This story is for those innovative people who are passionate about bringing people together around their ideas. This story is for entrepreneurs. It’s community-heavy. While endless Zoom meetings and filtered Instagram reels aren’t exactly giving a sense of belonging, each one of us is craving community more than ever. And the huge rise in community-focused jobs tell us that many entrepreneurs are waking up to the power of community. They are learning intangible concepts around community building and making them practically applicable for their businesses.
Today, I am going to talk about how you can leverage the idea of community to build something bigger than yourself - a business that values people, not just profit. It’s going to be super actionable as I’d also bring along insights from some incredibly inspiring community builders.
Community is a long-term bet
Communities are meant to encourage connections, not just transactions. Therefore, you might have some resistance at the beginning. The benefits of community are not often immediate, it takes time to build. But the rewards are high. And you really have no choice anyway. Well, that is if you want your customers to be happy. The days of push marketing are numbered. Companies can no longer push one-sided ad campaigns and expect customers to blindly accept their message. The digital age has turned marketing into a two-way conversation where customers have a powerful voice and they want to be heard.
David Spinks @DavidSpinksUntil there's a C-Level community position, community teams are doomed to live under a department that will bias their objectives and limit their full potential.
The online community has brought such transparency to the customer relationship that businesses have no choice but to respond and tailor their communications. Companies that do not embrace this new landscape risk alienating customers and losing business to savvy competitors. This is why a good community management initiative is so important. But what’s more important is - PATIENCE and FOCUS to build an engaging community.
Know your “WHY”
As community builders, we all yearn to give our customers a greater sense of belonging. While this directly translates to loyalty and retention in the longer run, the purpose is much bigger than that. Making customers feel like they are part of something bigger is vital to giving them that sense of belonging. How do you do that?
Define your community’s purpose and communicate it very clearly.
Hand-pick your early customers - choose people who really relate to this purpose
Start building your community with them, not just for them.
The only rule to follow in the first early days - be patient and pick your members carefully.
Value. Value. Value
If you want your customers to spend time in your community, ensure that they are getting a positive ROI on that time. To understand this, you must be able to answer the following 2 questions confidently:
What is the reason your customer should join the community?
Why should they stick around?
When you think about your community, think about your customers, always. You need to constantly think about what is best for them. This means staying alert, keeping your ears wide open, and constantly listening to your community. You will know what they need right now. To create a true community and be relevant, you need to stand out and stand for something that your customers connect with. You can combine multiple value propositions. The core value of your community, may be, is to provide product-related information to the customers. While it’s important to keep the consistent flow of this information, what’s even more important is to create a warm and enjoyable environment where customers find a sense of belonging and actively build relationships amongst one another.
Numbers don’t matter as much as you think
It’s not how big your community is, it’s how much your community members care - Tom Ross, CEO - DesignCuts
You aspire to get more and more customers in your community. But, let’s take a pause and understand this - numbers don’t matter as much as you think. To be more precise - the “number of members” in a community is not the metric that most folks are chasing. This metric might make you feel good at the start, but it has very little relevance to the actual success of your business. Anyone can go and buy 100k followers on social media these days, but this has literally no real substance to your business. Instead of building a giant audience of members who do not care, build one where they genuinely do.
Tom Ross is the founder and CEO at DesignCuts.com, a community of amazing creatives. In his spare time, he loves sharing his passion for community building with others. In one of his books around community building, he explained how his tiny community outperformed a massive community.
At my company, we’ve done tons of partnerships over the years. One partner boasted about their huge community numbers - over a million users! However, when they shared the agreed campaign, the numbers were beyond woeful. There were literally a tiny handful of sales. The engagement on their massive email newsletter was practically non-existent. By contrast, we partnered with a small, niche community of just 5000 members. This campaign performed literally X20 better than the results we saw from the larger campaign! That means that on average, the smaller community’s members were worth 4000 times more to our business, compared with the larger community. 4000!!! This is an extreme example, but I see this play out all the time.
He literally didn’t have revenue goals. Or member growth goals. All he knew is that after building a giant audience of folks who didn’t care, he wanted to build one where they did. The number of followers or volume of traffic didn’t matter to him. He just knew that he wanted each and every person on his platform to give a crap! What followed was the most rewarding and intense period of his life. His company flew, it went like a rocket. Entirely bootstrapped and with no funding, it spread like crazy. Community was at the heart of it all. Whereas before he had an empty vessel, he had now built truly the most engaged community. Community members raved about them. They told their friends. They purchased it repeatedly from him. They were vocal and supportive. They were their biggest cheerleaders. They became genuine friends. And it didn’t happen overnight. Let’s look at what he has to say about the process of building a community:
I won’t say it was easy. In fact, it was the hardest, most grueling, and intense period of my life. I even ended up hospitalizing myself from overwork, and a naive resistance to delegation (but that’s a whole other story). However, it was undeniable that community was, and remains our secret sauce. That is why I’m so committed to helping others to harness the power of the community. That’s why I want to leave a legacy of entrepreneurs who care more about their people than the ego-charged numbers we all chase on social media.
That’s it for this week. If you have any feedback, questions, or thoughts, I’d love to hear them. And if you’re finding this newsletter valuable, consider sharing it with friends, or subscribing if you haven’t already.
See you next week! Till then, let’s love and support our community. ✨