How I Found the Right Community Platform for Kenna Security
At Kenna Security, our customers are on the cutting edge of cybersecurity. Their security practices lead their peers, but being at the forefront isn’t always easy. Let me explain what I mean.
A typical enterprise security team can have thousands or even millions of vulnerabilities to manage across their environment. Security teams do have some information to go on—like scanner reports—but that still means sifting through reams of static data and manually researching and prioritizing how critical a vulnerability is for their environment and how to remediate it. To make things harder, without the context of what is actually happening on those vulnerabilities in the wild, teams could be using their limited resources to focus on vulnerabilities that don’t matter and end up ignoring the ones that do. Sounds a little stressful, right?
Kenna looks at vulnerability management—and risk—differently. We use data science and predictive modeling to prioritize vulnerability risk based on a combination of several factors, including real-time threat intelligence. We can then tell you what vulnerabilities to focus on, the risk impact, and how to remediate. When I talk to our customers, phrases I’ve heard before are: “Kenna helped me get off the vulnerability management treadmill,” or “We stopped chasing our tail.”
Our software also bridges security and IT teams, since in many organizations these are separate. As our platform is used by multiple teams in an organization—there can be up to several hundred users in a large enterprise—our customers need to understand the process of deploying software. Often it’s the Security and IT teams that work together with Kenna, but since vulnerability remediation impacts other functions like Policy and Compliance, our customers may work with those organizations. And, as I mentioned, Kenna’s approach most likely represents a shift or change in methodology that requires an organizational change. As we all know, change is hard, but change across multiple business units within an organization is even harder—even positive change.
To make our customers successful, we need to empower them with resources and support to drive that organizational change. But how do we accomplish that? And how do we continue to ensure our customers’ success? A big part of the answer to that question is a customer community.
With a community, we can more easily onboard our customers and connect them to resources—and their peers—to ensure their continued success. But finding the right community solution is no small feat.
I’d like to take you through my process of choosing a community platform that suited my colleagues and customers alike. This was our approach at Kenna, but your company undoubtedly has similar needs in a community platform. Hopefully, my search for a solution can make yours a bit easier.
Every Community Is Different. What Do Our Customers Need?
I joined Kenna with ample experience creating communities. In my past life at a customer marketing agency, I’d researched nearly every platform and their capabilities. Each community I’ve created was unique, since it was always tailored to the audience. Before I picked a platform for Kenna, I needed to understand exactly what our customers and my colleagues needed from it.
To solicit advice from our customers, I sent out a survey. But since not everyone loves surveys, I also followed up with phone calls. Sometimes that phone call was as simple as jumping in on an account call and saying, “We’re setting up a community. How could a community benefit you?”
I heard: “I need all the training and all the info to be in one place, but the top thing is that I want to talk to other customers. I’d really like a discussion board because I have challenges and I want to hear how others tackled these.”
This is a pretty common request from IT professionals, but it’s especially vital for those in security. It’s an industry where they always need to stay ahead of trends, and it’s hard to do that alone. That’s what I heard over and over from our customers: they needed to connect with one another.
Balancing External with Internal Needs
We faced challenges internally as well that a community platform would help solve.
We were at a point where manual work impeded our Customer Success Management (CSM) team’s effectiveness. If a customer had a question that a CSM couldn’t answer, they would post the question in Slack, a bunch of people would answer it, and then the CSM would send the answer back.
This process was inefficient and limited CSM time with customers. They said we needed a place where customers could go anytime and access all this valuable information. Our longest-standing CS employee, who ultimately helped build our platform, knows the best practices, and worked with almost every single one of our customers. She said, “I wish I could just upload my brain somewhere,” and I thought, “Yes, exactly!” Meanwhile, there was a goldmine of data sitting in Slack, with no way to extract or refine it.
We also knew the value in putting customers in touch with one another, but again, the process up to that point was manual. I would think, “Here are two companies in different industries that face a similar challenge.” The natural next step was to connect them, but that amounted to sending multiple emails. Customers couldn’t find one another except through our team, and email doesn’t have that same conversational fluidity as a discussion board or direct message.
Our customers are also very passionate about product feedback and ideas. Our CSM team wanted to capitalize on that. “We have a lot of ideas, but customers have great ideas too. We need a way to get their feedback and iterate on it.” I liked the transparency the team envisioned, but it’s not something you can do easily—or on just any platform. Discussion boards are great, but we realized we also needed polls with specific, targeted questions and voting capability where you could easily roll up the data.
You’ll notice I haven’t talked about the marketing objectives often associated with community platforms, such as references and referrals. It’s not that these aren’t important, but they are secondary. Successful customers will be more likely to speak well of us, so I focus on those features that help customers meet their objectives with our platform.
A Familiar Face and a New Addition
From my previous work, I knew some of the key vendors in this space, and one stood out from the crowd: Influitive’s AdvocateHub. Influitive’s platform was the leader in advocacy, but Kenna’s goal was more than advocacy: We wanted community.
I brought together stakeholders from customer success, product, sales, support, IT, and sales ops to put together our list of requirements. The final purchasing decision would ultimately be marketing’s call, but we wanted to ensure it met as many needs as possible for our entire organization. Based on that list, we narrowed it down to two contenders, and it was a close race: AdvocateHub and Salesforce Communities.
I have to be honest here: My colleagues were more aware of Salesforce Communities than they were of Influitive. A lot more. Everybody knows Salesforce. The two platforms have similar functionality, and when Salesforce configured Communities to my specifications, it even looked a bit like Influitive.
There were a few areas where AdvocateHub had the clear advantage. Targeting and multi-channel experiences would allow us to customize activities and simplify the platform for different personas. This would let us cater to different experiences and make sure—no matter the use case—our customers find value in the community.
Influitive also had a very easy-to-navigate user interface that would allow us to rapidly train new Kenna users to create and share content in just a few clicks. In addition, the paths that Influitive laid out were structured for us to get the best results. With SFDC, there was a lot of flexibility, but almost too much as it left us with very little direction. We also would've had to hire an SFDC consultant to actually set up the portal for us, whereas with Influitive we'd be able to do it ourselves with the help of Influitive professional services. The services team would lead us through the process and teach us, which would allow us to keep the knowledge within our company instead of with an external consultant.
But here’s what made the difference for me and my team: not just where Influitive is today, but where it is going. Influitive isn’t catching up to anyone. They’re leading the community space. It started as an advocacy-marketing platform and has evolved into many use cases as Influitive responded to their customers. That tells me they’re responsive and thinking ahead.
The folks at Influitive explained the roadmap to me, that they’re creating more than a platform. It’s an entire ecosystem. Other companies didn’t talk to me the same way about what the future would bring. It gave me a lot of material to bring to my team.
Getting the Entire Team on Board
If you’re looking for a community platform, you’ll probably face the same challenge of trying to balance everyone’s needs. That’s why I created a shared document to map out all our feature requirements, broken down by functional area. At the bottom of the sheet, we had a table comparing AdvocateHub versus Salesforce Communities. It was important that this was a document everyone could see, because when people looked at that table, it was obvious why we selected AdvocateHub.
Talking about the pros and cons of a community platform in the abstract will only take you so far. For someone unfamiliar with these communities, showing a live example is very powerful. All of a sudden, they’re engaged with it. I did a kind of Influitive demo roadshow around Kenna. My colleagues were very impressed once they saw how discussions worked and all of the other functionality they knew was important to our customers.
People loved Influitive’s ability for customers to direct message each other in addition to participating in the discussion forums. Salesforce had a discussion area, but Influitive had greater functionality in direct messaging. It’s nice to have that choice available. It means I’m not limited to responding in a forum or challenge, I can reach out personally. We also liked that customers can choose an alias or screen name if they need to keep their identity confidential, which is important in the cybersecurity space.
My colleagues saw how easy it is to navigate, and everyone responded well to the visually pleasing interface. AdvocateHub looks mature and professional—not how I would describe some other tools. Our hub looks cool, and when my colleagues saw it, that customization became important to them. It looks like Kenna, but different from our corporate website: a little more fun and casual. It’s a place where you want to spend time.
Crucially, Influitive also integrates with Salesforce. Kenna loves Salesforce. We are a heavy Salesforce user and have a great relationship with them. But when it came to a community platform, the spreadsheet and vision of the company were clear: Influitive was the right choice.
Feedback, One Month In
Our hub has been live for only a month, but our customer success reps are already hearing a lot of positive feedback. We have several channels dedicated to helping our customers with onboarding and adoption, including:
- a training track, divided into nine modules
- a best practices channel for tips and tricks beyond the basics
- a power users channel for those customers who have been with us for a long time
- a “Success with Kenna” channel on how to work with policy, compliance, IT, and other teams
We’re not just enabling our main point of contact at our customer’s company, but everyone who will use Kenna’s software. Even at a smaller enterprise, we might start with two to four people in the Kenna platform, and it’ll quickly snowball; in larger enterprises up to a few hundred people access the Kenna platform. By having onboarding tracks, our customers can help their entire team be more successful using Kenna. And for our CSM team, we’ve freed up their time by cutting out manual onboarding processes. This leaves more time for them to focus on adding additional value to our customers and ensure long-term success.
This is ultimately what we wanted from this community: a space that enabled our customers. It was a time-consuming process for me to manually put customers in touch with one another. Now, all a person has to do is post a comment in the discussions. Nothing compares to the advice of another customer dealing with a similar situation. It also builds confidence in Kenna’s products seeing our application applied in the real world. And if they want, they can take those conversations into the direct messages for more detail.
Some people assume the platform is for customers who we otherwise don’t interact with a lot, not our big enterprise customers. In fact, the data so far proves just the opposite: of customers on the platform, 80% are those we consider high-touch customers. For that tier of users, AdvocateHub doesn’t replace anything. Rather, it provides added value.
It’s starting to change the mindset on our teams as well. I hear our CS people say things like, “We should track the amount of time between onboarding and adoption for customers in the community,” and “How does being in the community affect customer satisfaction and retention?” They’re already thinking of ways to use our newfound insights from the community to broaden their impact on our customers.
A Support System for Our Customers
Right now, most of the platform content is open to everyone. Going forward, we’ll have more customization and segmentation, based on where a user is in their customer journey. We’ll also focus more on content and activities for our veteran users.
My vision for the future is that AdvocateHub will bring the customer’s voice into all parts of our organization, making for better transparency, a better product, and a better experience.
Our advocates will address the challenge of adopting a new approach to security through the discussion boards, training, and personal connections. Our users do not have easy jobs. Their work is stressful, and they have high expectations placed on them.
That’s why community is so important, because our users need it the most, even if just for moral support. Previously they could not directly ask another Kenna user, “How do I explain to my boss this new way of doing things?” Now, they have hundreds of users who can provide advice and creative ideas. Being on the cutting edge, by definition, is a place without much company, but that doesn’t mean our customers have to feel alone.