Building a community around your business is the pinnacle of fostering brand engagement and loyalty among your customers. To see a business community in action, just think about Apple and the kind of passion that is evident among the company’s customers. Or, for more recent examples, consider the fan groups that have developed around bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in the past few months.
With an active community, your business will be virtually self-perpetuating, with your community members doing most of the work involved in getting the word out about your products and services, as well as continuing to patronize you exclusively. In addition, you’ll have a convenient source from which to gather data that will help you in making key business decisions across every sphere from pricing to scientific R&D.
So, what are the ways to turbocharge your community-building project? Here are three tips you can begin to implement immediately for amazing results:
Offer Strong Value
Why should people join and remain in your community? That is the question that has to be the deciding factor in every decision you make about your brand strategy, from the earliest days. The first step is to offer incentives to members of your community that they wouldn’t be able to get from outside it. It might be some sort of recognition, extra products or services, or preferential customer service, but it has to be something that is truly valuable to them. Wherever possible, tie some of these benefits to participation as well, such that members who might not have participated ordinarily would be driven to do so.
In addition to those, work on creating a culture that will fascinate members and attract non-members. Something as simple as special icons or rank numbers that are added to active members’ profile names have contributed to the high engagement on various highly popular forums, from Playstation and Slickdeals to the customer service forums of tech giants like Oracle.
Narrow Your Focus
Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine to want your post to go viral, but at the initial stages, when you are trying to build the critical mass of members in your community, you need to narrow the scope of your marketing to include only people who are more likely to adopt your product.
Identifying these people will involve a lot of research, including coming up with a buyer persona that’ll detail the characteristics of your ideal customer. One hack you can apply here though, is simply to target your competitors’ customers by identifying where their products or services are lacking and then making that the focus of your campaign toconvert their customers.
“Narrowing our marketing scope to people who were already spending time hunting deals online helped us get the most mileage out of our marketing budget,” said Luca Torzulli, CEO of CouponBuffer. “We got much higher conversions from people already interested in what you had to offer”.
Choose Your Platform Intentionally
Having identified the people you want to have in your community, the next step will be to determine where exactly you want to host them when they come through the highly-focused marketing campaign you’re implementing. You will need to consider a number of things in making this decision, including the size of the audience; how they currently engage with one another and similar products to yours; what features you’ll need to manage the community and the budget you have to work with.
Generally, it is a good idea to start small and test out a number of options (simple ones like a Facebook group or a basic website forum) before settling on one and adopting it fully based on what works best in terms of conversions and engagement.
While doing this, ensure that you get moderators or any other measures necessary to keep things in check as the number of members grows. Nowadays, many brands are hiring community managers with communications degrees or other similar qualifications to oversee their communities. That’s a great option, if you can afford it. If you can’t, just ensure that you have people with enough expertise and experience to deal with the inevitable problems that’ll arise.
In all, building a brand-based community can take quite a lot of time, effort and even some money, but by following the three tips above, you’ll be able to maximize your ROI and reap the immense benefits that comes with a loyal and engaged customer base.