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Community-Driven Product Development - Finding Your Community Members

We're collaborating on a six-part educational series with Mark Tan, Director of Product and Community at Wyze. We'll discuss trends and takeaways when it comes to building products in tandem with your community. Mark will cover everything he's learned about community-driven product development, so you as a product manager (or other team leader!) can get as close to your end users as possible.

This week, Mark discussed how you can find your early community members and how to adopt "The Path to 100". We've also excerpted questions from our follow-up Slack Q&A. You can find new videos posted to our Community-Driven Product Development YouTube playlist every Tuesday afternoon, and you can join by following live Slack Q&As for the next 4 Thursdays. See you there!

You call out the importance of having a community vision and mission. How did you approach defining yours? What questions did you ask and/or recommend that others ask?

So we looked at the overall company vision and mission, what our community needs, and identified our role in bridging those two.

We also observed our community and asked our volunteers what they are most excited about. We looked at their pain points, motivations, and see how we can support them. That helped us define this along with a strategy for community growth.

For example, our company goal is to build an accessible smart home tech for everyone, and our community needs to have a space to explore different ways to use our product. Then, we have more specific action plan on how to achieve this.

Even though those three sections: Vision, Mission, and Our Values, look like they are simple and to the point, can you help others understand the amount of work and refinement and collaboration that goes into creating a vision and mission like that? (Goal with this follow-up question is to give others a realistic time idea of how long things like this can really take! And to not get down on themselves if it isn't "done by EOW")

I’d say it takes less work than defining the overall company vision/mission for sure. We completed the first draft in a week, then we just kept on iterating on it for about a month.

The values took more time because it becomes more specific as you go one level deep, but the good news is, you are not just creating this from scratch. You are telling the story of how your community is behaving, putting into words what culture already exists and identifying ways to highlight the strengths.

You mention the importance of making a small, relevant ask of community members- can you give us some examples either from your own experience or others you've seen?

Giving a link and asking for a 2-min feedback if there’s anything confusing is a good way to get some quick wins.

Here are some other small asks:

  • Asking for referrals and getting in touch with second degree connections
  • Amplifying your voice on social platforms
  • Asking for suggestions on where to find good resources and links
  • Getting thumbs up or down on a certain idea

You can also make your asks small by making the questions less open-ended.

Why do you think The Path to 100 is the best approach? Did you try other options in the past and they didn't shake out quite the same? Or are there other options you also like?

Path to 100 is a thoughtful way of scaling your group by adding more people without alienating the earliest customers. This is more of a mindset vs. a rigid structure.

I’ve been in other communities where I’ve been added to a WhatsApp group, Discord, or Slack with hundreds of people (I’ve done this myself!) and it doesn’t work that way. You need to build that strong foundation, get buy-in before you scale. In other words, when you are starting, quality > quantity.

If you want to do it at scale, you can host live events and then ask people to join a group (opt-in), you won’t start from ‘zero’ but the principles remain, you have to nurture that handful of people who signed up and build your own path to 100.

Based on the components of a strong community that you talk about, can you share any examples of how you've tried to instill each in your community?

Ah - here’s one, it’s part of our community guidelines that new members will see when they join our forum.

We then ask our moderators and volunteers to review this and then nudge people who aren’t following the community guidelines. We are modeling this behavior so that other people understand what this means.

What was your biggest challenge getting to your first 100 members? What do you hear most from others in terms of their biggest challenges?

It’s challenging to bring in people when you don’t have a product yet or just starting. You are selling a pitch, idea, or vision.

Even when you already have an existing product, people are so busy that they won’t get out of their way unless they understand your goals.

The biggest challenge is getting people to commit to helping give you meaningful feedback or even look at what you’re doing. To handle this situation, find ways that work for your customers, even if it will take extra work on your part.

Show immediate value to them. David Spinks has an excellent response to this.