The Operational Analytics Club went from initial community founding to a thriving community of more than 7,500 data practitioners in just two years.
Fostered by the leading data activation platform, Census, the OA Club is a community of practice that brings mid- to senior-level data experts together to network, share best practices, and advance their careers.
In turn, Census earns the opportunity to raise its brand awareness within the community and share its team’s expertise. This strengthens its credibility as a trusted resource in the data analytics space and builds value-based relationships with members.
Allie Beazell, Marketing Chief of Staff and Director of Developer Marketing at Census, led the founding of the OA Club and has charted its success.
“Data innovation isn't done in a vacuum and the collective knowledge of the experts throughout the larger data community have been the source of progress for years,” Allie said. “The OA Club offers us an opportunity to give back to the folks who laid the groundwork for data activation, as well as elevate and educate the next generation of leaders who will take our space to new heights.”
But growing from a community of zero to 7,500 is not without its challenges.
Allie and her team had to undertake the necessary, but very manual, building work required in the early stages of starting a community. This included setting up Slack as their community gathering place, maintaining engagement across channels to facilitate growth, and doing outreach to acquire new members.
Allie also had ambitions of setting up a Data Champions program to help support current and future data thought leaders and enable them to share their expertise and insights. While she knew anecdotally which members might be a good fit, she didn’t have easy access to data to identify new members and support the program.
Also, as a community of practice, the OA Club is vendor-agnostic—that means no sales pitches. While this approach builds community trust and credibility, it can make tying community investment to direct business outcomes (such as leads and revenue) very challenging. This disconnect between community and business results can also make it difficult to secure resources like headcount or funding, as well as program support from other teams that are focused on their own priorities.
Census turned to Common Room to help address the challenges of building a community and show the impact of the OA Club on its business.
With Common Room, Allie and team have been able to:
“Common Room has helped us focus on the work that matters most in community: connecting with people,” Allie said. “Whether it's connecting with our members about their questions and what resources they need or connecting with our sales team to help them better understand our target buyer and their paint points, Common Room has been a great source of insights as we scale.”
Community onboarding without the overhead.
From a day-to-day community management standpoint, Common Room has offered Census the ability to track the progress and accelerate the growth of the OA Club. Allie and team look at Common Room daily to follow both their little "little c” and "big c” communities.
For Census, "little c” refers to its roughly 2,000 members in Slack, where the OA Club’s innermost circle is hosted. The team monitors the 28-day rolling average to measure month-over-month growth in active members and total membership as key health metrics for the community.
Common Room also helps Census foster long-term engagement with members. It’s not uncommon for a new member to join the community to ask a specific question, then disappear once they’ve received an answer. With Common Room, Census can easily see which members have become inactive and reach out to re-engage them. This visibility has helped Census grow the number of active members in the OA Club in addition to overall total membership.
For “big C” community, Common Room gives Allie and the team visibility across all the places where anyone may see or be talking about the OA Club or Census, including Slack, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Meetup. While the Slack group is a large focus area for the community team, it’s important for Census to have visibility across all of the digital channels where customers and prospects are talking about or engaging with the brand to invite them into the OA Club or engage them in a conversation about the company's solutions.
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Data Champions—an incubator program for emerging data thought leaders—has been an essential ingredient to the success of the OA Club. This program helps a cohort of OA Club members build their personal brands, elevate their career skills, and get the support they need to give back to the community.
From conversations with the community, Allie knew there was a lot of interest from members in sharing their perspectives on the data analytics space, but a lack of support was holding people back from extending their knowledge and expertise to others.
By providing editorial support for things like blog posts, webinars, and conference proposals, Allie has been able to help members be more comfortable sharing their savvy with the community. In exchange, the Data Champions assist in moderating channels in the OA Club and provide feedback on programs, which helps further foster community engagement and growth.
Identify and engage with folks who love your product.
Common Room has been key for Census in launching and maintaining its champions program. While Allie and team had a good sense of strong candidates from their daily engagement in the OA Club, Common Room helped ensure no potential participants were missed through impact points, which weight and measure member activity and contributions across all channels. Viewing members by impact points allowed Census to quickly see the biggest contributors to the community and consider them for the Data Champions program.
As they were identified, Census added all the members to a Data Champions segment, where outreach and agreement to participate in the program were tracked. Common Room’s team notes feature was handy to document specific details about each champion, like which channels they were signing up to admin, the types of content they were interested in creating, and if they had any questions about the program.
Once the program launched, having all of the Data Champions in a single segment allowed Allie and team to quickly check and report on the activity of the members in the program as well as monitor community engagement with their posts and other content.
The goal of the OA Club is to help data practitioners advance their careers and network with peers. Census intentionally chose not to assign any specific revenue targets to the community to avoid compromising its mission and feel.
By focusing solely on providing value to community members, the OA Club helps Census earn credibility with the broader community and raise overall brand awareness, which becomes relevant when a member is looking for a solution aligned with the company’s offering.
That said, while the Census team is passionate about community building at all levels of the company, advocating for resources for the OA Club could be challenging when the business impact of the community was more nebulous. Common Room helped the Census community team tie the OA Club to concrete value for the company.
Through Common Room’s business impact reporting and customer relationship management integrations, Census has been able to unlock valuable data that proves the benefits of community on top organizational goals, including impact on open pipeline, deals won, and time to close.
Using Common Room, Census found that 50%+ of closed deals and 28%+ of pipeline are community-engaged—with both of these numbers trending upward as the community grows.
The community Allie and team brought together, as well as the awareness and trust it fostered for Census, also worked to accelerate deals. Census found deals involving a member of the OA Club closed 40% faster than deals without a community member.
These insights have been critical in proving the impact the OA Club has on the business, and allow Allie to more easily make the case for continued investment in the community to deliver increased value to both members and Census.
"Common Room brings data to the question of community impact," Allie said. "We're able to show how our programs have engaged over half of our closed pipeline while also speeding up deal time to close by 40%."
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Through Common Room’s CRM integrations, community data has been democratized and is available to the broader team via HubSpot and Salesforce. While there’s a strict no selling policy in the community, access to these insights allows sales team members to bring more context into conversations set up outside of community spaces. This helps them have more value-based conversations with prospective customers and shorten deal time to close.
Additionally, Census has set up a Common Room team alert that pings an internal Slack channel whenever anyone from the company’s ideal customer profile joins the OA Club. Not only does this help the community team track the health of this important population within the OA Club, it also allows the sales and marketing teams to see when a high-priority account has joined the community.
If it’s appropriate, sales can then work with the community team to get an introduction to, for example, help restart a conversation with a company that has re-engaged in the community after being unresponsive to other outreach.
The community team is putting together a rules of engagement document to help guide the broader team on how best to interact with the community and always lead with value, which will help sales and marketing engage the community more directly in ways that are mutually beneficial.
Census has also started using the data in Common Room for lead scoring across two different funnels: one for community and one for marketing. Common Room’s native integrations with community tools, data warehouses, and CRMs allow all of the context from OA Club participation, event attendance, marketing engagement, and more to be scored and stored in the company’s HubSpot instance.
The company differentiates between community and marketing activities and creates two scores for each member that uniquely track progress through each funnel. By keeping these funnels separate, Census is able to ensure it’s only reaching out to community members when it's appropriate, such as when a member has sufficiently indicated interest in a Census-specific conversation. This scoring process helps members who are looking for an offering find the solution they need more quickly and leads to more productive sales conversations.
“Enhancing lead scoring with signals from community, social, and other digital channels gives us a more complete understanding of each user as they move through their customer journey with Census,” Allie said. “The insights brought together by Common Room ensure our team can engage with the right person at the appropriate time with an offer that truly aligns to their needs.”
As an added bonus, Common Room is helping Census learn more about its members and the organizations they belong to. Because the OA Club is a community of practice, many members use their personal emails when they join. By bringing member data into Common Room, Census can enrich member profiles with business emails and other firmographic data that helps with the marketing team’s user segmentation and campaign building.
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The OA Club has experienced significant growth since its founding. It continues to deliver on its mission of cultivating the next generation of data leaders through community events and marquee programs such as Data Champions.
Common Room has enabled Allie and her team to build a bespoke community that benefits members and the Census brand. Additionally, Common Room's CRM integrations are helping Census create deeper customer relationships and have more effective sales conversations.
“We want to make sure that we’re succeeding at building a great community for our members that also brings benefit to our brand,” Allie said. “Common Room has allowed us to achieve both of those goals.”
The success of the OA Club demonstrates the powerful benefits of community building and how using data-driven tools to measure and prove the impact of those communities can deliver value to both members and the business.