Defining & Defending Super Users Programs Internally


(Laurenfaye512) #1

Hello all,

Long time fan and lurker – first question!

I run an external support Community for a SaaS brand. In the past year, I’ve launched a successful super user program in the Community, rewarding top contributors with the goals of helping us scale our moderator efforts and increase the desired behaviors/happy sentiment culture we like.

To reward our super users (we call them Insiders) we have swag, host monthly product feedback session with our Product Managers, and give them marketing/pr/social promotion opportunities for their business when available.

Things have been going great - except there is growing confusion and frictions coming from our marketing org. There is a lot of interest around having “user groups” (product feedback groups), “advocate/ambassador programs” (rewarding top customers with perks), and “enterprise reference programs” (getting top customers to serve as sales references and reward them with perks). Sometimes, they want to start those three separate programs and sometimes they feel my superuser/Community program should fit ALL of those needs (I disagree).

For example, I just received an email today from marketing telling me to add four new members to Insiders. They are top customers but have never contributed to our online Community or promoted us on social. I pushed back saying they don’t meet our internal qualifications. Then received a response saying: _"… only evaluating participants through the lens of Community participation might be overly limited given that we have customers providing value in all kinds of ways, including providing public testimonials for marketing, serving as sales references, speaking at events, etc. The net result of all of these is enriching our reputation and lending credibility…One potential solution would be to create a separate program for these merchants, but I think that introduces other challenges given that many of the incentives and perks would be the same."

This has turned into a bit of venting session for me (thanks for listening!), but I’d love to hear if anyone has faced a similar challenge internally. If so, how did you defend your program and help everyone get on the same strategy moving forward?

(David DeWald) #2

It’s safe to say there are no wrong answers here.

Where I am, Customer Advocacy is separated from Community and while we report to the same persons we don’t often overlap. We don’t have a super user program at the moment, but we do have Customer advisory boards that have places within our community but again are not managed by the community team.

I think you need to reengage them to explain why your Super User program was originally created, how it currently functions and to determine what they are trying to accomplish by adding these new members. I think a meeting with those agenda items will get you closer to what they are trying to do while letting them know why these new members might not be a good fit for the Super Users community as it currently stands.

(Laurenfaye512) #3

Thanks David. Yeah, a meeting and realignment is definitely overdue!

@HAWK Curious to hear what you think too! I really found your Super User research project helpful – and I think I’ll be sharing the terminology page with our marketing team so we can at least establish a common language for these things:

(Sarah Hawk) #4

I fully support David’s position re ensuring a good fit. One of the most important things that I learned while researching programs was that people need to feel valued for their contributions. Making it easy to join a program or letting people achieve goals without having to meet criteria is a fast track to failure.

I think this is probably a good approach but the first step would be sitting down with marketing, explaining your position and defining the goal of each program. If they don’t align then they’re separate programs…

(michelle higgins) #5

Hi Lauren,

I don’t have much advice for you - I’m just beginning to build an online community for our users, with the hope of receiving feedback on new tech products. Your mention of product feedback groups has me hoping that I can pick your brain about how you run those and what resources you use or find helpful. Let me know if I can email you!

(Rebecca Braglio) #6

Hmmm I’ll be the dissenter here - I think there are ways you can work together. I think having “perks” like the opportunity to give product feedback, rewarding top customers, etc. could blend with the online community. If you have different segments of ambassadors, you could leverage each one to help increase activity in the other.
For example, suppose you have a top customer who has never contributed online. Put him/her in the program and nurture him/her into contributing. It may not work every time, but it might.
I also think if you have separate programs you run the risk of causing confusion - especially if many of the perks are the same. If the program is combined, you most likely will also have access to a much bigger budget (if that’s an issue).

I would understand if you’re feeling protective and territorial over what you’ve built - because I would as well. I’d be very wary that marketing would want to steamroll me and ruin what I’ve created. But I think if you continue to advocate and represent the community’s interest the way you are while trying to see if there is a way to work together, you just might create something even better…

(Joel Rangelle) #7

This is a great question and I think you’re right to stand your ground, although there’s a way to channel the Marketing Department’s wishes in the right manner.

First, you need to have a clearly defined goal for the purpose of the SuperUsers (which you do). Throwing any riff raff devalues the purpose of the group, and won’t align with any of the group’s values or incentives. Adding other non-superusers will actually muddy the marketing group’s aims of top customers.

The needs and wants of these top customers are different from the needs and wants of the SuperUsers. Super Users are incentivizied by sharing their information and earning community rep points. Top Customers are incentivized by business goals, a deeper application of your SaaS, and power features.

I just listened to the MozCon video from @richard_millington this morning, where one of his beginning principles is ‘a group within a group.’ Don’t be afraid to initiate a new group specifically for these top customers where they can share their own specific interests.

What I think you should do is sit down with the Marketing team and come up with a new initiative for these Top Customers. Perhaps interview one of them as a business case study of the deep application of SaaS across the enterprise; and allow him and his colleagues to host a roundtable discussion in the community where they answer HOW they use the software. And maybe, you’ll be able to turn them legitimately into your next SuperUser :slight_smile:

Good luck!