Two views on nurturing your customer community
By David Intersimone and Peter Neubauer
March 7, 2013 —
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Related Search Term(s): community
“Listen to your customers!” –David Intersimone
Ever since computer programs were sold and shared with customers, there have been groups of users who have communicated with each other and with the developers. Software vendors realized that they could leverage user groups like the Southern California Computer Society, Houston Area League of PC Users, Homebrew Computer Club, Boston Computer Society, and Berkeley Macintosh Users Group to help sell to and educate customers. With modems, users could join bulletin boards and CompuServe to share ideas and launch new products. Meetings and newsgroups were ways to educate and support customers who were farther away from the large city user groups.
With the ubiquitous Internet, we now have developer networks, Facebook groups, Google Circles and more. Leading community members have become extensions of software vendor support organizations with designations like Microsoft MVPs (Most Valuable Professionals), product evangelists and specialists, and industry luminaries.
Software companies that foster global communities and leverage community experts can grow their business reach and scale their support to achieve higher levels of satisfaction. Local experts can communicate in their local spoken languages, and even help translate product user interfaces and documentation. Company ecosystems of product and technology partners provide additional product capabilities, education and training services to further expand the success of their products.
At Embarcadero Technologies, we have had online communities for our developer and database tools since the beginnings of the PC business. I can’t think of a time where we haven’t had online and local experts helping our customers and providing us valuable feedback to improve our products and systems. Even the largest hardware and software companies have legions of user volunteers and professionals helping users take advantage of the ever-increasing feature sets and integrations with operating system and hardware platforms.
Almost every software product and online service today includes open APIs for integrating and adding features. I can’t think of a successful offering that doesn’t provide a REST API, a Web Service API or an SDK. For developer relations, we even have an annual conference focused on how to grow a following of developers to help grow your business. Evans Data Corp. holds its annual developer relations conference each March. Most hardware, software and service companies have physical and virtual conferences to show developers and users how to take advantage of the many APIs available.
Nurturing and growing your community of users, developers and technology partners continues to be a key success factor to growing your business. Your users will help guide you to new platforms and requirements. Your partners will help you find prospective customers in industries and corners of the world that you thought were not reachable.
One important thing I have found in my many years as an evangelist and developer relations professional is to listen to your customers, partners and luminaries. They are your additional eyes, ears and brains. They are the most valuable extension to your sales, marketing, service and development teams.
David Intersimone is vice president of developer relations and chief evangelist at Embarcadero Technologies.