Building a Nurture Program

  • Steven Yum

    November 24th, 2021

As you build your community, you'll see some members enthusiastically engaging with other members and eager to share their product learnings and best practices on a regular basis. This is an exciting moment, both for you and for them. For you, it means that you're providing a product and experience that is resonating with people. For them, it means that you're likely in a place to recognize and reward their work, and to help amplify it so that more people can benefit from their expertise. Congratulations! It's time to set up a Nurture program.

Nurture programs often provide guided product education, access to leaders and experts for mentorship, and opportunities for members to uplevel their knowledge and refine their ability to publicly showcase their expertise.

In this post, we’ll walk you through four steps to build your own nurture program:

1. Define the program’s purpose

2. Determine your acceptance criteria and application process

3. Outline expectations for program members

4. Establish program benefits

Define the program’s purpose

The first step is to define the purpose of your nurture program. To help get clarity on your intentions, start by answering these 3 questions: Who is the program for? What will the program offer? Why are we offering this program? To bring this exercise to life, below is an example of a nurture program’s purpose:

  • Who the program is for: Product enthusiasts and emerging thought leaders
  • What the program will offer: Early product education and access to internal teams, mentorship, and exclusive networking opportunities with product experts
  • Why we are offering this program: To recognize and reward members’ enthusiasm, uplevel their product knowledge, and provide training and resources to amplify that knowledge to help other customers succeed with our product and participate in our community

Once you’ve settled on the program’s purpose, use it as your guiding principle to help you manage scope and set expectations as you build out the rest of the program.

Determine your acceptance criteria and application process

Now that you’ve defined your program’s purpose, it’s time to establish the acceptance criteria to get into your nurture program. You'll be advocating for these members as much as they're advocating for you, so it's important that both of you are aligned and excited to collaborate and uphold each other's work. While the specific criterion will vary from program to program, consider the following as a starting point:

  • Creates and shares technically accurate content, such as blog posts, presentations, and open source contributions
  • Regularly participates and engages with the community (e.g., relevant Slack channels, Medium, Twitter, Dev.to, Stack Overflow, GitHub, Discourse forums, etc.)
  • Organizes community-based events such as meetups and webinars

At this point, you’re not necessarily looking for members with extensive reach or influence or the highest levels of technical expertise (they may be better candidates for a Champions program). Instead, you’re looking for those who are on that path—they are excited for the potential to extend their reach and elevate their technical bar, and could benefit from extra mentorship, resources, and opportunities to channel their product enthusiasm and showcase their knowledge.

In terms of process, nurture programs usually invite members to apply to the program (in contrast to more exclusive product champion programs) and are typically free for all members. You’ll need to determine the frequency in which applications are reviewed (e.g., rolling basis vs. specific deadlines), who will be reviewing the applications, how many members will be accepted (e.g., limited vs. unlimited), how long the program will run for (e.g., 12 or 18-month long intervals), and securing the required budget.

Outline expectations for program members

With your program acceptance criteria in place, you should set expectations with potential applicants—what are the things they’ll be expected to do and what’ll they need to make time for should they commit to joining your program? To mitigate confusion, outline these expectations on your program landing page and refer to them at the beginning of the application so it’s clear what people are applying to when they start.

This can range from tactical items, such as “join webinars and other virtual meetings” or “participate in mentorship opportunities” to behavioral traits like “continue to actively engage with, help build, and celebrate the product community” or “demonstrate continued passion for the product and/or the company.” Make clear what is expected of program members to avoid any mismatch in what they thought they would get to do in the program vs. what they actually get to do, and what they get in return.

Establish program benefits

You’ve defined who your program is for and what they’ll do as a member of it—now it’s time to put together exclusive benefits for your program members! Typically, this is a mix of opportunities to get early access to product and roadmap, learn from and connect with community leaders and other like-minded product enthusiasts, opportunities to grow their reach, and of course, swag.

Use the below as starting points, and build in your own community-related fun stuff along the way:

  • Early product access and roadmap previews
    • Early access to product betas
    • Twice-annual access to product teams for sneak peeks and direct feedback sessions on product roadmaps
    • Product credits and other helpful resources to support content creation, local or digital events, and community-based work
  • Learn from and facilitate connections with community leaders and other product enthusiasts
    • Mentorship from community leaders on topics such as best practices for creating technical content, building your personal brand, and increasing your reach
    • Private Slack workspace to connect with fellow program members and share product knowledge
  • Opportunities to tell their story and grow their reach
    • Support for submitting CFPs and securing speaking engagements
    • Stipends to attend or lead community-based events
  • Exclusive swag

Time to build!

Building a community-based program works best when it’s in tandem with your community. While the above four steps are a great place to start, your nurture program will also be a reflection of what makes your community unique, so focus on what’ll be most meaningful to your members and if you don't know—ask them! With their input and your guiding principle (defined during the first step), the rest will come together naturally.

Already built or run your own nurture program? Tell us about it in our Uncommon Slack or on Twitter.

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