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Building a Community-Led Growth Strategy
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Building a Community-Led Growth Strategy

Over the past few decades, we’ve seen trends evolve from marketing-led growth to sales-led growth to product-led growth. Now, the fastest-growing associations are building their strategies around community-led growth

Much like its predecessors, community-led growth acts as a multiplier on top of product-led growth. But unlike its predecessors, it puts members firmly at the center of your strategy.

Why Community-Led Growth?

In today’s AI-driven world, we’re experiencing what you might call a “crisis of disconnection.” Artificial intelligence and automation are creating barriers and discouraging genuine, meaningful interactions between people–and it’s coming at a time when our desire for authentic, human connections has increased.

The solution? If you’re selling a product or service to human beings, you need to be thinking about community. People are built to seek human connection, and that basic need isn’t going anywhere. Community will outpace the crisis of disconnection.

So, what is community-led growth?

Defining Community-Led Growth 

To help fully describe community-led growth, imagine this scenario:

  • Instead of placing a product or service at the helm of your strategy, build an online community and put it front and center. 
  • Foster your online community through specific tactics. 
  • Imagine the fruits of your labor: a thriving, engaged community where individuals feel like they belong, have a say, and even hold key roles. 

Through your online community, growth will occur organically and authentically. Why? Because the purpose of the community reaches beyond your product or service.

Products and services are important, but they can only take your growth so far. It’s at the intersection of quality products/services and authentic community that sustainable, meaningful growth occurs and ROI increases.

Now and into the future, community-led growth will significantly contribute to the success of your association.

What it Means to be Community-Led 

Unlike many brands and organizations that have pursued community as an afterthought, community-led associations commit to putting community first. They recognize and embrace the full benefits of online community (for their organization and members alike) and take proactive steps to ensure their community is their top priority.

Community is no longer an afterthought, an add-on, or a new trend. It is the cornerstone of some of the most progressive organizations’ growth strategies. Community-led growth is the future.

How Community-Led Growth Fuels Member Experience

As humans, connection is something we’re hard-wired to seek. When we connect with one another, we feel heard, validated, and part of something bigger than ourselves. Given this, it makes sense that many organizations’ growth strategies have evolved in response to innate human needs.

Community-led growth speaks to our desire to create bonds with others who share similar interests. Online community connections, when done well, lead to greater loyalty, growth, and revenue. 

The New Online Community

While the concept of community and community-led growth isn’t new, a lot of things have changed over the years. One of the main shifts (which we’re still seeing unfold now) has been intentionality.

Authentic and meaningful community spaces are now a top priority for organizations across a variety of industries. By shifting where and how community functions and exists within a company—from side stage to center stage—members start to see themselves as contributors to that community. They no longer take a passive role. Instead, they begin to bring value, input, and insight to the community table. They become the driving force helping the community (and your organization) grow.

Come for the Learning, Stay for the Community 

Community is an emerging focus for many associations. But what does this mean for their existing offerings and their former strategies?

Many associations have built strong value propositions around learning and education, and rightfully so. Professional associations are uniquely equipped to help people learn, grow, and advance in their fields. And learning is still a strong draw for members.

Our research on the State of MX has revealed some key insights into how learning and community intersect. When we asked members about their goals and priorities, they put “to learn and participate in training or education” and “to connect with other members/professionals like me” at the top of their lists.

Probing even deeper, we discovered that “learning” (which you might describe as an association’s product or service) is the top reason members join an association. And what’s the number one reason they stay? Community. 

In other words, members come for the learning and stay for the community. Leaving a learning product behind is easy. Professionals can find the education they need elsewhere. But it’s much harder to leave behind a community where you feel welcomed, heard, and connected. Remember, by nature, we’re all searching for connection, and community is most likely to deliver that value-add. 

As members’ expectations continue to rise and associations’ strategies evolve in response, we can expect to see community increase in priority. In fact, it may rise to match (or even displace) learning as the number one reason members join an association. 

Connection Feeds Community-Led Growth

We’re all designed to align with something. We’re also designed to find people whose interests, beliefs, and values match ours. It’s natural to connect with those people, and this is the very definition of community-building.

Community is as much about support and exchange of ideas as it is about connection and a sense of belonging. Once this connection is established, members who are engaged are more likely to:

  • Stick with your community and contribute to it.
  • Tell others about it, including why they should join (spreading the value of your community).
  • Give you crucial feedback (which in turn helps evolve and develop your product or service).

These behaviors from members create community-led growth that’s driven by individuals who feel connected to something useful and meaningful in their lives. Imagine if that was the community you built and nurtured.

For more information about how your organization can use the Forj Community platform to acquire new members and improve retention, visit

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