Building a community around your small business is an excellent way to cultivate growth and create opportunities for your brand.
As many as 80% of customers think that the holistic, differentiated experience a company provides is more important than their product itself, according to a report from Salesforce. From product recommendations to proactive service, 70% of customers say that connected processes are critical for winning over their loyalty.
Therefore, the quality of your product won’t cut it unless you establish an authentic, human connection with your customers through a brand community. Since building a community from the ground up is a challenging task, here are some tips on how you can start things off.
Don’t Focus Only on Revenue
Be consistent in demonstrating the value of your brand instead of just looking at everything through revenue. If you focus only on revenue numbers, you’ll miss out on profit opportunities. However, if you provide value, revenue will come as a result.
Using values to build your brand’s community is key for two reasons.
Making Smaller Brands More Competitive
Brand values even the playing field between small businesses and big companies. While small businesses often can’t beat large corporations in offering the lowest price for a product, they can always offer a tighter customer experience.
Your customers won’t mind paying a bit more to support your brand if your values fall in line with theirs.
Helping Smaller Businesses Stand Out
Your values differentiate your business from the competitors. Many small businesses offer products similar to yours, but the way you foster a sense of community around your brand makes you unique.
For example, if you proactively use Facebook groups to engage with your customers when your competitors don’t, you stand out. In short, you should look at brand values as your company’s personality traits — and convey those to your community.
When customers recognise your values, they are more likely to choose to do business with you.
Support a Cause That Matters to Your Audience
Involving members and newcomers in a shared cause is a great way to strengthen your community and further increase the perceived value of your brand, as long as you are genuine about it. The notion that supporting a cause isn’t worth the effort is disputed by research.
For instance, 71% of customers reported that they would gladly spend more money on a product or service provided by a small business if that business supported a positive environmental or social cause. If you’re unsure which cause to support, don’t be shy to ask your brand’s community which cause they are passionate about.
After you’ve made your pick, it’s time to roll your sleeves and get to work:
- Donate money to support a cause or a non-profit.
- Offer your products or services to nonprofits that could use them.
- Get your brand ambassadors involved.
- Reward community members that choose to donate as well.
- If you’re supporting a social cause that combats poverty or unemployment, try offering mentorship to those in need.
The phrase “put your money where your mouth is” becomes doubly relevant for businesses supporting charitable causes. When you support a cause or a non-profit, you actively show your intentions and values to your community, instead of simply making a claim to that effect.
Create Platforms for Community Interaction
You need an effective platform to build your community and take in feedback that you can use to improve your product. If you’re building your brand community from scratch, there are 3 great platforms you should do this with.
Facebook groups are a fantastic feature to use as a counter for Facebook’s diminishing organic reach. Whether you build a community around your own page or join a group focusing on a topic relevant to your business, on Facebook you can form relationships with users in your target demographic.
You can use Facebook groups to inform those users of product launches or other events important to your business. They’re also handy for directly asking your customers for feedback, which can help you strengthen your reputation, as well as give you ideas for future improvements.
Forums and Voting Message Boards
Forums and message boards such as Reddit or Quora are simple, yet effective platforms that encourage the exchange of ideas, allowing users to rate experiences and develop a brand culture made of active community members.
Like Facebook groups, they enable you to get in touch with users who are already interested in your niche. From there, you can determine which topics interest your potential customers and discover their pain points.
When someone posts a question related to the kind of product that you offer, you have the perfect opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge. This will keep you top-of-mind if and when the member who asked the question gets to the purchasing stage.
It also increases your chances of the member recommending you to someone else in their circle.
If you use mobile apps for community building, you will have more flexibility and control over the features, than you would have with any other platform. Keep in mind that, when outsourcing a platform to use as a foundation for your online community, you also forgo control over some impactful decisions.
For example, if you build your brand community on YouTube as your prime platform, whenever the platform changes their community guidelines, those changes can affect your community negatively.
Therefore, the most beneficial move would be to have a unified platform where you can build a brand community while retaining full control over the platform’s development. Building a mobile app might seem like a challenging task, but it puts your small business in an excellent position from which it can connect with their customers, provide value, and collect feedback directly.
For instance, you can notify your target audience of discounts they might be interested in, upsell to them, or conduct opinion polls and collect data in other ways.
It essentially gives a company instant access to its customers, allowing it to nurture them on its own terms.
Building a community centered around your brand is an investment that pays off many times over. However, it requires hard work and commitment. Focusing on building an online community for your brand gives you an edge over your competition that goes beyond mere pricing or slight differences in products and services.
If you want to build a community for your brand, carefully consider the tips above, pick your platform, and get down to work. Keep in mind that community building is a constant process – your community will scatter if neglected. It requires nourishment and effort from its leaders and involvement from its members.