How Spendesk is using AI to drive connection among members of their high stake customer community
We talked with Dominique Farrar, Head of Community & Comms at Spendesk to find out why the member relationships are so important, and how her team maintains a sense of intimate peer support in their growing community using Orbiit 1:1 connections.
What does your day-to-day role as Head of Community & Comms at Spendesk entail?
Dominique Farrar: My team is made up of 3 marketing squads: Community, Communications and Content marketing. While these 3 functions are super complimentary, there’s some brain switching involved and I’m always needing to zoom out on the bigger picture of how each of these functions is contributing to the other, and looking for ways to coordinate our efforts for greater impact.
Personally, I have a heavy hand in Community as that’s where I’ve spent most of my career. On a day to day basis, all of our community work comes down to two things: growth and engagement.
What’s most challenging is balancing the daily task-based work and the longer-term, more strategic work that also needs to happen. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily ‘run the business’ things.
In your experience, what factors result in a more engaged community?
Dominique Farrar: A few things. First, you need a really solid community onboarding experience. There’s a small window of time when members first join and have a high level of intent to engage, and you really need to capitalize on this moment.
On an ongoing basis, having a wide range of activities & channels for members to engage is important, because not all your members are going to want to engage in the same way. So, having a “menu” of options is key — events, content, and various networking opportunities, for example — along with a variety of high-touch and self-serve activities, is really helpful to keep members engaged as you scale.
Why is community engagement important for SaaS companies? What is Spendesk’s community engagement philosophy?
DF: Engagement is important because it helps build a real relationship, an emotional bond, between your community members and your brand. It’s a chance for you to demonstrate that you understand their needs, and are proactively addressing those needs. I think the best communities are really skilled at listening to their members and proactively adding value or solving a problem before it’s even obvious to members. If you are just dumping members into your community and not engaging with them – that’s not really a community, that’s more of a mailing list.
Why did you start using Orbiit? Over the course of 8 engagements, what problem did the platform address for your team, and for the community at large?
DF: Networking is one of the top reasons members join our community, CFO Connect. Being able to build relationships with experienced finance peers is one of our key value pillars, and we need a way to deliver on that, that is both extremely curated and personalized, but also scalable.
We had built our own “member matching” program that was very MVP — it did the job, and allowed us to test the concept, but it was extremely manual and not scalable at all. We were spending probably 2 full days per month making these 1:1 matches. The match quality was great, but the process was a huge time suck. We knew we wanted to continue the member matching program, but needed a solution we could trust to make high-quality matches that felt like they were hand-picked (while not creating extra work for our team).
When I learned about Orbiit, it was the first time I’d come across a tool that solved the exact problem we were trying to solve, in a more sophisticated, seamless way. To think we could get 2 days of productivity back per month AND have our members benefit from an even better member matching experience, was a no-brainer for me. It’s definitely the best investment we’ve made in our community toolstack.
How has the Orbiit platform been different/better from what you expected?
DF: I love how Orbiit really is an end-to-end solution, from the opt-in to the match-making to scheduling the 1:1 conversations and collecting feedback. It’s all the elements we need to keep scaling engagement and iterating on the matching program.
One of the biggest benefits is having the member feedback after each engagement. We can use those quotes & testimonials to promote the program and spur more engagement. It’s also given us more visibility on members who are “repeat” matchers and are clearly getting a lot of value from the program.
What were the key success factors to making 1:1 connections work in your community with Orbiit?
DF: Quality of matches made was #1. Because we’re an executive networking community, we want to ensure that members are being matched with someone who has compatible expertise to exchange. We want both parties to feel they’re benefiting from the conversation. So we needed to have confidence that the matching tool was powerful enough to match based on various factors — experience level, industry, language & location, etc.
User experience was also a big factor. We wanted the member matching program to be really easy to understand, easy to participate in, and essentially take the “work” out of networking. The fact that Orbiit does everything from the matching to the scheduling is hugely valuable to our members, who are busy executives.
How do you see the impact of this program continuing over the next 12 months?
DF: As our community grows, we need engagement programs that can scale with us, and still deliver a personal touch to our members. Orbit allows us to do exactly that. Each month, we aim to have more members opt into the matching program, but the beautiful thing is — no matter how many hundreds (or someday thousands!) of members who participate each month, it remains a 1:1 experience for all of them, and creates zero extra work for my team. Orbit is now an indispensable tool to fuel our community engagement.