Editor’s note: Dan Womack is the president of KL Communications. This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared under the title “What is an insight community?”

I built my first insight community more than 20 years ago while working in insights and strategy for a GE business. If you have no or limited knowledge of insight communities, this basic primer will help get you started.

An insight community is a valuable research tool that virtually brings together a select group of customers, prospects or key stakeholders, allowing you to regularly engage with them and gather valuable feedback and deep insights. With an insight community you can better understand your audience, identify their needs and preferences and ultimately make more informed decisions to help drive your business forward. 

While insight communities are flexible and can be used for many applications, they do not work for all situations. Typically, communities are not appropriate for assessing brand awareness or other metrics related to brand affinity (members often know the sponsor of the community) and the startup costs for a community make them impractical if you only need to do a few research projects over a 12-month period. While it can be accomplished in some circumstances, communities are typically not a great choice if you need to conduct high volumes of very large, representative sample quantitative research.