In an ideal world, community and product would skip down the road together, arm in arm, like childhood best friends. We’d spend all day going back and forth, talking through the problem from idea to solution to launch to iteration. We’d be smiling and there would be rainbows and bunnies everywhere.

But this pretty much never, ever happens.

So it was a huge treat to welcome Jason Evanish to the stage at CMX Summit today. He’s the co-founder of Greenhorn Connect and a former PM at KISSmetrics. He brings with him a wealth of information and experience working with product, customer service, and community teams.

Jason suggests setting up a monthly meeting with your product team and sharing great feedback as it comes in via email or Hipchat, GChat, etc.

In order to make us all better at our job, Jason shared a laundry list of what he suggests community leaders do in order to work seamlessly with product. First, he started by describing the Product Lifecycle.

Product Lifecycle

  1. Gather Signal: figure out what everyone knows
  2. Prioritize: decide what will get build first
  3. Build: what will it look like and how will it solve problems
  4. Launch: this is where community should be looped in most closely
  5. Iterate: gather feedback and improve over time

Below, you’ll see how community can fit into each piece of this product lifecycle and where the community manager’s work should be focused at each point.

Product Lifecycle
Product Lifecycle Image via Crystal Coleman

What Work Should a Community Manager Do at Each Stage in the Product Lifecycle

1. Gather Signal

  • DON’T give your product team a massive feature list
  • DO help your product team understand customer problems.
  • DO use the 5 WHY’s of root cause analysis (ask “why” 5 levels deep until you discover the real problem).

TL;DR: Communicate problems, not features.

2. Prioritize

  • DON’T take “no” personally. Product people have to get really good at getting along with everyone but also saying no. It’s hard for them too. They have to say this to you and customers all the time.
  • DO arm PMs (product managers) with good information. The more you do, the more they’ll come to you for advice.
  • DO help product understand the business impact of the change you’re suggesting. Suggest what  metric for success will be affected by the change.
  • DO quantify what you relay to the product team. Answer such questions as: How much time are you spending on the task? How many users does it impact? How many users are churning? How would the solution increase revenue?

TL;DR: Quantify value.

3. Building

  • DON’T try to do the product or design team’s jobs.
  • DON’T start mocking up solutions without input from product and design. Respect their craft.
  • DO bring community into the product.
  • DO dog-food (try them out yourself) before launch. Share feedback.
  • DO invite product into feedback sessions with the community. They’re always having trouble finding people to test their features. They’d love that.
  • DO share examples from other companies (going to conferences like CMX is hugely helpful for this!)

TL;DR: Add the personality.

4. Launch

  • DON’T promise a release date of a feature to your community.
  • DO soft launch to power users.
  • DO help anticipate issues.
  • DO get your community excited.
  • DO let users know that they’re heard.
  • DO find influencers in the community to review products.

TL;DR: Engage and excite community.

5. Iterate

  • DON’T separate yourself from the product team.
  • DO help product understand community feedback.
  • DO relay feedback.
  • DO introduce the users who requested the feature to the product team.
  • DO connect product to a wide spectrum of average users– not just power users. Get the full spectrum of people who would be using the tool or product.
  • DO share how you make passionate power users. Invite people over to power lunches, drink ups, and dinners.

TL;DR: Bring back the voice of the community again and again.

If we are able to stick to these roles throughout the product lifecycle, our communities will reap the rewards and our products will flourish.

Jason has a fantastic blog at Check it out for more tips and nuggets of product and founder wisdom.

You can now watch the entire video from CMX Summit:


Carrie Melissa Jones

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