09.14.2016

As the Head of Community for Culture Amp, Damon Klotz has been named the “People Geek for the people geeks.” It’s his job to embrace his passion for HR and digital strategy and to gather other like-minded people around him to strengthen Culture Amp’s business. Sounds like a dream job for a community builder.

The ambitious goal he is tasked with as the head of this community? He’s on a mission to create a global movement of 100,000 People Geeks, people just like him and the employees of Culture Amp.

If you’ve never heard of the term “People Geeks” before, that’s about to change. The Culture Amp team is responsible for coining this new term that has since taken off, and he works daily to cement the identity for their community members so they can spread the term far and wide.

This year alone, Culture Amp has made huge strides toward their goal. They’ve built their newsletter mailing list to 35,000 subscribers, expanded their external Slack community to over 1,000 members, grown their social reach to 36,000, and have registered over 6,000 people to their People Geekup events.

The People Geekups have been an especially impressive act of community-based brand building, but – even more impressive – they are actually able to intertwine their offline community programs back to real business growth.

“We are trying to grow the community in an authentic and on brand way, but it does have to tie back into how the business is growing,” he explains. And that’s why they’ve spent the time to figure out how to map their community work back into customer growth processes.

In this interview, Damon shares with us how Culture Amp has impacted the business with their community meetups (and other programming) and how they plan to keep tying community back to their business growth.

Damon Klotz at an SF Geekup event

Damon Klotz speaking with a People Geek at an SF Geekup event

Designing the Whole Community Experience

When you’re building a community from scratch, it’s easy to experiment endlessly without locking down any long-term plan of action. Damon does his work differently to ensure that their offline events tie back to their overall goal of sparking the People Geek movement.

Specifically, he looks at community programming as a pie chart: “I see it as a full circle. It’s the community team’s job to fill each pie segment [e.g. newsletter subscribers, event attendees, Slack members] with numbers. The segments are the online and offline touchpoints, and anyone who is interested in being a People Geek is able to be part of the community in any segment. Then some people are in the circle for the whole journey.”

While he admits this isn’t foolproof in terms of measuring the number of active or engaged members (“you have to multiply each number by .7,” he jokes), it does give him the visual aid he needs to create a comprehensive community program.

community-pie-chart

Sample community pie chart: each segment of the pie chart would contribute to a whole. This pie chart would depict a community with equal members in each segment.

All of the community initiatives, then, serve one larger content and programming plan, which includes:

Online:

  • People Geeks site
  • Slack Community
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • People Geekly Newsletter

Offline:

  • People Geekups (started in July 2015)
  • Culture x Design Unconference events (March and November 2015, July 2016)

Seeing the community’s programming visually then allows the team to see, at a glance, how their offline events play into a larger community strategy.

As one piece of a larger community plan, the team can then assess how well they’re able to work toward their ambitious community goal with each type of content and programming.

Identifying New Sales Pipeline from Meetups

Since Damon’s team has been charged with building this community strategy from scratch, they’ve had to think creatively about how to grow their numbers in a way that serves the business.

“At the start of 2016, our CEO [Didier Elzinga] told us to throw out the rulebook and set us some lofty goals,” Damon says.

As a result, they now organize and run their meetups by partnering with local community builders as well as existing clients, asking them to collaborate on content, and finding or hosting us in a local space of office. Logistics are taken care of by dedicated internal team members, Nina Cioni in North America and Imogen Coles in Asia Pacific. All of the events are free for members to ensure that they don’t miss out on serving a portion of their prospective attendees due to cost.

What’s been most surprising for Damon and his team has been that they’ve been most successful in a few markets they had never tapped before.

“Toronto and Vancouver each had over 100 people at their meetups. We looked through the leads in the system. We never realized how many leads were coming through Toronto especially. We realized it was a huge untapped market. London, Berlin, Sydney, Melbourne, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. were also big successes.”

Some cities thrive like this, while others may not always be such smashing successes. That’s the key in trying new community programming: be flexible, but learn quickly. Some of their events in cities where they assumed they’d have huge turnouts ended up bringing out about 30 attendees. “At that point, we have to ask ourselves: is there enough appetite here?” And if there isn’t, they just move on and serve the locations where the appetite for meetups is stronger and serve the members there in other ways.

A snapshot of swag from a Geekup in Vancouver, BC

A snapshot of swag from a Geekup in Vancouver, BC

Sales, Marketing, and Community Collaborate to Create Successful Events

Ensuring that community events have a good turnout is a collaborative effort with the Culture Amp marketing and sales employees (who are actually part of the customer team, not in a standalone sales department).

“Each event goes into the People Geekly newsletter, on the website, and the customer [sales] team also goes out and asks people to attend instead of jumping on the phone to do a demo with them.”

The People Geekly newsletter, curated for the community, is also a company-wide effort: the content team runs the newsletter, but the whole company curates the newsletter on Slack.

This level of collaboration happens at the event as well. Members of the internal team come together to host the event (Damon has been to over 40 events so far). They will also typically bring someone from the customer teams, including sales, customer success, and their in-house organizational psychologists and analysts. In this way, they create a collaborative, supportive environment, where community can flourish inside the Culture Amp team as well as externally with current and future customers.

Damon (standing, far left) at a People Geekup in NYC

Damon (standing, far left) at a People Geekup in NYC

Community Gives the Customer Team Leverage to Create Value – Not Just Sell

At Culture Amp, there actually isn’t a formal “sales” team. Sales employees are part of a customer team and sit alongside customer success.

As a community builder, Damon’s ultimate goal is to “build something that makes Culture Amp part of the conversation on the changing nature of the HR profession and world of work.” So how does this more nebulous goal fuel value for sales and marketing?

Increasing the number of demos given to prospective customers is a key outcome for each event, but that is not the only goal for these customer-focused employees. These meetups build the company’s profile in new and existing markets, create credibility and trust, and allow the company to contribute expertise to a professional community hungry for innovation.

“When the sales team reaches out to prospective attendees, they’re able to say, ‘Our community and marketing team is putting together an event that people love’ and invite them to that. They can then use that to build their pipeline.” This is true community magic: when gathering people together fuels business growth.

Customer Success Can Tie Community Back to the Sale

As part of a typical sales and onboarding process for Culture Amp, the team wants to understand how many touchpoints their customers come through. The community is one important touchpoint along with content, product, support, and the sale itself.

The community also gives customers a reason to stick around in the Culture Amp ecosystem long after the sale. As Damon explains, “Post-sale, the community strategy becomes a regular touch point between Culture Amp and our customers. We’re able to connect with them through our content, speak with them at our events, and invite them to our Culture Amp masterclasses to continually add value to their people team as well as learn about their current success stories and challenges.”

Therefore, for many businesses who worry about customer churn, community (both online and offline) can be core to extending a customer’s lifetime value.

No Better Feeling

Damon says an early indicator of the community’s success is seeing people change their job titles on LinkedIn and Twitter to include the “People Geek” moniker, evidence that members are taking on the community’s identity as their own.

“It’s resonating with people. We’ve got incredible traction on that level. We’re part of something bigger than selling a software tool,” says Damon. And while business is booming, that’s not the only thing that gets the team out of bed in the morning.

Instead, what the Culture Amp “team of teams” has discovered is that they’ve sparked a movement and transformed people’s careers as a result. No matter how many sales their team may close, there’s just no better feeling than that.

Header Image via Culture Amp’s Flickr

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Carrie Melissa Jones

Carrie Melissa Jones | @caremjo

Carrie is the COO and Founding Partner of CMX. She has built community at Chegg and Scribd and has consulted with community companies around the world. She lives in Seattle, WA with her pup, Bruce Wayne.