Product-Led Sales (PLS) AMA: Patrick Woods

Learn his 3 step framework to launch your community like a product.
Patrick Woods
November 15, 2022
Product-Led Sales (PLS) AMA: Patrick Woods

Alexa, CEO of Pocus, hosts Product-Led Sales (PLS) “Ask Me Anything” sessions with PLS experts to share best practices, frameworks, and insights on this emerging category. These AMAs are an opportunity to ask PLS leaders any question — ranging from hiring to sales compensation to tech stack — in a low-key, casual environment.

The PLS AMAs are for members of the Product-Led Sales community, the go-to place to learn, discuss, and connect with go-to-market (GTM) leaders at product-led companies. The goal of the community is to bring together the most thoughtful and innovative GTM leaders to build the next generation of sales together.

Interested in joining? Request an invite here.

Now, keep reading for a recap of what we discussed in our latest AMA chat.

Meet Patrick Woods, Co-Founder and CEO @ Orbit 👋

Our guest today is Patrick, Co-Founder and CEO at the community growth platform Orbit

In late 2018, Patrick and his Co-Founder (and now CTO) Josh Dzielak started consulting together in the developer relations (DevRel) space. 

During this time, they noticed that 1. companies were really starting to invest in the concept of community and 2. There were still no platforms devoted to accelerating operationalizing this new functional area.  

And thus, the idea for Orbit was born. 

Want to learn more about Patrick — and his take on community in the modern business environment?

Then keep reading this AMA recap, where we’ll dive into topics like: 

  • The 3 core types of community: play, practice, product
  • Why businesses should be focusing on community building 
  • Orbit’s unique metrics for measuring community success
  • The 3-step framework for launching an engaged community 

Types of Community: Play, Practice, Product

Patrick defines communities by what their members expect to get from them. There are three main categories: 

Community of Play

In this community type, people are just there to hang out and have fun around a hobby they like — sports, baking, reading, etc. 

Community of Practice

In this community, folks are coming together to talk about a specific skill or topic that they want to get better at. People join these to learn, network, share ideas, and whatever else can help them improve on a certain practice. Sewing groups and sales professional meetups are examples of communities of practice. 

Community of Product

People in a community of product are all interested in using a specific product. They join to get better with a certain tool by seeing how other people are using it, where they’re applying it, how they’re tweaking it, and so on. Many products in the development space have robust product communities. 

In real life, many communities don’t fit perfectly into just one category. Especially when it comes to practice and product communities, you’ll see a fair amount of overlap.  

Why Focus on Community?

Patrick came from a background of working at developer-centric companies where the developer community was a huge part of each business’ brand, go-to-market strategy, recruiting efforts, and even product ideation. 

In these settings, he observed that a healthy community had the power to accelerate and de-risk nearly every other part of the business. The impact of community is far-reaching — touching most customer-facing teams and even some internal ones. 

The problem? 

No one had really created a way to “measure” community. 

The question was: How do we know this community thing where we’re spending time and deploying budget is working — and what does “working” look like?

That’s where Orbit comes into play. 

Getting to Know Orbit 🪐

Orbit serves companies with communities spread across lots of different online and offline platforms — Discord, Twitter, LinkedIn, Product Hunt, and so on. 

The goal of their software is to help their customers unify the community member experience across all these disparate channels. 

For example, Orbit can track how a user went from an initial Twitter follow to a forum visit, to creating a free product trial, to signing up for a paid account, and so on. They can do this thanks to a custom blend of data enrichment tools (think Clearbit, etc.) they use to build detailed profiles for community members based on their email, Twitter profile, GitHub account, and beyond.

Orbit’s customers can then use this data to automate workflows and send messages based on user activity, build detailed reports, and even feed their customer relationship management (CRM) platform to create a more robust customer profile. 

The Orbit Metrics for Measuring Community  

While thinking about community, Patrick and his team discovered that the reason it’s so hard to measure using a funnel is that it’s just not as linear as something like an enterprise sales motion.  

So they took a step back to reimagine how communities work and what metrics could be used to measure their success.

Here are the main success metrics they came up with: 

🫳 Reach

Reach describes how influential the people in your community are. This is important because their reach — think number of Twitter followers, etc. — is what amplifies your brand.

🤟 Love

“Love” is what Orbit calls the collective measure of recency, frequency, and quality of a community member’s interactions. This metric helps community leaders understand who's leaning in, who are their community champions, who might be close to slipping away, who’s gone inactive that they need to bring back into the fold, and so on. 

With these metrics in mind, community builders can think less about how to herd people toward specific actions — like signing up for a paid product subscription — and focus more on creating high-value experiences that pull in high-reach people and increase love across the community. 

Learn more about the Orbit Model for building and measuring community here.

“We realized that everyone was trying to use the funnel to measure their community, but it never felt quite right. It didn't feel true to a community's work.” - Patrick Woods, CEO & Co-Founder, Orbit

Framework for Launching Your Community Like a Product 🧑‍🚀

Considering community is, like, so hot right now (cue Zoolander) — we had to ask Patrick what he would say to brands who are considering spinning up their own. 

He says the “if you build it, they will come” mentality is one of the most common failure cases when it comes to community creation. 

Then what’s the approach for taking a community from zero to one effectively? 

Here’s Patrick’s framework. 

1. Conduct Community Discovery

Treat the idea of a community just like you would a new company or a new product. 

That means, there are several questions to answer before diving in head first: 

  • What communities in your space are already available to people?  
  • Where are there gaps? 
  • Do you have the expertise/resources to add value and fill one of these gaps? 

How do you get answers to these questions? This is where the community discovery process really starts:

  • Join several communities similar to the one you’re considering building
  • Participate and become a genuine, engaged member 
  • Pay attention to the main topics people are talking about across communities
  • If you have expertise around any of these topics that you think could support an entirely new community, you may have the foundation for a community on your hands 

2. Create a Positioning Statement 

Patrick has a Tweet thread that really gets deep into this topic, but the next step is basically to create a concise statement that distills what your community is

For example, you may decide that you’re going to be a community focusing on early sales hires at startups, where your goal is to share detailed tactics around building sales playbooks from scratch. 

As you can see, creating a singular statement like this forces you to hone in on your exact audience and develop programming and onboarding processes for those distinct people. At the same time, it also communicates to potential joiners exactly what kind of value they can expect to get from your community. 

3. Put Out Quality Content

Patrick says events (hmm, kinda like our AMAs?!) are a great way to jumpstart a new community.

So an ideal next step would be to develop a series of events — roundtables, webinars, etc. — around the topics you know your audience wants to learn about. Pick your platform(s) of choice — Discord, Twitter, etc. — where you’ll start talking about your events and managing the community that forms around them. And finally, go back to those communities you became a part of and the people you developed relationships with and (respectfully!) share this new, high-value content series you’ve created. 

At this point, if you’re reached the right audience with the right content, you should see a kernel of a highly-engaged community taking shape.

How to Shift Away From One-to-Many Communication

In the early days of a community, it’s often a founder or a community builder doing most of the communicating. They’re the ones pushing out links, asking questions, and so on.

Patrick says breaking away from this one-to-many communication model into a many-to-many model is one of the best things a young community can do for traction and retention. 

To do this, it’s all about removing the perceived psychological risk of sticking your neck out in a new group of people.

One way community leaders can lower the barrier to entry is by really engaging with some kind of intro space — a channel, a thread, whatever. Create a safe area where folks can introduce themselves and ask their first question. Engage with every intro so new members can see how not scary having a conversation is. 

Another option is to have small digital “mixers” where everyone in the community gets to meet and chat with a few other members over the course of an hour or so. Who they meet can be assigned randomly via a program, or the community leader can match up people who they think should meet. 

See You in the Pocus Community! 🫣

BRB, implementing *everything* Patrick just said into our community strategy here at Pocus!

If you aren’t a member yet, request to join Pocus’ PLS community. 

In the Pocus community, you’ll get a chance to connect one-on-one with product-led pros — as well as peers who are new to the field or exploring the motion for their companies.

All walks of life are welcome. Come see what it’s like to be a member of the only Product-Led Sales community that’s sharing real knowledge straight from sales leaders at places like Atlassian, Airtable, ClickUp, MongoDB, and tons more. 

Product-Led Sales (PLS) AMA: Patrick Woods
Patrick Woods
Co-Founder & CEO at Orbit
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