Thoughts? Partners (vendors) involved in-person user group meetings?


(Emily Dunn) #1

We are a SaaS company and are just launching in-person (regionally based) user groups. Inviting the customers is the easy part, but I’m having challenges in determining how our partners should be included in these user groups. I don’t want customers to feel like they’re being sold too, but they have some good information to share.

What are your thoughts? Any “rules of the road” suggestions?


(Sarah Hawk) #2

Great question!

I have a similar challenge here, although not in-person. We welcome platform vendors to be a part of this community – they are frequently veterans in the community space and have a wealth of knowledge – but I don’t ever want community members to feel sold to, either.

I handle it fairly loosely by touching base with vendors when they sign up, welcoming them, and explaining that we value their general contributions and welcome comment on their specific products but only if they go to directly answering a question. I’ve had one debate with a vendor that called me short sighted (he didn’t return), but generally I think the personal contact and setting clear boundaries has worked. We don’t have formal guidelines because they haven’t been needed.

Can you test the waters with just one or two partners at an event to see how it gels?

@HelenSilby will have useful insight. Helen, how do you manage the balance between vendors/partners and community when you run events?

(Nick Emmett) #3

Hi @em_dunn, where’s your challenge coming from? Is it an option to just not invite them?
Perhaps you could open up your user events to them in terms of sponsorship in exchange for a short spot, or a stand? I think as long as there are clear guidelines about their engagement then it should be fair enough.

(Leo Daley) #4

We face a similar challenge with our community launch (Fall). We’ve made the decision to include our partners in our customer community (as opposed to having a separate partner community), but we don’t want our customers “sold to” there. I think we’ll establish simple rules of engagement encouraging partners to be active in the community to showcase their expertise and experience. If customers reach out to them for help, good for them.

(Sarah Hawk) #5

It might also be a good idea to communicate clearly to the wider audience somewhere that if they are approached by partners privately through the community that they should contact you (assuming it’s unwelcome).

I’ve been in a situation in a community where a vendor was contacting people behind the scenes and I had no idea until one person had the courage to let me know.

(Mark Baldwin) #6

I almost didn’t read this thread as when speed reading through the site I mistakenly thought this thread would be about asking our partners to come with us to meet people in user groups. All I could think was that my wife would freak out if I suggested that, it would be really weird. However in combatting my OCD of turning all threads from Orange to Black, I’ve not actually read the thread and found it most interesting.

I would totally agree that transparency is really important, it’s my personal experience that if you know about it beforehand then you really don’t mind.

Anyway, thought you might find my thought process amusing.

(Sarah Hawk) #7

Hilarious! Editing the title in case others are the same.

Yes! When I was customising this platform I changed unread links from another shade of grey to orange with people like you in mind.

(Rachael Reilly) #8

Hi @em_dunn , I think the fact that this is even a concern for you means that you won’t go far wrong. I encourage internal partners (some of who are in sales based roles) to post thought-provoking or conversation starting content on the community. When they submit content suggestions they must fill in a section on ‘Value for Members’. I think this keeps us honest but I’m always open to other suggestions!

(Olivier Le Pord) #9

In my case, we have vendor partners who actually run F2F user groups quite successfully and without much of our intervention. I think there is nothing fundamentally wrong for a reseller to be involved. All is in the tone: bring knowledge, build trust and help customers and be extra light on sales pitch. In the end, of some attendees bring sales, that fine, but the purpose of the reseller participation has to be on the side of the “trusted adviser”.

(Emily Dunn) #10

Thanks everyone for the great insights! For now, I think we’re going to focus on getting the user groups set up for our customers. Once they’re running smoothly, we’ll try testing the waters with our partner audience.

(Helen Silby) #11

Hi All, thanks @HAWK for the tag. Sorry for not responding sooner, I’ve been on leave :slight_smile:
Regarding the balance between vendors/partners, we have so far been fortunate with the community events we have run and because the partners we work with are not direct competitors that has helped and it’s not a fight for the limelight nor is there the need to hard sell or consistently plug. We also don’t have formal guidelines but I believe that most who come to our community networking events generally have an understanding that it’s an opportunity for anyone who attends.