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7 lessons on building product communities from Integromat (now Make)

April 8, 2024
Lily Bradic

Arpit Choudhury was the first go-to-market hire at automation platform Integromat (now Make). He spearheaded the company's community initiative and kickstarted a growth flywheel that was key to Integromat's acquisition by Celonis in September 2020. Here, he shares his journey from evangelist to Head of Growth, and the core lessons on community that the Integromat team learned as they scaled from 0 to 10,000 members in 18 months.

“When I first came across Integromat it blew my mind: I was using Zapier at the time, but with Integromat you could do so much more,” recalls Arpit. "They had a super generous free plan, so it was a no-brainer to start using it.”

Integromat was a no-code tool that used a powerful visual interface to automate workflows. The company was bootstrapped, and was eventually acquired in late 2020 for $100M+ .

“I got really into the product. I started learning about it, and that evolved into helping other people learn about it — how to build integrations, and how it differed from Zapier. People constantly had questions about the platform in these other communities I was active in, so I wondered: why doesn't Integromat have its own community?”

Arpit spotted an opportunity to leverage the enthusiasm of other super-users like himself, and reached out to the Integromat team to see about working together. These conversations resulted in Arpit’s appointment as their first go-to-market hire, with the goal of building a community that would support the company’s growth.

1. Your members are there to solve their own problems

“Your users aren’t really coming to your community to give you feedback or do stuff that you want them to do. They're coming to solve their own problems. You have to make it really easy for them to do that,” says Arpit.

The community that Arpit started wasn’t Integromat’s first foray into community building: there was previously a forum where customers could ask questions of the team. But without a clear purpose to sustain activity, this community didn’t see much engagement, and was eventually retired.

“You don’t need to create a community where everything comes together off the bat,” says Arpit. “In fact, it’s better to have a very strong focus, especially at the beginning.”

For Integromat, this focus was to reduce the number of support tickets by helping users to learn from each other. This directly supported the team’s growth objectives and provided a clear value proposition to members. Given the horizontal nature of the product and its many possible configurations, it made sense for users to get help from others who’d already built these specific workflows themselves. Plus, creating a peer-to-peer support network addressed a common cause for churn that the team had identified in exit surveys.

“A lot of customers didn’t have anyone to maintain their workflows — the person or agency who had built them was no longer with the company. And that was a big problem for us. In these cases, we’d offer to help and sometimes even connect those users to others who could,” explains Arpit.

This was the premise behind the Integromat community, and later, the partner program that grew out from it.

“The community helped us get users to adopt the product, build their first integration, and become active users. They’d reach the ‘aha’ moment on the free plan, then eventually upgrade as they built more integrations.”

2. Don’t lock yourself into a platform that will add friction as you scale

Arpit built the new Integromat community on Facebook groups — a popular choice among businesses at the time, but one that ultimately caused friction as the community grew. For starters, there was no way of marking a question as solved.

“We got a lot of repeat questions. I kept track of ones that had been answered, and linked people to those questions when they came up again. I had to manually comment on posts, asking people to edit their post to write ‘solved’ at the beginning, because there was no way to do that natively.”

“That became an everyday thing for me. I had to do it to keep conversations useful for other members.”

As the product grew, it attracted more enterprise customers, some of whom were reluctant to use their personal Facebook accounts to access product support.

“They’d complain and say, ‘we’re not on Facebook, and we don’t want to be on Facebook.’ So we figured we needed to provide a more robust, trusted solution.”

And, while community impact was apparent, platform limitations meant it was difficult to measure quantitatively. Facebook groups’ native analytics capabilities are limited, and there’s no way to pull data into other tools.

“Success was evident because the number of support queries started to proportionately decline — our users were constantly growing, but support queries weren't growing at the same rate.”

Arpit advises not to build product communities on social networks, and to instead pick a platform that gives you full control over the community experience you provide.

3. Your community is more than your customers — and you can recruit your early members from your wider ecosystem

Businesses often think of community as the relationship they build with customers. Integromat’s definition was broader, and included the wider ecosystem to which they belonged.

Participating in this ecosystem was another way Integromat nurtured community: their tech partners, like Airtable, usually had their own forums, and Arpit was active in many of them.

“I already knew a whole lot of people who were using the product from other forums, so when we set up the community, I went to them first,” says Arpit. “One of these was the Chatfuel community — a lot of people using Chatfuel were also using Integromat, so they were happy to direct people to the Integromat community when they had questions.”

The product had crossed 100,000 users by the time the community hit 10,000 members. This community growth was largely organic, though there were a few things that helped raise awareness. Integromat introduced customers to the community as part of the onboarding process, and frequently referred people back to it when they ran co-marketing activities with their technology partners.

From Arpit’s experience, people discussing your product in other spaces — on social media, or within your wider ecosystem — are good candidates to recruit for a new community. Look beyond your active users: consider champions, partners, prospective users, and even past users who might have used your product at a previous company and still know it well. What can your community offer them?

Educational content can be an effective way to kickstart the community flywheel, he advises: tutorials, events and courses give potential members a reason to engage.

“Content and community go hand-in-hand,” says Arpit. “But ‘content’ doesn’t have to mean long-form blog posts — it can be video, interactive courses, whatever provides value.”

When community is a shared responsibility, it’s easier to identify content opportunities that will create value for the business and its customers. The Integromat team was lean, but made community engagement a priority.

“We got the entire company involved in the community. Our support team would answer questions in their free time. Our founder would jump in and answer questions. And I was always there. No one really owned the community, we didn't have a community team.”

From Arpit’s perspective, getting the entire company involved and starting the channel partner program were the biggest contributors to community success.

4. Enable your experts and invest in their learning

Compared to other products in the space, Integromat’s learning curve was steep. Many of the experts who had familiarized themselves with its intricacies were consultants, or worked in agencies building integrations and workflows for clients. They were eager to learn more.

“We started creating more in-depth learning materials, like full-fledged courses on how to use certain features,” says Arpit. “And we saw more and more people were interested in becoming experts.”

New members were joining the community every day and accessing this growing knowledge base. Providing learning materials for their experts meant Integromat didn’t need to expand their support team as quickly as they’d anticipated — but when they did, they were able to hire from this pool of superusers who already knew the product so well.

Arpit recommends identifying early users who have the potential to develop into evangelists, and exploring ways of incentivizing them to talk about the product. Start small, with a close community of early users and high-value prospects, and expand once you’ve proven value.

5. It’s okay for your focus to evolve over time — and it will, if you're growing

Within 12 months, the community was running smoothly with minimal intervention from the team. Integromat was adding around 1000 new users a day, but many of them were dropping off after account creation. It became apparent that there were two main types of user with a support need, and the community was only serving one of them.

“First we had the semi-technical folks who were really curious. They understood the value of the product, and maybe they’d come over from Zapier because they were amazed by what else Integromat could do. These people would come back to the community to ask questions and figure things out.

Then, we had a ton of users who were actually coming to Integromat because it was cheaper than Zapier. And they were met with the learning curve, but perhaps didn’t have the appetite or expertise for self-solving like the first group.

That’s when we figured out we couldn’t just rely on the community. We had to figure out how to get these people to learn the product and become active users.”

To do that, Integromat called upon the experts they’d upskilled. They began recruiting freelancers and consultants from the community who were interested in joining an official partner program. They started with less than 50 experts, and grew to 700 within the year.

For these partners, the community had already proven its value as an acquisition channel. The introduction of the partner program was an opportunity to connect even more easily with potential clients.

“All the experts obviously knew the product, but not everyone specialized in all the other tools that Integromat integrated with. So we’d have CRM experts, database experts, chatbot experts, et cetera, and by creating the partner program we were able to connect them with people seeking those specific services.”

The Integromat team spoke at length with these experts to learn how best to support them and add value. These conversations led to the creation of a partner directory.

The directory made it easy for users to find and contact experts based on location, language, and area of expertise. Partners benefitted by generating leads; customers found help with their workflows; and Integromat gained new customers, while simultaneously reducing churn.

6. A siloed knowledge structure doesn’t scale

“It would have been optimal if there was one space where users could find all this knowledge.”

Integromat had built out a large library of product knowledge, but the information and documentation was distributed across a number of platforms and tools.

“We had a user community on Facebook, a partner community on Slack, a Canny for managing feature requests, an academy microsite on Wordpress, and a knowledge base that ran on Zendesk,” explains Arpit.

“Users were having to jump from one thing to the other. And of course, I had to manually link to content from the academy when answering questions in either of the communities. It was inefficient, and it wasn’t going to scale. By this point, people were actually asking for a forum again.”

The difference, this time, was that the need for that structure had emerged organically: the community was simply too large and complex to function in an unstructured Facebook group. It had become a valuable source of product knowledge, but that knowledge was becoming harder to retrieve.

“We really wanted to do more, and we didn't want users and partners scattered across these different places,” says Arpit.

Integromat migrated its community back to a structured customer forum platform. The Facebook community would continue to exist, but it would no longer be the official Integromat community.

7. Community can mean different things, depending on your strengths

“As a PLG product, if you're looking to acquire a lot of users organically, you need a space where users can talk about your product, learn about it, and give you feedback.”

“I must mention that the nature of the product really lent itself to this model of growth,” says Arpit. “There were a lot of support questions, and very few questions were similar — there are so many nuances when you're working with different tools and different APIs. The community grew organically because the need for support was so great. But few products can rely on that lever.”

If your product doesn’t generate such educational demand, Arpit recommends playing to your strengths and considering what problems you can solve for people. Product communities can take different shapes, depending on your objectives — and it doesn’t even need to live online.

“I know some companies that don't even have a discussion forum. Instead, they do biweekly group calls and meet up for dinner. It’s less common, but it’s a valid way to build a community. It just depends on nature of your product,” he explains.

Arpit provides another example: early-stage companies whose priority is to recruit design partners. “Here, maybe you just want people to use the product and share what they're deriving value from, and tell you what they want next.” Here, he advises, success is best measured by the quality of the relationships you build.

As for when to start? Arpit recommends early, but not too early. "Figure out your story first, and get the basics of your messaging and positioning down. Community’s an investment, if you want to do it right,” he advises. “Tell a really compelling story about your brand, about your product. And if you do that, you’ll build community organically.”

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