Best Practices: Setting the RIGHT objectives for your community.

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Objective setting is the most crucial part of your initial community development and management plan. I have been a part of a fair number of useless objectives and in a lot of cases confused them with “goals”. So here is what we have learned.

Here are the 3 steps we follow to help customers. See if it works for you an tell me if you would like to see some changes.

1. Decide on your objective (not goal which is more long term) for the community. Objectives have to be:

a. Specific – Objectives should specify what they want to achieve.
b. Measurable – You should be able to measure whether you are meeting the objectives or not.
c. Achievable – Are the objectives you set, achievable and attainable?
d. Realistic – Can you realistically achieve the objectives with the resources you have?
e. Time – When do you want to achieve the set objectives?

If you need more information on setting good objectives in general there are several resources.

Here are 3 examples:

I. We want to build a support community of 70% our users (2000 administrators) to achieve them to find service information quickly and reduce our support calls by 30% by Dec 2007.

II. We want to build a social network community of 900 influencers (with the title Architect) within our prospect and customer base by Dec 2007 to reduce our cost of lead management by 25% and increase prospect conversion rate by 20%.

III. Our intent is to build a internal sales support community of our 100 sales reps, engineers, marketing and sales support personnel to facilitate sharing of RFP, RFQ, Objection handling, Competitive Information sharing to increase our active opportunities by 30% by Q1 2008 and improve our win rate against competition by 15%, keeping our sales support staff the same.

2. Agree on the current baseline of 3-5 metrics that you want to track, measure and report on. They dont have to be ideal, they dont have to be available in an automated dashboard and they certainly dont have to be set in stone for the rest of your community development.
I have seen a lot of customers skip the baselining process only to pat themselves on the back after they see some uptick after 3-5 weeks not realizing that it was not any better than before the community was started.

Here are some metrics to track as an example:

a) Current # of support cases generated online
b) Current first hour closure of generated cases
c) # of cases handled online by support personnel
d) # of active knowledge base cases that have a rating over 3 in “usefulness” and their usage
e) # of opportunities where the source of lead was an existing customer referral

3. Automate the process of collecting the data that move the metrics you chose above. Even if the “automated” process is an individual in your team collecting logs, putting it in excel and graphing them – do it. The way this helps your objective setting is to ensure that these reports FORCE you to go back every so often to check if your objectives were right when you started or you have to modify them.