Beyond the Tradititional Thinking of Community w/ Mac Reddin

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This is a podcast episode titled, Beyond the Tradititional Thinking of Community w/ Mac Reddin. The summary for this episode is: <p>Mac Reddin, Co-Founder and CEO at Commsor, comes to the Gain Grow Retain CS Leadership Office Hours to talk to us about community.</p><p>--</p><p>If you want to join the discussion with thousands of other customer success leaders, join Gain Grow Retain: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p>This podcast is brought to you by Jay Nathan and Jeff Breunsbach...</p><p>Jay Nathan: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Jeff Breunsbach: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p>
New Definition of Community
00:23 MIN
Community is Like Growing an Apple Tree
00:29 MIN
Removing Friction
00:24 MIN
Community Should Be Fun!
00:26 MIN
Qualitative Sides
00:19 MIN

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Gain Grow Retain Podcast.

Host: Welcome back to another episode of Gain Grow Retain. Today, we've got Mac Reddin, who is the founder and CEO of a company called Commsor. So Mac, appreciate you hopping on today and spending some time with us here on a lovely Tuesday, which is getting close to the holiday season and I'm sure you've probably got a litany of other things you can be doing. But I'm hoping this is going to be more fun than what you should be doing right now.

Mac Reddin: Yeah, no, I appreciate it. Thanks for having me. I think the fact that you're saying it's December is terrifying, but that's a whole separate rabbit hole we could probably spend the whole podcast talking about.

Host: Yeah, exactly. Cool. I like to start off with a oddball question off the beaten path. So what's your favorite vegetable?

Mac Reddin: My favorite vegetable? Oh, that's a tough one. I like a lot of vegetables, which is a weird answer.

Host: crosstalk Normally, it's the other route. Yeah. Normally, people are like," Oh, I can't remember the last vegetable I ate." But crosstalk there's too many.

Mac Reddin: Yeah, I was lucky to have, I guess still have, a mom, to say past tense sounds weird, but who is super into growing homegrown vegetables and cooking and whatnot. So I got lucky that I grew up on a healthy diet. That's what my body's used to, which is great. But I think the classic mix of Thanksgiving- style roast vegetables, like the cauliflower, sweet potato, brussels sprout, like that sort of combo in one is... I think I'd have to go with that, if I had to pick. I guess I just picked three, so I'm not inaudible

Host: It's okay. No, I like it. It's a very timely too. I love things like that in the fall if it's kind of this fall comfort food type of thing. And so to me, that always reminds me of this time period too. And especially, I love to put carrots and celery and stuff into a stew right now, or a chili, that always reminds me... So I think my answer changes actually depending on the season. So I appreciate your response.

Mac Reddin: That makes sense.

Host: Thanks for indulging my question.

Mac Reddin: It's great. I love it.

Host: I like to start it off a little different. But yeah, so we were just chatting before this. We don't really know each other. We're just from LinkedIn pals and we just kind of see each other around. So I'm excited to dive in. So maybe let's just start with the company that you started. And you were about to dive into it and I told you that, I was like," Wait, let's record this so that we can actually get it." But I think you mentioned that a year ago, roughly, you were a newsletter company and there were 12 people receiving that newsletter. So how did we get here?

Mac Reddin: I mean, I guess it's technically older than a year. But classic startup fashion, started with one thing and then pivoted to another thing. And I mean, it started as an accident. Do you know product hunt?

Host: Yeah.

Mac Reddin: crosstalk They had a no code hackathon last April. So a little over a year and a half ago. And entered with an entry that was basically a monetization tool for indie communities. It was basically like a web flow front end with an air table backend where communities could list themselves and say they were available to sponsorship or partnership from companies. So we were targeting the indie community that was not tied to a company, like local user groups and developer groups and things like that. And honestly, I think we got 51st out of 55 entries in the hackathon. Didn't do well at all. And wasn't thinking it was going to turn to a company one day. It was just having fun on a weekend. Spent four hours putting it together. But it made, I think it was,$ 400 or$ 500 in the first week because a bunch of communities signed up. A company picked up a sponsorship on it and I quit my job three days later.

Host: That's awesome. Off of just$ 500?

Mac Reddin: Yeah, well, I guess I've been a repeat founder. So this is my fourth or fifth company, depending on crosstalk. I always bootstrapped. So I was in a job where I was like, inaudible I have an idea that I think can work. I'm out of here. So I was ready to quit. Wasn't a spur of the moment decision. But I kept building this monetization tool and it scaled up. It was crazy. We had like 6 million members across about 600 communities in like four months using it. It was no code. It wasn't really a product. It was more of a consultancy masquerading as a product. And we started building, at the time we called it Community CRM and the idea was to give this tool to these communities for free to help them better understand their communities, because then they would be worth more on our marketplace. So it was this idea of give him the free tool, grow the marketplace. And as we were pitching companies that they should do these sponsorships or partner with these companies, they start pointing to that free tool and just saying," Well, can we just have that for our community? We have that problem too." And we're like," Oh." You hear that 10 times, 20 times, 30 times, probably too many times before you make a decision. So I think it was about a year ago. It was last October, November, shut the original business down inaudible. I'm glazing over a whole bunch of reasons why we made the pivot, the main one being that people were asking for B when we were trying to sell A. And we started just doing research into the kind of enterprise- y, more business- focused side of community because didn't have a ton of experience there. So we started a newsletter. It was called Community Chat. It was a Substack and it was an aggregation play, right? It was like, here's the best tweets and the best blog posts about community this week. And the first one out of 12 people, as you mentioned before, I think five of them were family members of mine. That's how this thing started. And then Community Chat kind of grew into a proper newsletter that we actually started writing content on. It turned into a Slack community. And then we started building a product at the same time. So technically, the community existed before the product, which is always super interesting. And that's a whole other rabbit hole to go down. And we officially pivoted, there wasn't really a hard date, but February- ish of this year, kind of pivot. And we're like, all right, we are building this thing now. And fast forward 10 months, 11 months now, and we're 12 people and an actual company, I guess. So it's kind of crazy.

Host: That's awesome. Yeah. I love that. And another time I'll tell you about my business partner and I's aspirations to turn our consulting company into a software company one day. We were a consulting company masquerading as a software company. Because we were like," Oh, we're going to go build something." But that's another story for another day. But I love this concept you're talking about, just around how are you thinking about this engine, right? How do you think about what's really powering these communities behind the scenes. I think that the challenge that we always hear, especially in customer success in B2B SAS is Salesforce. Generally Salesforce is the tool that everyone uses from a go- to- market perspective. And then you start hearing how it's not really geared towards customer success and then there's always bad data in it. It's always like a cluster. How do you create the contact record to fit requirements for sales, plus DS, plus other parts of the organization. And so I kind of feel like you're maybe playing off of that a little bit to say, hey, there can be an area where you're actually looking at your current customers and understanding what they're doing in the community, how we're actually enabling empowering and personalizing experiences for them. If I'm kind of thinking about it and maybe applying it tangibly to what I'm thinking about right now, at least in some of the challenges that we've had. Is that kind of accurate?

Mac Reddin: Yeah. I mean, I think you put it better than I probably would put it. So I don't know how to answer that. But I would say yes. crosstalk

Host: Okay, cool. Yeah, you can steal that if you need to. You mentioned talking with a bunch of people, they're asking for this type of thing, I guess, what do you feel like the overarching challenge was for them? What was the, in your mind, I guess, the light bulb, when people just kept saying, I guess, what was that repetitive challenge?

Mac Reddin: I mean, I think there's a lot of things, right? And that's one of the things that made it harder to identify it right away, because it wasn't quite as obvious at first. I think it's a combination of, community is this inherently multichannel hard to define thing in a company, right? It's not just your Slack or your Forum or your events. I've used the line, it's a little bit like what branding is. Is it a logo or is it a feeling? It's more of the feeling in a way. The logo can be a way of getting that feeling across. But I think community is, our community started on Slack, but I wouldn't call it a Slack community. It's a community that happens to use Slack, which is a subtle mindset shift. But it was basically just discovered community is like the entire network around a company. Sales and marketing, all these touch points make up community in a weird sense. If you and I sit here and we talk about Nike, we're not on one of Nike's platforms. We're not on Twitter. We're not talking about a place, but I would still argue that us having a conversation about Nike makes us part of Nike's community. So it is this thing that goes way beyond, I think, the traditional definition of community. I think community of support has been the traditional way... You have to get through, become a customer," Oh, yeah. You get the support forum."" Yay, we have a community." And I think the timing for we were doing was lucky as well. Because we were starting to have that mindset shift of caring more about community and actually investing in it. And then also, because it's so disconnected, we kept hearing from community managers that they were unable to prove impact. And that was the big thing, right? It's like,"How's community doing?" And it's like,"Oh, we got 10,000 members. It's up from 5, 000 last quarter."" Great." But it was always missing that so what moment. It's always like that so what? Why do we care that we have 10, 000 members, versus 5, 000, versus engagement level of this rate and things like that? So those were the two... I guess the overarching thing was this disconnected idea of pulling things together. And the reason that's such a long answer is because it's so different for every company that is almost hard to define it as a singular thing.

Host: Yeah. I love the explanation too. Because I think we've thought about our community in the way that you're describing it, too, which is it is more about programming almost. It's kind of like we are a hub and then our programming starts to become so different, there's so many different ways to engage with our programming that you can't just singularly say we have an online community. It's like, no, we've got a podcast. We have event series that we run monthly and quarterly. We've got... And so to your point, it starts to become this... So at Higher Logic, for the leader of customer experience right now, kind of nebulous because it hasn't really been a position here, but one of the big focuses is how do you actually just create a platform for peers to connect with one another? If that's just my whole, I guess ethos in my mind at now is like, we really just need to try and move ourselves out of the way and just bring peers together to connect, because that's all they really want at the end of the day. That's the where the best learning is going to happen is when the peers connect with one another. They say," Hey, I have a very similar challenge to you. I can see myself in you. I can see, the challenges you have I've had." That kind of thing, I think, is where you're actually seeing maybe the biggest benefit, or biggest bang, is when you can actually do that. And I think, to your point, it's grown so much more, and beyond," Hey, we're just going to start up a community to deflect support cases." And now it's actually to like, no, this can actually drive impact if we think about this one to many strategy in a way that's just, again, connecting peers. And if we can remove ourselves, in a good way, if we can remove ourselves from that conversation, our brand will actually get the goodness of saying," Oh, we made this connection between these two people," if we can do it in an artful or thoughtful way.

Mac Reddin: Yeah. It's very much like building the framework, right? And letting people kind of do their own thing. And that framework of community can include social media events, forums, all these different things, customer success, all these things. And it's really just, it's like you're putting the ingredients together, but the cake is baking itself. I'm very good at bad analogies, so there'll probably be a few more of those, honest.

Host: I like that. The cake is making itself. Oh man, I'm going to tell my wife that one. crosstalk.

Mac Reddin: That's a terrible analogy. That should never be quoted ever again.

Host: I think it was good. I think I got what you meant by it, which is why I appreciated it. So you mentioned, obviously, having a lot of these conversations and going through this kind of MVP and iteration phase of how you were bringing your product to market and bringing it to bear for a lot of these customers. So I guess, is there... You mentioned it's mostly multifaceted changes for different companies, but are there starting to be some major themes that you're noticing about, that people are struggling with telling that story of community? Is it connecting with learning LMS type systems? Is it connecting more towards retention or support or other things, I guess, is there certain stories that you're starting to already see bake out in what you guys have been able to find?

Mac Reddin: Yeah. There's definitely patterns, especially when you break it down by industry, right? Because I think, once again, community is so broad. So if you go more narrow, I think what we're seeing a lot of right now is the general B2B market is emulating what open source developer communities have looked like for 20 years. So we're seeing companies like Lattice, who have their community for HR people. We don't have to be a Lattice customer. It's just for people who are working in people ops. And it's weird. It almost feels a lot like a developer community, but it's HR people. Right? So I get a lot about that underlying model, I guess specifically, B2B, as I started to have this idea of bringing people together around their shared interest rather than for support or for things like that. And focusing on the relationships and this bottoms up model that B2B companies are adopting more and more. So there's a lot of looking at community as almost like a first touch point rather than a last touch point, for a potential customer versus an existing customer. That's one of the major trends we're seeing, regardless of company.

Host: Man. I love that so much, because again, going almost back to what you were talking about, I feel like with these brand experiences that you can create. I think the more that you can create this open environment... I think back, I don't know, 20 years ago, I would almost argue that there were communities for companies, but they would very much be just current customers and they'd be closed because they felt like that was part of their differentiator almost, like they actually felt like that was a competitive advantage was that they had this closed community. And now, I think with the transparency of the internet and other things that we've just inherently now, also as a society, just asked for more transparency. I think now you're starting to see how that shift is, to your point, benefiting, if you actually go the reverse way, which is how can I get you to interact with my brand in a way that you don't really even think about? You're not interacting with an ad. I'm not giving you some sort of hokey, come listen to my webinar, right? It's like, no, come engage with your other peers. And we just happen to be providing that space to come do that, which how you can win. Especially if you just make it so natural that people don't even question it or think about it. Again, because it just drives to brand experience over time.

Mac Reddin: I mean, we do that with our own community. We have a community called the Community Club for community builders. It's not the Commsor community. It's actually, we'll get on a sales call with someone who's been in our community for six months and 10 minutes into the call they'll be like," Wait, you're the same Mac who's also the inaudible. Like, oh my God, it's so cool, because it removes the pressure. If you join the Commsor community, you're either: one, not going to join it if you're not already a customer or not interested; or two, if you do join, you're expecting there to be a sales element to it, right? It removes the authenticity in a way. Whereas crosstalk removing the brand out of it, which is, once again, I talk to companies every week about this. Very hard to convince a company to do. I think we have," Built by the team at Commsor," in the footer of the website. And that's pretty much it as far as mentioning our branding in it. But it works so well, because you build relationships with people. It's community for the sake of community, rather than community for the sake of sales, for the sake of support. All those benefits, they will come, but it's like a second order benefit of the community. And once again, that also makes it harder to track and harder to convince companies because, especially tech companies, they expect scenarios of like, they can put$1 in and get$2 out, right? That's sales model, or the marketing model, or even the success model. But community is really, I've used the analogy, it's like growing an apple tree, right? You got to find the right place to plant the tree. You got to plant it. You got to nurture it. Could very easily get trampled or eaten by a deer in the early stages. But eventually it gets to a point where you don't really have to nurture it anymore. It kind of just does its own thing. It'll start to bear fruit. It might take two years to bear fruit, but once it does, it'll bear fruit for a hundred years. You will die and that apple tree will still be bearing fruit. I think community is very similar to that, but it's very anti traditional tech models.

Host: Yeah. Well, and I'd probably argue that, mainly, I would almost argue that that's also just because of the influx of capital and the players who are coming in, right? They're wanting results quicker. I'm giving you$1, I need$2 back sooner. I didn't make my return. I need to make 1000%. I think that's one of the reasons, or one of the causes could be precipitated by the fact that capital comes in, and then to your point, we actually have less time to do things, right? Because it's like we have to, our timeline moves faster. We have more money. We should be doing more with our resources and what we have. And so I think sometimes people pull the plug, or think about it in the way that you mentioned, just out of sheer necessity, because it's like, well, they're not going to wait two years for this to happen, but I'm screaming from the rooftop," Just wait!" Because we launched our community in March, like I was telling you. And so we had our consulting business then. And I could tell you, or... We could not tangibly put a dollar and say," Hey we won business because of this." But to your point, what ended up happening is, probably four or five times, we would walk into, we would walk into a meeting and they would actually already feel like they knew us because they had interacted with us through the community, through our LinkedIn content as well. Like, they'd be like," Oh! Oh my gosh, I've been reading your stuff. That's great. I've been listening to the podcast. Awesome." And so like, to your point, I love the authenticity and like the comfortable nature that came with that. The conversation just, it almost helped our nerves. And you go out, walk into a sales call, we're just trying to feed ourselves and it's like every dollar means something. But now it's just like, oh, this is so much more of a conversation rather than us having to sell ourselves and tell you about the credibility. It's already like the credibility was built in.

Mac Reddin: Yeah, exactly. And it all comes back down to authenticity, right? You're not here to sell... I always call it anti sales. It's build the relationship and they'll come to you, rather than you going and trying to shove a sale down their throat. I think, it is a little bit, it's funny. Companies have obviously pumped a lot of money into traditional advertising and content marketing and SEO and all that over the past decade. And I think one of the reasons community is taking so much hold right now is one, people have to want real relationships. They don't want just buy a product anymore. They want to buy into a mindset in a way, right? Buying Notion isn't just buying Notion. You're buying access to the whole Notion community and the templates and people who love it and talk about it and share insights about it. And people are also pretty sick and tired, I think, of algorithmic advertising and social media and things like that. So it's a little bit of a, I think there's a lot of factors kind of coming together at once. The pandemic obviously accelerated, from the company perspective, where I think people saw that companies that had communities, and had invested in it 3, 5, 10 years ago, were weathering it better this year than those who hadn't. So now companies like," Oh shit. We should've invested three years ago. Let's do it now." So it's definitely changing. I think one of the big things, big struggles to be careful with the community right now is that it's starting to get co- opted and misused at times, right? It's become a little bit of a buzzword this year. If you're like," Subscribe to my... Join our community," it's subscribe to the newsletter. And you're like," inaudible. Okay. Maybe." It's just a word. It's a nicer sounding word than subscribe to our newsletter. Right? Join our community. So there's a little bit of a... It happens whenever anything becomes a buzzword, which it has this year. So I think there's a lot of work to be done around defining actually how community functions and fits in an organization. And we're actually working at inaudible product led growth versus sales led growth and things like that. So we're working and it should, I don't know how long it takes you to edit and release these podcasts, but maybe about the time that someone's listening to this, we'll have our community led model out, which is exactly that. It's like, regardless of what kind of company you are or what you're doing, or the size of the company, it's like a set of frameworks for how, not how to build community. There's tons of frameworks and tons of resources out there for how to actually build community to a day- to- day level, but more about like, how do you fit community into an organization and into a structure in a way that community can thrive, but also benefit the entire organization?

Host: Yeah. I mean, I love that because I mean, you see the inaudible of the world and how product led growth, for them just precipitates on itself, right? There's so much goodness that comes out of the way that they're doing that model. And it's the same thing thinking about community. And to your point, as we've gotten more and more into community after just launching our own, you can start to see how that, to your point, two years from now, I could just see how it would bear fruit so much on top of itself when you start thinking about how product can be so close to the customer and hear ideas and challenges that they're going through, how our customer success team can be engaged with customers directly in there and answering questions and going back and forth and best practices. All these things start to precipitate on itself, and then just becomes the hub of everything that you do. And then if you can actually create, I think, maybe one of my big things I'm seeing over 2020, in where I'm starting to, I don't know, maybe just get frustrated with people using the word community is, they're not creating great experiences for me to have enjoyment out of the community. If I'm joining a community, then I have to go to a different support site. I have to go to a different education site, excuse me. There's all these different places I have to go. And so now it's almost cluttering it. And so one of the things I'm consistently thinking about is how do we remove friction for our customers in getting them whatever answer it might be? If it's a supporting answer, how do we get it quicker? If it's education... But in that same vein, we have to be having one hub where they can go and try and get that information as quickly as possible. Because I think more and more, customers are confused. They have multiple people involved in enterprise sales. Now you have a customer success manager. Now you've got an implementation manager. So there's all these people already involved. Great. Now you're introducing me to the Academy, to the support, knowledge base, to our community, to whatever other resources, right? Think about that. There's 10 to 12 people plus places that they might have to go. And so I'm always thinking about how do you reduce the friction? Because if you can reduce the friction and just say," Hey, here's your one- stop shop to go and you can get all your questions answered, whether it's by a human or by technology or a website or wherever, self- service, to me, that's how you start winning, I guess, this game at community, more and more, if you can reduce that friction and create a great experience for people to go.

Mac Reddin: Yeah. I think that also stems from this idea of community for the sake of community that I mentioned before, right? It's like, it's doing community for the sake of the right way of doing it versus... I can't tell how many comments I see where it's like, what's your community? It's like, well, art marketing owns this community. Support owns this piece of the community. Then we have the team that owns events, and the team that owns social, and the team that owns the newsletter. Obviously, there's no visual on a podcast, but our whole kind of model is, if you picture a ring, where you have product, sales, marketing, support, all these different user facing functions sitting around each other, community is both internal and sits inside all those, but also external and sits around all of those. And it's this idea of community being its independent flywheel that then connects into all those things at once.

Host: Yeah. Yeah. Now that you just said that, I am thinking about that really hard about how some companies are like," Oh, we have one community, but then we have 12 people who are responsible for it." It's like, well, if you have 12 people, than no one's really responsible for it, right? There's no sole owner or somebody who's going to be the responsible party. So how have you seen people do that well? How do you get your employees engaged in the community to create a thoughtful environment for your customers go and for, not even customers, just for people to go, whatever that might be, while at the same time, still having a responsible part. I don't know. Have you seen somebody do that well?

Mac Reddin: Salesforce. And I'll use that as the example to the day I die. I've always said community should be fun. Community is the best place for your company to have a voice. More so than marketing, more so than social, community can amplify it in a way that marketing and advertising and whatnot can't, or sales can't. And if Salesforce can build a community that is fun and do it incredibly well, and people are excited to be in that community, then no company in the world has an excuse for why they can't build a community right. Because Salesforce. It's Salesforce. Come on, who cares, right? But they have one of the best thriving examples of a B2B community out there. And they started building that 18 years ago. They invested well before anyone else really gave a shit about community. And I think, just think, if you can't even get your own team members to engage in the community, you shouldn't be worrying about," Oh no, how do I force members of the team to engage in the community?" Because if your team members won't engage, why the hell are normal members going to crosstalk, right?

Host: That's a great question.

Mac Reddin: Community should be, once again, exist for its own sake. It should be fun. It should be enjoyable. It should be as frictionless as possible. And if you do those things, the engagement both sides, shouldn't be an issue ideally. And it's always fun, people try to... I've seen sometimes where they're they ask everyone on their team to engage at least five times a week in their community. And if you're doing that, you're already removing the authenticity right off the bat, right? And people will see through that. It might work the short term. And that's, once again, this whole idea of the apple tree model and it takes time. If you try to do it quickly and unauthentic, it might look great for six months. It might look great for a year. It's not going to survive for two years, five years and become the Dreamforce or Trailblazer community of Salesforce.

Host: Yeah. I'm a member of Trailblazer, by the way. So I totally agree with that.

Mac Reddin: Just their branding, right?

Host: Going through that experience to learn it. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Honestly, it's taken on a life of its own too, because they have... I mean, they made that an experience that you didn't even know it was community, to be honest. It was like pseudo community. All of a sudden you're like, wait a minute, now I'm part of this larger group of people who were all doing the same thing I'm doing. Oh, that's great.

Mac Reddin: And they almost don't call it a community, right? It's just the Trailblazer. They have the Trailblazer Academy. But they did this great job. Also, important thing, it's not the Salesforce community. Just the term Salesforce community, your reaction would probably be like, inaudible, right?

Host: Yeah.

Mac Reddin: So I think it's allowing the community to kind of spread its wings in a way, in a way that the corporate voice of Salesforce can't do.

Host: Yeah. It's an extension of the brand. I keep thinking about it like that. It is, to your point, it is changing the model of how we engage with brands. Because you're getting to customers from a bottoms up perspective. That's just different. You're trying to get more brand engagement, trying to give them positive experiences ahead of time. I always think about how do you start giving them value now? In our community, it's like, how do we get tools, templates, whatever it might be. How do we start handing that stuff out like candy? Because again, we're just going to get that at the end of the day. And it's more, that's not our secret sauce. The secret sauce is in how you actually execute the content, not the content itself, which I think also is being challenged now a lot. I think there's a ton of kind of old marketing out there that still is like, how do I close down all my stuff? How do I have webinars that are closed and all this kind of stuff? And it's like, why don't you just open it up?

Mac Reddin: crosstalk.

Host: Yeah. My business partner, Dan and I used to talk about how gated content is for the birds, is what we used to say to each other whenever we come across something and you'd just be like, man, why do they do that? But one thing that you mentioned that I'm curious to think about too, is internally, have you seen just some great ways that companies, or just unique ways that companies are trying to leverage community data or just community discussions, or...? How are they using community to drive some other, whether it's an internal process or an external process. I don't know if you've just seen some examples that are pretty unique or maybe stand out in your minds?

Mac Reddin: I'm trying to think of a specific example. It's not very unique. One of the really common ones though, is community led content, right? Community content creation. And using the community member to elevate them. You talked about creating free content, giving those templates back, but then also enabling the community to also give back to the community and whatnot. It becomes a cycle if you do it right. I think there's been a lot of discussion in the community space recently about egos in community and whatnot. I think it is kind of funny, right? That people care so much for slapping their name on a resource or whatnot. And it's the least community thing ever. And I don't know if it's very unique. I think a lot of what we do our community is, one of our core focuses is how do we amplify voices in our community, right? So someone posts a really great discussion thread in our Slack and we'll reach out and be like," Hey, this is awesome. You want to write a guest newsletter on the thing? And make the whole newsletter about them. And it works really well. One, the community members feel ecstatic because you're helping spread their word and build them up. Like in Get Together, if you've read that book, which if you haven't, it's one of the Bibles for community managers now. Their pass the torch section, right? Stage three is being able to pass the torch and do that, I think is... I'm kind of blabbering now as I try to think of an exact crosstalk to your initial question, but...

Host: No, I love... No, that is almost the exact way that we've thought about our community too, from a... Putting people on a pedestal is the way we've put it. How do I put the member on the pedestal instead of the community or myself? This isn't Jeff's template to share. This is like, look who built this. This is amazing. And look what they did. And then, to your point, how do we then start enabling the next people to say, Hey, take this. Use it and then tell us how to make it better. Right? How do we just continually improve? So I think we've always held... I love the virtue that you just mentioned about your community. I guess we've always held two things, which is put the member on a pedestal. And the other thing is how do we make everything actionable? I think one of the things, again, just going through our own experiences, webinars, communities, it's sometimes you'd walk across conversations or come across them and just say I mean, it's so theoretical. It's so pie in the sky. I can never imagine myself going to do that.

Mac Reddin: Like Twitter philosophy?

Host: Yeah, yeah. Like," Oh yeah, that sounds great, buddy, until you're in my shoes." Right? And so I think we've always tried to take that approach too, with our community, which is when we have our weekly meetings, we always mention in, we do announcements at the beginning, but one of the things we mention is, what's the one actionable thing you're going to take away from today? The one thing that you would go implement tomorrow or you're going to tell us about in the community next week. And so we've always reiterated that moment after moment, because I think, to your point, we always want to have these virtues that, people feel that when they come to the community, they're actually getting value. And that's, to us, the actionable content. The templates, the tools, that's the valuable part to us, as well as the connections. But I think, crosstalk to learning.

Mac Reddin: And it's super crosstalk, right?

Host: Yes.

Mac Reddin: Yeah. That's also one of the problems where it's, I think people struggle. People always fall into the trap of the metrical with community where it's, number of members, reduction in support tickets. And yeah, those are important. You should obviously be aware of them, but it's kind of this idea of the metric is how many community members have you connected with each other, both intentionally and unintentionally? And I was actually talking to, who was it, Eric Martin the other day, who was the former head of community at Reddit. And is now at, he's the Chief Community Officer at Teal. Now just make sure I give him the proper shout out here. And he was telling me about this really cool thing he used to do at Reddit that he called a community member audit, where he was looking at moderators of the subreddits. And he would pick a random one every two or three days and just reach out to them and chat with them. Random member, chat with them, get a sense of them. And it's one of those things that you can't put it in a report for your boss. You can't put a number on it, but doing those sorts of things... So I've started doing that in our community, where once a week, I'll just pick a random member who I haven't seen or talked to ever, or in six months, and just be like," Hey, you want to grab 30 minutes on a Zoom and have a virtual coffee?" And so far, four weeks in, and I'm four for four. People be like," Oh my God. Yeah, that's so cool." And I think it's just, that's the struggle with community, right? In one way, it's the most scalable thing a company can do, because community can feed on community. You look at the Salesforce community, with millions and millions of members. Their team is relatively small for how much they do. And the other side, it's also the least scalable thing ever. It's really weirdly at odds with each other. Because you're doing all these unscalable things to enable the community to scale itself.

Host: So we have, Jay and I have this thing where we talk about, I used to joke with him that I'm really good at doing things that don't scale. And I think that goes back to this authenticity piece. So when we first started our community, you might think this is crazy, right? But I would send every single person, I wouldn't automate an email, I would literally send every single person an actual email from myself. And then when we actually started a company page on LinkedIn, I would spend hours on the night, on the weekends, sending a personalized message that said," Hey, I'm so glad that you follow our LinkedIn page. We have no content here yet, but I'm going to put stuff. And I appreciate that." Right? And I got 100% response rate on that. And people are like," Oh, really? 100%?" I'm like," Literally 100%." I would send out an email, I'd get a response. And I just love the moment that you're going through right now, because it's I've seen how, if you can do those things, it's at odds with one another, because you always want to scale things. But if you can find the right things to scale, I think that's maybe the thing that I always think about a lot. Because again, those personalized memories and experiences that you're giving that person help them have even a better experience inside of the community. So I love that example too, but we try and send out some meeting requests to some of our members every single week as well, to try and do a very similar thing, just to try and get engaged. And I think the biggest thing that you get from that too, is just the stories. We have, I don't know, four times this week, I think, or last week, people reached out to me about how they got jobs in our community. They just met somebody else and then they... We had one today, on one of our office hours calls somebody said," Hey, I just want to call out. I just got a job." And I was like, this is awesome. How do we promote this more? How do we just enable them to do that without even having us to have to know about it? And that's the great thing about community is you can do stuff that.

Mac Reddin: Yeah. It goes kind of back to, I said before about this idea of branding, right? The numbers in the community are actually not the value the community is generating. You have to be aware of them. But once again, the person who got a job through your community probably is going to invite more people to your community. They're going to think about it. They're going to like it. And maybe they become a customer of you, or whatever, maybe something comes from it. But it's not as straight forward, right, as every other function, which is where it's so hard to track. And it's kind of at odds. The things you can measure are not the things you should measure, which is... I say that someone who's building a company to help you measure your community, right? It's very, very difficult to understand that. And I've actually, people have asked," Oh, you're building data- driven communities?" I'm like," No, you're not building a data- driven community." You cannot build a community with data. Data can help you understand things in your community and make decisions that are right. But at the end of the day, community is built by, once again, authenticity, trust, and real human relationships. Data and machines are not going to do that for you.

Host: Yeah. Man, I feel like we're kindred spirits. There's a lot of things that we talk about very similarly though. But I think the big takeaway for me, especially as you start thinking down this path, I listen to a podcast called The Hustle with this guy called Sam Parr and Shaan Puri. And they talk about community a lot. And they talk about how it's this next frontier, right? They've had a couple episodes on their podcast recently. And I think one of the funny things is that I think they don't even realize the power of community. They're just like," Oh, it's kind of a buzzword." Right? They haven't really gone down the path to explore it.

Mac Reddin: Such a buzzword now.

Host: So I think there's so many people that are floating around this. They're like, yeah, community is a good idea. But to your point, once you start to get into it, if you can make the case almost about not tying it to an ROI right now. Maybe let's start with tie it to an ROI down the road. It almost reminds me of advocacy programs that companies start, right? Hey Mac, you're a great customer of ours and you're speaking at conferences and you're helping us on one- to- one sales calls and stuff. And sometimes I could put a dollar metric to it. But other times, you spoke at a conference of 20, 000 people and you mentioned our name. How can I put a dollar figure on that, right? So it's this nebulous crosstalk.

Mac Reddin: Yeah. It's the anti data, right? And I think that's one of the problems is that business has become too data-driven now. The human element crosstalk removed from decision- making. And community is the best way to put that human element back into your business.

Host: Yeah. I love that too. Man, that is such a good point. Everyone's-

Mac Reddin: I got to write that one down though, so I can write it down later because that was a good crosstalk

Host: Yeah. I'll send you the recording so you have it. But also people are getting hamstrung almost. They're handcuffed by the... There's a lot of times you walk into a meeting, they're like," Oh, we don't have enough data to make this decision." Or," Oh, we haven't... We don't... Oh, all of our systems aren't connected, so we can't do anything yet." And I can't stand that because it like, let's just put our brains together for, I don't know, five seconds and figure out... We can do something here. We can go do some stuff in Excel if we need to for the time being. Not everything has to be automated. Not everything can be into one system and source of record. I mean, ultimately it's the Holy Grail. So I think that point, to me, resonates so much, which is we need to sometimes look at the qualitative side of ourselves. We need to get back to trusting some of our instincts just to say," Hey, you know what? I can't necessarily measure this, but I can tell you what. There's six other interactions that I've had that tell me that this is moving in the right direction. So let's figure out how do we do more of this, and then the measurement will come down the line."

Mac Reddin: Yeah. I think that's a great way of putting it. Yeah. It's this idea of doing it for the sake of doing it, right? And once again it's the apple tree. The apple might not grow for two years, but it will... I mean, we're our own best case study at Commsor right now. We started as a fricking newsletter a year ago. I would say 90% of our customers today have come organically from our community. If that's not enough to convince you that community's worth it if you do it right, I don't know what is. Sales is the ultimate end goal for any company, right? If you can show that happens... And by the way, those 90% that have come from that? With very few exceptions, they all came inbound. They initiated the conversation after building relationships with us. That's your case for community right there.

Host: Yeah. I love it. Man, that's a good note to end on. I love it. So Mac, go ahead and give a plug to the people right now. This is your chance to brag on yourself. But if people are interested in learning more about Commsor or following you, where's the best place? LinkedIn, Twitter? Give a shout out wherever is the best for people to find you.

Mac Reddin: Man, I'm always terrible at talking about myself. Yeah. I would actually point people to the Community Club, community. club, which is our community for community builders. It's probably the best resource out there if you're interested in building community or connecting with other community builders. We've got people that are building indie communities for their local chess group, up to the Head of Community at Salesforce and everything in between. So it's a great resource and I'd actually rather push people there than following me or following Commsor.

Host: Love it.

Mac Reddin: So that's where you should go.

Host: I think I'm a member. I'm 99% sure I'm a member.

Mac Reddin: We'll have to double check that.

Host: I'll double check that. But I have... Actually, no, I am a member because it's in Slack. I've been engaged. So yeah. I'm in there. But yeah, that's awesome. I love pushing people there. There's going to be a ton of value that you can get out of that. And Mac, I appreciate you coming on and talking just about community and kind of shoot the shit a little bit. And I'm going to probably invite you back to do this because, again, I think we've got very similar ways that we think about this. And so there'll be some fun conversations that I think we can have as we go forward, but appreciate you spending time doing this.

Mac Reddin: Always happy to. Thanks for having me.

Speaker 4: Hey guys, thanks so much for taking the time to listen to the Gain Grow Retain Podcast. If you liked what you heard, please take a moment and share the podcast with your friends and colleagues and subscribe. We really appreciate it. Talk to you soon.


Mac Reddin, Co-Founder and CEO at Commsor, comes to the Gain Grow Retain CS Leadership Office Hours to talk to us about community.


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