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Marketers often look at community as something they need to build as part of their strategy when in reality, it’s likely already there. It may just need to be uncovered, fueled, and fostered. In this recap of our recent Marketer 411 conversation, see how Kris Lande, Salesforce’s SVP of Marketing & Community, and Stephanie Grice, Atlassian’s Head of Global Community & Customer Advocacy, are connecting their communities through learning, challenges, and shared human experiences, and how they’re granting customers permission to truly “own the brand.”  

Q: Where is your company in its customer loyalty and community journey, and where did you start? 

Kris Lande (Salesforce):

Salesforce was founded in 1999 and I think what’s really great is that community and customer focus has always been part of our DNA from day one. Before I came to Salesforce, I was actually a customer, so I remember being on discussion boards and seeing this amazing, vibrant community interacting with each other. Then, shortly after I joined Salesforce, we launched our online community, where we now have millions of people interacting with each other online. We also have our in-person community group programs—over 2,100 groups worldwide in roughly 90 countries. 

Stephanie Grice (Atlassian):

It’s very similar for us, Atlassian definitely has community in its DNA. When our two founders, Mike and Scott, started the company more than 20 years ago, they were crowdsourcing their roadmaps—which, to me, is the core community. The way that they built the company was very much in that ‘how do we do this together with our customers’ way, which is really cool.  

Q: From your perspective, where does the community sit within the organization, and where does it truly belong? 

Kris Lande:

I think this is one of those existential questions. It is a big topic and it varies for everyone, whether it sits in product, customer success or marketing. For us, it has sat all over the place. When I first became part of the team, we were under product and we had our community aligned with how we’re building product, making sure it was brought into everything we’re doing with our road map. Today, we sit under marketing. Our CMO really wanted to own community and for this to be a pillar of how we differentiate Salesforce. It’s been this way for 4 years now and I truly think it has made a difference in how Salesforce represents ourselves.

Stephanie Grice:

Atlassian User Groups have been meeting up since 2008. In 2017, we launched our online community. When they invested in the user group program, they did that within the marketing organization, and it stayed in marketing, even though our core stakeholders were product and customer support for that launch. And now just recently in the last year, community as a function has moved over to customer success and we’re now investing in how to bring training and certification and learning into the ways that we gather with and serve our community. 

Q: What are the qualities of a great community, and how do you know if it is engaged and elevating your brand? 

Stephanie Grice:

We like to think of our community as the millions and millions of people out there coming together around the Atlassian brand. In the past year, I’ve noticed, as I talk about the success of our community, that I disclaim it by saying we don’t even know how big our community truly is. We don’t know all the places they’re coming together today. Measuring the true success of our community is actually impossible, but here are a few hard metrics we focus on: 

  • Are we bringing in new people, and is the community growing? 
  • Are we bringing in new perspectives and new voices? 
  • Are we retaining people, and are they staying active?  
  • Do we have a lot of people joining and making one post or going to one event and then never engaging again, perhaps signaling a false positive?  

On the soft side, we focus on the success of our champions, who are the most engaged people in our community. They are the people hosting the events that the community comes to, answering a ton of questions and sharing their product expertise in our online forums, going on stage with us, giving testimonials, use cases, and customer stories. 

Kris Lande: 

The ultimate quality of a great community is when they start self-organizing organically. There’s nothing better than looking at your community and seeing that.  

For example, our customers are self-organizing events, they put on two-day conferences, they create the content, they get the sponsors and fund it all on their own, and more. We are not involved at all.  

Some metrics we use to measure this are: 

  • How many groups do we have? 
  • How many members do we have in those groups and how many are they getting for their meetings? 
  • How many times are they meeting every month? 

Q: How do you ensure your brand stays consistent and it is showing up the way you want it to with these self-organized groups? 

Stephanie Grice:

It’s been a journey but we’re generally pretty lax about letting people run with the Atlassian brand. There are definitely little things that, to a designer or a brand person, would be painful to see, but to me, I love it. This is someone taking ownership of our brand… That sense of shared ownership is core to that ambassador and they feel like they share the Atlassian brand with us.  

Kris Lande:

We give our community everything they need. We give them tools, brand kits, presentation templates—we give them absolutely everything. And like [Stephanie] said, sometimes they use them, sometimes they don’t. And that’s okay. I love seeing our customers own our brand. 

There was actually a couple that met within the Salesforce community and when they got married, they created a logo that was a pink cloud. And I said, ‘you know what? We’re just going to let this one go.’ They are embracing it. They are a Salesforce community couple. And Legal [team] said okay. We see customers getting our brand tattooed on their bodies. This is how much they love Salesforce. And I really want to make sure that we don’t referee that too much because it’s a very delicate balance. You want them to feel that ownership of your brand. 

Q: How do you align community into learning and training?

Kris Lande:

We’ve really put learning and connecting at the center of everything that we’ve done. When you look at what people really want out of a community, they want to find other people that they can learn with and learn from—and people that they can connect with to help them get that next great job or next great opportunity. 

What we’ve done is embed learning and certifications in all of our training offerings within our community experience. We have our free online learning platform called Trailhead and a few years ago, we actually brought our community and Trailhead together in the same online platform. So, you have community and learning sitting side-by-side, because those two are intrinsically linked. 

Q: In what ways do you help your community connect on shared values or beliefs?

Stephanie Grice:

Our company’s ultimate mission is unleashing the potential of every team. At the core, how do we advance human collaboration? How can human beings come together to do great work and do things that would otherwise be impossible for them to do alone? I see that ethos in our community.  

For example, we run a regular ‘dear work’ therapist challenge where people can write in and share their problems of what they’re dealing with at work. And other people in the community share really thoughtful advice. That’s rich conversation, elevating out of the ‘how do I use Jira? How do I use confluence?’ conversation and more into that depth of like, ‘I’m struggling, and I need help.’ I’ve seen more and more of that kind of conversation above the product conversation happening and it feels like Atlassian values bubbling up in an organic way.  

The Marketer 411 virtual events are hosted by Jennie Stark, the VP of the MTM Program at 24 Seven. These events are designed for Marketing Managers to bring value, direction, and inspiration to their teams from insightful conversations with top marketing leaders. Each 411 contains insights on different disciplines, such as what brands are focused on, leading teams, measuring success, and more. 

Meet the Experts

Kris Lande, Salesforce’s SVP of Marketing & Community: Passionate and creative marketing leader with 18+ years of experience in product marketing, messaging, brand, PR, events, community building, content marketing, social media, product launches, and demand generation. Proven track record in B2B SaaS marketing as well as B2C awareness and engagement marketing. 

Stephanie Grice, Atlassian’s Head of Global Community & Customer Advocacy: Building community at Atlassian since 2014, Stephanie now oversees all Community & Customer Education functions across forums, events, training, and certification. She’s a passionate supporter of the community-led growth movement and has played an instrumental role in establishing community as a critical part of Atlassian’s go-to-market business. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, hiking, and gardening with her dog and chickens in Olympia, Washington. 

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