4 Steps to Engaging Communities to Build Better Products

Tech companies constantly need to decide which products and features they should develop next to drive the most value for users. Listening to and elevating the Voice of the Customer through a community-based approach is an ideal way to inform their decision-making, especially when better meeting current user needs accelerates value.

As David Spinks shares in his SPACES frameworkhe developed with the CMX Team, communities are valuable to host organizations because they provide Support to members, input to Product development, Acquisition of new customers, Contribution to best practices, Engagement in the brand, and help each other Successfully derive maximum benefit from company products. 

Double-clicking on the goal to inform Product development, this post provides a guide for how to thoughtfully activate a community to decide which products and features to develop next.

The key to success is strategically connecting product team leaders and relevant community members so that leaders better understand user pain-points and commit to addressing them. 

For maximum impact, follow these four steps: Set your strategy, Prepare the Conversation, Hold the Event and Follow Up:

I. Set Your Strategy

  • Identify Top User Pain-Points: Assess the input collected from community members to determine the pain-points that keep users from achieving their goals. Scaled research is a good way to identify the most important pain points. I am sure there are AI tools that can help you analyze large quantities of data and pull up keywords and phrases that appear as challenges for your users. Let me know which ones you recommend!
  • Determine which Pain-Points to Address in Conversation: Share collected pain-points with relevant product managers to identify which are related to work already in progress and which are yet to be roadmapped. Top pain-points that are not already set to be addressed, or that are on the roadmap but not prioritized, are candidates for advocating on behalf of users to accelerate product-market fit.
  • Create Influence Goals: Strategize how to influence the product roadmap to include features that address community pain-points. In particular, determine who needs to understand the pain-points in order to rally resources to invest in addressing them and then determine the best way to communicate the essential need.

II. Prepare the Conversation

  • Recruit a handful of users  from your community (e.g. spanning geographies, topic areas, etc.) who product team members need to hear from in order to advance their understanding of, and commitment to, addressing the community pain-point. Be mindful to recruit users who represent the diversity of perspectives you want to advocate, including historically marginalized voices.
  • Deeply get to know recruited users via conversations with them about their goals, what is working and what is not working. Listen to and ask questions that elicit the stories that make their pain-points real.
  • Create a run-of-show for an event in which the recruited users share relevant personal stories that will remain in participants’ minds long after the event is over. Make sure the script feels natural to the user spokespersons and give them the chance to edit and internalize the content.

III. Hold the Event

  • Work with product team members to enlist their deep commitment to the success of the event and to jointly prepare relevant questions they can ask the users after they share their stories.
  • Hold the event in which you bring together users with key product stakeholders who need to hear the user stories. Ensure that community members have the chance to share key points via stories. Ask follow up questions to elicit points that you heard in preparation conversations that do not come up on their own.

IV. Follow Up

  • Debrief the event with product teammates without users present to discuss what was heard and what was learned, what options exist for addressing pain-points, what next steps are appropriate, and how the community can be most helpful. 
  • Facilitate ongoing connection between product team members and the community using co-design sessions and regular touchpoints to provide continuous feedback during product design, development, and testing.
  • Celebrate new features that go-to-market that address community pain-points, especially circling back to those who stepped-up to advocate for change by participating in events. This is a huge win for your organization and the community! 

There is nothing like intimate live conversations where stories bring to life the current barriers to user success and the potential future value that can be unlocked with the right product evolution. Check out this conversation with community leaders, external experts and a Meta VP filmed in the metaverse for a fun example! 


Be sure to check with company policy and legal professionals to ensure user privacy is maintained and that the process aligns with relevant policies.

Breanna DiGiammarino has 13 years  experience working with communities at Meta, Indiegogo and the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation. She uses the process described in her post to evolve product offerings. Reach her on LinkedIn to keep the communities conversation going!

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