CLIENT STORIES: Benchling
Maryann Ibrahim and the Six-Month Sprint
to Benchling’s Community Launch
Benchling's customers are scientists that love to connect with each other and share best practices to do their jobs better. As Benchling’s demand generation leader, Maryann Ibrahim kept hearing customer requests to connect and collaborate with peers. She saw the strategic importance of community, made a case with customer data, and scored an exciting new role leading the high-stakes charge on something she’d never done before. Fortunately, Benchling’s Chief Product Officer offered some sage advice…“if you want to do community, you have to call Erica.” As a product leader, Shawna was deeply involved with the Salesforce community and also brought Erica in to help the Zendesk community team.
From the first conversation, Maryann, her teammate Ellie, and Erica created a productive partnership that made the sprint from idea to online community launch successful and fun.
Maryann & Erica
“She had incredible experience and energy, I knew she’d be a great partner. She understood what we were trying to achieve, and understood we’re different because we have a very focused customer audience. I could tell she wasn't trying to squeeze us into a playbook from Salesforce or other companies.”
Six months after that first conversation, Benchling launched a successful online customer community. Throughout the sprint, the team was able to balance speed with thoughtful execution thanks to strong executive support, cross-functional collaboration, and a solid process guided by Erica.
Here’s how the first Benchling Community came to life:
Customer and Internal Listening
Maryann and Elllie wanted the community to be driven by the voice of the customer, balanced with internal alignment. They worked with Erica to develop and execute customer surveys and focus groups, as well as an internal stakeholder listening tour. The insights from both informed the first-ever community strategy.
Strategy Development and Alignment
The next step was creating a clear, focused strategy for the first phase – an online community for Benchling customers to collaborate, share product ideas, and access product information. The team aligned community strategy closely to company objectives, then ran another internal roadshow to get feedback and support from stakeholders. They also focused on deep alignment with the product team to make sure the product ideas part of the community would be a collaborative success. This level of alignment took significant time and energy, but led to the greenlight to GO and lots of ideas for future phases.
Build, Get Feedback, and Adapt
The team was able to fast track the build with Erica’s help on community platform review, socialization, and selection. During the build process, Erica helped maintain focus on the customer and what they care about most. Once the beta version was ready, the team invited 30 customers to join an early access program. They met with early access participants weekly to get feedback and adapt the experience to make it as engaging as possible before launch.
Create Buzz, Launch and Engage
As the team put finishing touches on the community experience, they were also busy creating internal buzz with another internal roadshow – this time with a live demo and invitation for final feedback to include in the agile updates. They also created an external launch plan to generate engagement from the start. As a result of all the customer feedback and internal alignment, the launch surpassed all the initial projections, and delighted customers and executives. Since community work is never done, Erica still collaborates with the team on strategy, engagement, and programming.
“When you build an online community, it’s easy to get distracted with features and fun things like badges. Erica always helped us keep focus on the data and what our customers wanted most — to connect and help each other solve problems.”
IN MARYANN'S words: working with Erica
“It’s a lot of things. In a word, awesome! I wouldn’t build a community without her, period. She’s a great partner with so much experience, and a great human who brings so much energy and fun to the process. She’s so easy to work with and she vibed with us from the start, which is so important when you’re trying to move fast on something with high stakes and visibility.”