamlessMD, consulting, working on my partner’s photography business, and growing CS in Focus. When you do that many things at once, quality dips...or you burn out. Pick one thing and do it well.
Why would a person or company want to make their own community as opposed to simply joining one?
You join a community to learn from others, but you create a community to give back to others.
And when you create a community, you are not only creating value for other people, you’re making a plethora of new connections, building a brand for yourself, and having fun doing it!
But if your main motivations for creating a community are to benefit yourself, then that’s going to be part of your community’s foundation and affect its growth and success.
You can’t just take without giving back. So many people on LinkedIn just say, “Here’s my life story,” or “Here’s this thing that I did.” They don’t stop to think about whether it’s something people will actually care about, or if it’s just something that they think is interesting because it’s about them.
We could do a million webinars on why Catalyst is the best software, but is that what the people in the community want? Maybe now and then. But you know, if someone’s a CSM at a company, and that company’s locked into a long-term contract with a competitor, we still want to bring them into our community. We still want to create value for that person.
Sometimes it feels like companies hold events that are basically subtle ways of pitching their service.
Exactly. There’s so many ways of losing credibility.
I love talking about social capital because that’s what CS is. That’s what community building is. It’s a bank and you have to build up your social capital with people in order to spend it.
Do you have any final advice for our readers?
You can and absolutely should start your own community, but you have to approach it the right way. Focus on filling gaps and creating value.
The first thing I did at Catalyst that I should’ve done at CS in Focus was set up 15 to 30 minute chats with 50 different CS executives. I do this at least two to three times a year now to see what’s top of mind, what their challenges are, what’s going well and what’s not.
That helps me make sure that Catalyst never runs an event or creates a resource on a redundant topic. Our focus is on creating new things.
So whether you’re a community leader or an individual, start by talking to people and finding where the opportunities lie. Figure out what nobody else is talking about and start talking about it.
Thank you very much for the interview!
You’re welcome! This has been great.
Catalyst is the world's most intuitive Customer Success Platform (CSP), built by an experienced group of industry leaders. Previously, our founder built an effective Customer Success organization for one of the fastest growing cloud companies in the world. Catalyst integrates with all the tools you’re already using to provide one centralized view of customer data. Customer Success Managers can proactively take the right actions to prevent churn, such as receiving automated alerts when a customer is not using certain features that are critical to their success.