Build a Community and Ditch Your Traditional Lead Generation

I’m witnessing and taking part in a significant movement in business. It’s becoming clear, many of you can build a community and ditch your traditional lead generation activities.

Significant leaders in the sales and marketing community are leading a revolution. They are adding massive value to participants in their communities and simultaneously filling their sales pipelines into revenue-generating customers by doing so.

HOW TO USE THIS POST FOR YOUR OWN COMMUNITY INITIATIVE. 

Only you know the niche you’re attempting to serve. You know their needs through conversations, research, years of experience, or an insight gleaned from machine learning or other tools. Take the frameworks offered in this post and retrofit them into your own schema. With the substitution of specific data for the general data included, you will find the blue ocean strategy frameworks used in the post to be helpful.

The phenomenon of replacing traditional lead generation and sales pipelines with a community is relatively new. However, its roots are in ancient principles. I think some clarification around definitions is worth visiting. 

Group: noun –a number of people or things that are located close together or are considered or classed together.

Community: noun – a unified body of individuals: such as a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society

There is a distinct difference between groups and communities. 

Let’s start with a graphic to make our discussion a bit easier to follow.

In the chart above, I lay out an As-Is Strategy Canvas around group creation. The three lines represent three current online communities. Two are well known. The pink line is Facebook. The blue line is LinkedIn and the yellow line is a new community. 

The challenge surrounds how a new community finds focus, divergence, and a compelling tagline.

There are so many factors to consider so we’ll start with fairly obvious key factors of competition. The horizontal axis provides a means of laying out common factors of competition. The vertical axis defines relative value. 

I have chosen key factors of competition to be as follows. In no particular order. Remember, these key factors are for the founders/creators/leaders of communities. Not the audiences they wish to attract. We’ll get to that area soon.

  • Simplicity of Use
  • Access to Audience
  • Ownership of Audience by Group Owner
  • Media & Resource Sharing Tools
  • Integration/API with Other Tools
  • Investment Required
  • Privacy and Security
  • Customization Potential

The end result of an As-Is Strategy Canvas is to demonstrate the current state of play as it pertains to your key competitors in the community. 

In the canvas above, when comparing established communities like LinkedIn and Facebook with a new community, it’s made obvious that there are benefits to building communities of a sort, more like groups, within the framework of currently provided platforms. You have the ability to cultivate connections with existing audiences, your investment is nominal, and security is strong, although privacy may be an issue. Simplicity of use is also a strong point. 

Key competitive divergence begins to work in a new community’s favor in the following ways. You have infinitely more opportunities for customization through design, narrative, and niche focus. The primary divergence and likely your biggest reason for building community is the ownership of your audience. 

When your divergence is clear, you have the beginning stages of a blue ocean initiative. A diverging value curve is what you seek. 

It’s now time to look at the community through the eyes of the user/participant you most hope to attract. 

The method blue ocean strategists use for this process is the buyer utility map. The BUM is a framework that allows for tremendous flexibility.

The buyer utility map is a framework that provides a method for identifying blockages to user utility. Blockages are viewed as valuable insights in this exercise.

Without knowledge of how users will be challenged in the use of your community and the various goals they have in their lives, you have no way to know where innovation is possible. 

Remember, every framework in Blue Ocean Strategy is pointed at focus, divergence, and ultimately delivering a tagline that resonates in the minds and hearts of your company’s people and the customers you’ll serve. 

a community builder's buyer utility map. It lays out blockages to utility users may face
Community Builder’s Buyer Utility Map

On the vertical axis, the buyer utility map above features key elements of the community experience through the eyes of your users. Feel free to modify these to fit the goals of your audience.

The horizontal axis features stages of the community experience as well as key aspects of what this writer views as important aspects of the community experience. These again are customizable. You may find it beneficial to revisit this Buyer Utility Map after key milestones in your community’s growth.

The red x’s denote blockages to utility. Translated, these are areas of possible improvement. You can’t uncover these blockages without facilitating conversations, feedback from the community, and transparency. If you’re disciplined in the pursuit of truth from participants, you’ll find this framework extremely beneficial.

The ERRC Grid. What might we eliminate, reduce, raise, and create?

You’ve seen the As-Is Strategy Canvas at work. You’ve seen the benefit of identifying blockages to user utility in your community. Now let’s visit a framework that brings structure to divergence.

When thinking strategically about your budding community or one you are currently imagining, it is imperative that you build divergence. This divergence and the resulting value curve will be the key reason users adopt your platform and spend their most value resource on it. That resource? The sharing of their time.

The ERRC grid is challenging in that it calls on strategists and thinkers inside the company to question everything.

What really can be eliminated? This isn’t a simple question. If you’ve developed meaningful relationships within your niche, what might you find out through conversations with them about the community features they care least about and never use on their current platforms?

What may be reduced? There are certain parts of almost every offering, especially one involving software, where scope creep took over during a dev cycle and features were included that are novel but aren’t useful. These novel technical features may be hindrances to user utility.

What might you raise? There are often times hints of real value innovation in certain platforms or the way in which they are used. This is where the application integration functionality of certain out of the box community platforms is a strong consideration. The needs for an artist community of photographers or painters differs greatly from the sharing technologies an engineering community may desire. You won’t know what you may raise without chatting it up with your users.

What may be created? The reason we weed a garden is to facilitate new growth. This is true of the ERRC grid process. You’ve explored the elimination, reduction, and raising of features, technologies, processes, personnel, or anything else deemed applicable. Now you can create! Discuss with your tribe what they need, desire, and would pay for.

ERRC Grid for Community Builders

Imagine the text above as completely interchangeable. Only you and your audience know the answers required to properly fill out the ERRC grid. A strategist like me serves as a great guide through the process but if you appoint the right person to this task, you’ll uncover significant data and have a path forward.

Let’s review. We’re here to build a community and ditch your traditional lead generation. Thus far, we’ve laid out a blue ocean as-is strategy canvas framework that demonstrates divergence from traditional communities is possible. We know this but use of the As-Is Strategy canvas leads to your individualization around the community you’re seeking to build.

The Buyer Utility Map provides a framework for vetting blockages to user utility and offers community builders a way to structure conversations with their possible community participants.

The ERRC (Eliminate, Reduce, Raise, Create) Grid provides community builders to dive deep into conversations with their team, colleagues, prospects, and clients around what should be prioritized, eliminated, reduced, and brought to the forefront during the creation of the community.

There are additional frameworks that will be introduced in the next session around how to build a community and ditch your traditional lead generation. In the next post, I’ll introduce the three tiers of noncustomers as well as the Six Paths Framework and we’ll close the post with the To-Be Strategy Canvas as well as some theories and ideas on pricing.

In what communities are you most involved? What are they doing to add value to your life and business? What is it about those communities that you most wish to emulate in one of your own? What would you like to see removed or eliminated from the communities you love?

If you’ve read this post and like the feel of where Blue Ocean Strategy takes you, please visit our own community link. We are a new strategy-oriented business community seeking co-creators, leaders, speakers, and audience builders. If you like the idea of locking arms and sharing your story, we invite your participation. Click here for the community application page.

Also, the Blue Ocean Challenge may be of interest to you. Through a five-day/six-session power-packed series of 45-minute sessions, you’ll end up with a working knowledge of Blue Ocean Strategy Frameworks and tools like the ones you see demonstrated in this post. As a reader of this post, you qualify for a $40 discount on the challenge. Click here and use community9205 as the coupon code for the discount.