Jill Ross

Director of Community at Fivetran
October 11, 2022
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Max - Thanks for doing this AMA, Jill! I would be interested in hearing what has been your biggest community lesson from this past year and what are you looking forward to implementing in the new year?

Hi Max!

I think my biggest lesson over the past year is that despite the growth in community programs across the board over the past year, we still (and will always) have to do a lot of educating and enablement on community fundamentals. Even if you’ve been building communities for a long time, there are folks who are still brand new to the concept and need “Community 101” training as a starting point. Whatever your grand vision may be for your community, you have to start with the basics to bring everyone along and gain the necessary buy-in from cross-functional stakeholders in order to be successful. So the TL;DR here is know your audience internally and meet them where they are.

In the new year, I’m looking forward to (hopefully) building a community team, focusing on the relationship between community and product-led growth, and integrating our customer education experience with community.

Naya - Hi Jill! Thanks for joining us today :) You've collaborated with numerous departments throughout your career. How have you managed not only to get initial stakeholder buy-in, but to maintain it in the long-term?

Thanks for having me, Naya! The first step is to just listen and understand the challenges these teams are facing and what their goals are. This insight helps me position community as a solution to solve those challenges or achieve those goals. I also come ready with some examples of ways I’ve solved similar problems in the past, or I offer some industry examples from communities I admire. Showing vs. telling can be really impactful during those initial conversations.

To maintain that buy-in, I have a cross-functional team of stakeholders who I meet with on a regular basis to discuss current challenges and opportunities, share wins and what’s working well, and plan ahead. I come prepared with an agenda and always focus on the value that my team members have to gain by engaging with me and contributing to our shared community goals.

Regina - Hi Jill! My questions touch on the “proving value” section of your AMA title. 1) How do you align your team with company goals? 2) How do you use data to show that your team is performing well to achieve those goals? Hope that’s clear. Thank you!

Hi Regina!

1. I look at what others are doing first to get a more holistic view of what each team is doing to contribute to company goals, then find where community fits into those initiatives across the business. I also try to reverse engineer each goal by looking at the North Star metrics of each OKR and identifying community-leading indicators that would ladder up to those goals.

2. I'm hoping to get a point where I am using my company’s own tool (drinking our own champagne as they say) to pull all of my community data into our BI tool (Looker) and correlate community KPIs to business metrics like product usage/spend, NRR, support case volume, etc. In the meantime, while it’s still very early in my current community’s journey, I keep it simple and select a few North Star metrics to focus on during our QBRs. I think the key here is to gain alignment on what to track ahead of time, rather than arbitrarily reporting on metrics that don’t mean much to other internal stakeholders.

Debbie - Hi Jill, thanks for doing this AMA! My questions are: 1) How do you get to build value based relationships with your community members? In the sense that they are willing to share their thoughts on the interest bounding the community together and not just being at the receiving end. 2) How do you convert community members to customers with contents? Hope this is clear. Thanks in advance!

Hi Debbie!

1. Get to know your community members and their areas of expertise so you can lean on them to contribute their knowledge – people like to be seen as experts, they often just lack the confidence or need a boost of encouragement to speak up as an SME. Also set expectations early with your community that this is a give and take relationship. You can do that through your onboarding communications, user guidelines, etc. to drive a give-to-get mentality.

2. There's no silver bullet on converting community members to paying customers – it’s a slow process. That being said, there’s great opportunity pre-sales to deliver a ton of value through community in the form of education and general best practice sharing to help individuals succeed in their jobs and careers. If a prospective customer can come into your community and have an amazing experience there among current customers, they will want to join that club of users and buy your product so that they can claim that status as a customer.