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How Community Becomes Your Competitive Advantage

This Harvard Business Review article I read confirms what we see all the time as BuddyBoss community and learning site builders. I completely agree with the article's line saying communities can, "...unlock extraordinary competitive advantages and create a superior business model."

The statement is worded so it sounds inflated, but it's not an exaggeration. Of course, communities are super for keeping members moving through your online course. When we build LearnDash online courses or Memberium/Keap membership sites, it's definitely a way for instructors and students to communicate better. Email isn't enough.

Here's why the article emphasizes communities as being the better business model giving you a competitive advantage. When you build a solid community:

  • Enthusiastic members in the community help you, the course owner, in attracting and recruiting new members. That lowers customer acquisition costs.
  • Members feel bad leaving the community. They make a connection with the community and a built-in fear of missing out (FOMO). It keeps them in your program longer, increasing member retention and improving member lifetime value.
  • Members support other community members improving your margins. It leads to lower support and lower cost of service.

The article continues by saying, " engagement grows, the community gets smarter, faster to respond, more globally available and generates more value."

Traditional community-based organizations today are suffering. Participation in civic organizations, like chambers of commerce, business clubs, non-profit groups, and even churches is on the decline. The pandemic added to this decline. People that used to participate got out of the habit of attending. As these groups reemerged from the pandemic, those returning reevaluated and reconsidered it, "Is this something I want to do going forward?" Many have opted out.

That could lead you to believe that communities are out and people climbed into a digital cave escaping from the world. But that's not true. Communities are doing just fine and are actually on the upswing. What's happened is they have morphed into something different. They've become hybrids making use of the technology that's available to support these new breed communities.

Salesforce is an example that has complemented what it does with a very engaged and highly functioning community. Their community is 2 million people strong. This isn't a group that Salesforce broadcasts to whenever it wants to tell them something. These are community members who interact, communication with each other, organize events, produce content, and are an important part of Salesforce's global operations. Salesforce, supported by the community, holds its yearly Dreamforce conference that attracts 200,000 attendees. This is a valuable asset that Salesforce uses effectively to advance its corporate agenda.

Other organizations have done the same. Look online to see how these organizations are effectively using communities in their business: Harley Davidson, Fitbit, Tesla, General Mills, Microsoft,... This list goes on.

We have several customers that use BuddyBoss to build community environments that complement what they do. One is Faith Center of the Arts. Home school parents will typically teach math, language arts, science, history, and other subjects, but if they want their kids to study theater, drama, music, the visual arts, they don't have the expertise to teach it. That's the niche they fill.

Pre-pandemic, they met in classrooms in the several locations with their students. They quickly went online where possible to keep going. What they have launched this fall semester is a BuddyBoss powered community and learning site. Here is a list of the features it provides:

  • Registration for all courses. Using a WooCommerce / InfusedWoo / Infusionsoft-Keap connection, sales are completed by parents for all the courses taken by their family using the e-commerce features.
  • Parent and classroom discussion areas are enabled using BuddyBoss messaging and forums. The control provided by BuddyBoss enables them to keep students talking only to other children their age based on the courses they take.
  • LearnDash supports the course content keeping the courses well organized.
  • Instructor communications are facilitated by LearnDash course-specific groups greatly improving the communication.
  • Parent community areas, powered by BuddyBoss again, are defined so parents can stay informed, provide feedback, ask questions and interact with each other.

What we have confirmed observing how the community aspects of the site are used is that Faith Centers for the Arts' value to their audience is much more than the mere courses they offer. They've become a resource to the families they serve. The community they have created extends past the delivery of art courses.

As you grow your learning environments, consider how important it can be to build a community to support it. You are converting your approach from a customer base, which is about you communicating outwards, to a community where engagement is between all members.

Hope this helps.