Jun 7th, 2023

How dbt Labs connects community to business impact [VIDEO]

No two communities are exactly the same—but all of them can drive massive business impact. Just ask the team at dbt Labs.

Tens of thousands of data professionals come together every day in the dbt Community to ask questions, swap stories, and help each other work better using dbt. This activity generates invaluable insights for dbt Labs, from product development ideas to the best ways to build relationships with existing dbt users.

Common Room’s CEO Linda Lian chatted about that and much more with dbt Labs’ Senior Director of Community and Data Anna Filippova in a recent webinar: Strategies and metrics to align community with the business.

Check out three of the top takeaways from that conversation, including:

  • Why it pays to understand the type of community you have
  • Which metrics naturally align with the customer journey
  • How to turn internal stakeholders into community superfans

1. Different types of communities pull different levers

User communities come in all shapes and sizes. They can be company-hosted or user-led, span multiple digital touchpoints, and inspire a wide range of activity.

What yours looks like will influence how it impacts your business. The team at dbt Labs views its community primarily as one of practice.

“If you can imagine a professional trade association, like a group of accountants, for example, it's very similar in that sense,” Anna said. “It's a community that produces resources and talks and helps each other level up. They talk about not just how to use the technology, but also how to structure teams and how to evolve teams around the kinds of things that the technology now enables.”

Communities of practice, such as the dbt Community, can help you:

  • Inspire contributions to your industry and product
  • Position your company as an industry expert
  • Build affinity for your brand and product

Regardless of its type, all successful communities center the needs of their members. While it can be tempting for companies to focus on traditional marketing and sales metrics when measuring the impact of community on the business, there’s more to consider than leads generated and deals closed. This is especially true for open-source communities, where product feedback and product champions built from reciprocal relationships are essential to long-term success.

Check out the video below to see how we seeded our own champions program using Common Room:

What it means for community teams: To best serve your community, measure its business impact, and inspire internal advocacy, start by understanding the form your community takes, how it will serve your members, and which business levers it aligns with.

At dbt Labs, community is a key component of product development.

“We talk a lot about building for the community and keeping up with the community,” Anna said. “They kind of pull us in a certain direction technologically. We're often reading thoughtful, opinionated posts about what feature we should build next from community leaders because that's the kind of dynamic that we have. It's really a kind of guiding principle for how we do things at dbt Labs.”

2. Measure the right metrics

dbt Labs pays special attention to metrics that align with the customer lifecycle, including:

  • Community growth: This aligns with awareness and consideration.
  • Community involvement: This aligns with consideration and purchase.
  • Community champions: This aligns with retention and advocacy.

It starts with tracking the number of new community members and their relative activity. Then comes contribution measurement—how often members respond to questions, who’s creating product-related content, and similar activities.

“We have community members across a bunch of different platforms and Common Room helps us aggregate all of that and be able to report on it, which is incredible,” Anna said.

And finally there’s community champion activity—these are the people who go above and beyond to give back to the community and spread the good word about dbt.

“When you take those three things together, they represent [...] the different aspects of that business journey and that funnel,” Anna said. “That last bit is really where the advocacy happens. These are the folks who are going out and helping drive and bring more people into the community in a variety of ways. It's kind of a really nice circle.”
What it means for community teams: Learn which community metrics map to your customer journey, then make sure you have the tools you need to track and measure their performance to inform your community programs and investments.

Understanding the customer journey and figuring out where your community can make a difference is one thing, but proving it with data is a whole other ballgame. And you can’t do it without the right tools.

“We spent time [...] understanding all of the different ways that we could articulate that with Common Room,” Anna said. “Now Common Room is powering all of our key community business metrics.”

This is especially important for widely dispersed communities.

“Because our community, the dbt Community, lives on so many different platforms, Common Room is kind of that foundational platform where we funnel all information about things that are happening,” Anna said. “We have our Slack group, we have our Community Forum, we have social media, we have things like Reddit and Stack Overflow and all of those things, and we integrate all of that into the Common Room platform.”

From there, dbt Labs takes all of those activity signals and uses Common Room’s identity enrichment capabilities to create fleshed-out user profiles. This helps companies personalize engagement at the right time and in the right place.

“That allows us to have a really high-level overview of how someone moves through the community journey with us, and then we can tie that to how they're moving through the product journey with us,” Anna said.

3. Help every team be community-centric

Quantifying the business impact of community can’t be done in a silo. Getting everyone on board means getting everyone aligned on the importance of community from a business perspective.

“An important thing that is often difficult to articulate in an organization is that the value of a community presence and the impact of community on the business spans multiple levels of your business,” Anna said. “It's every part of your flywheel.”

And since community can impact every part of the business, that means doing your best to get every business function involved.

“We have a section of the team that rolls into marketing and is really focused on acquisition and kind of spreading the good word, if you will, about dbt,” Anna said. “Then there's a component that is much more focused on and aligned with engineering, product, and design. These are folks who are helping give and drive feedback cycles, for example, for parts of the product.”

Every team has its own roadmap, from product to marketing to community. It’s important to resolve the tension between those and fill in gaps in alignment.

Depending on the size and maturity of your team, it’s not always possible to work directly with every other business function. But you can learn which metrics matter most to different teams and be explicit in how community contributes to those.

“It can be an incredibly efficient way to drive your business forward, especially in a time like this,” Anna said. “Everyone wants to do more with less and community is actually a phenomenal way to generate that leverage.”
What it means for community teams: Help your company connect the dots between community and business impact by mapping community metrics to team-specific outcomes.

Company leaders will naturally be most interested in how community investment impacts financial metrics. Meanwhile, your marketing team may be more interested in customer acquisition and funnel efficiency metrics. And your community team might prioritize metrics that tie back to the success of different community tactics.

Sometimes the simplest solution is dedicating certain community activities to specific business functions.

“We organize events that are designed to create a funnel for our revenue team, for example, to follow up with prospective paying customers,” Anna said. “A lot of it is done in tandem with community events.”

Connecting community to business impact isn’t always easy—but it’s always worth it. Because the most successful community programs don’t just excite members, they excite internal stakeholders, too.

Prove the business impact of your community with Common Room

Ready to see how Common Room helps you track, measure, and maximize the value of your community?