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The Art of Integrating Community and Demand Gen

Settling into the cozy booth of a classic diner, the scent of coffee mingled with the sizzle of onion rings as Beth Wright, the enterprising CMO of SoftStart (name and company anonymized for the story) shared her conundrum. Across from her, I listened intently, ready to help navigate the waters of community-led marketing in the world of demand generation.

"Thanks for sitting down with me," Beth began, her tone a mixture of curiosity and uncertainty. "I'm hoping to gain some insights from your experience."

As we delved into the intricacies of her challenge, it became clear that Beth was on a mission to weave the threads of community-led marketing into the fabric of her company's demand generation strategy. Her recent addition of a community manager had added a new dimension to her marketing efforts, but she was struggling to bridge the gap between these two seemingly distinct worlds.

Beth's concern was a familiar one. I knew all too well the hurdles that lay ahead in aligning community and demand gen teams, but I also understood the transformative power that awaited those who conquered this integration.

Across the vintage tabletop at the Silver Diner, I shared my journey and the invaluable lessons I'd learned along the way:

"To bridge the gap, you need to show your demand gen team the tangible impact of community efforts. One thing I would recommend is to have your community manager report on metrics that matter to demand gen – like leads generated, pipeline influenced, and revenue generated. These concrete numbers will speak volumes."





Beth nodded, scribbling notes as I continued to share insights.

"Think of community-led content as fuel for your demand gen campaigns. Whether it's webinars delving into survey findings, podcast recordings with close industry friends and partners, or co-authored content with influential figures, this cross-pollination brings immense value to both sides."

Her pen danced across the paper, capturing each nugget of wisdom. With each tip I offered, I could see her enthusiasm growing, her commitment to bridging the gap becoming unwavering.

Our conversation pivoted to the intricacies of metrics and reporting. Beth wanted to delve deeper into the practicalities – how often to report, what metrics to prioritize, and how to build a compelling narrative around these numbers. I shared my insights, underscoring the importance of connecting community efforts to tangible business growth. In our conversation, I recalled elements of reporting and metrics that I covered in my book, Unfair Mindshare, where I laid out the following perspectives:

"Regarding large communities and engagement, the investment model and measures can be more sophisticated. One significant activity can lead to multiple lead-converting channels over time. For example, large community conferences that we ran when I was CMO at the Linux Foundation, can generate future participation in working groups, community surveys, industry panel webinars, market landscapes, best practice guides, topical training courses, and local meet-ups. Your team can organize and report on these engagements as they approach multi-touch, integrated campaigns.

As plans are laid out, it is critical to establish budgets and goals for each activity. Community-led endeavors - especially the larger ones - require budgets to operate. Orbit 3 marketing leaders who understand the cost of activities can decide better what to invest in and how often to make those investments. Additionally, those marketing leaders who can show a strong return on investment are more likely to secure funding for their activities during the next budget planning cycle.

When establishing conversion goals for community-led motions, you can apply your traditional MQL and SQL percentages to community initiatives for the first couple of initiatives/events. However, as you gather more data on the community’s behaviors, new operating benchmarks for them can be established.

Here is a more sophisticated view of how a large community initiative may be measured by your marketing team.


You will notice that the reporting starts with goals and tracks actuals alongside them. The community initiative not only tracks engagement but tracks conversions through to bookings for marketing and sales teams. Investment returns are then calculated by comparing the influenced bookings to the program spend.

Admittedly, this form of reporting may represent a bridge too far if you are just getting started with community-led marketing initiatives. Like all marketing practices, maturity levels in tracking and reporting can evolve over time. By partnering with demand generation and marketing operations leaders, community-led marketers can advance the state of their reporting faster."

As our conversation drew to a close, Beth's once furrowed brow had transformed into an expression of determination and renewed purpose. The clink of coffee cups resonated like a toast to newfound insights and possibilities. Her handshake, as we bid each other farewell, exuded confidence and optimism.

As I watched her leave the diner, I couldn't help but feel a sense of excitement. Beth possessed the drive and vision needed to bridge the divide between community-led marketing and demand generation at SoftStart. With patience and persistence, she was poised to unleash the formidable force of "Unfair Mindshare," positioning her company for a future where community and demand gen thrived in harmonious synergy.

In the end, it's stories like Beth's that remind us of the power of integration – where seemingly disparate parts come together to create something greater than the sum of their individual contributions. Just as the diner's cozy atmosphere and the aroma of coffee merged to create an unforgettable experience, so too would Beth's efforts intertwine community-led marketing and demand generation, propelling SoftStart toward unparalleled success.