Three cardinal virtues of business: creativity, building community, practical realism.-Ted Malloch
If you’re wondering how to build a solid community of advocates to help your business and mission grow, you’re in the right place. These days, it is very hard to stand out as a business, especially online! The most effective approach to community building always entails patience and alignment with your ideal customers’ values and needs.
By personalizing your community-building approach to highlight your brand’s uniqueness and your services’ exceptionalism, your community of advocates will slowly build either through your strategic efforts or through word of mouth.
What is Community Building Marketing?
Community building marketing entails all the efforts a business uses to build online or offline communities for the sake of brand awareness and business growth. In community-building marketing, businesses focus on using their current leads or customers as brand ambassadors that can organically promote their business products and services through social media (commenting and sharing on posts), personal networks (word of mouth), or their own platforms.
Indeed, building a solid community of advocates takes time and steady attention to the needs of one’s community. There are no shortcuts to creating loyal relationships that are mutually beneficial and stand the test of time.
Once you know that branding and community-building is a long-standing process that must be built and prioritized alongside your services and products, you’ll feel more at ease with your approach and see it as a process of building your brand’s reputation and future business success, as opposed to something you simply must attend to as a means to an end for immediate sales conversions.
The success of your community-building efforts truly depends on your intent. If the intent is to create a high-quality brand that people love and that makes a difference in the world, then your passion for what you do will come across as authentic.
However, if you come across as taking more than you give – asking your community to do more for you than you do for them – your efforts may quickly unravel, as the foundation of any community-building effort is value alignment and generosity for the sake of mutual advantage.
The Advantages of Word of Mouth Marketing
You probably know that word-of-mouth is a powerful way to share a beloved brand with others that may benefit from it. But, can word of mouth also be a marketing strategy? For the most part, it can be, if it is approached strategically with an aim to make your brand so memorable to customers, that they will recommend it readily to others!
This involves simply the reverse engineering of your brand so that every aspect of your business becomes what the marketer Seth Rodin calls “a purple cow” – or an exceptional business that people would naturally talk about and recommend to anyone listening.
Here are just a few questions to ask yourself to figure out if your brand can pass as “word-of-mouth” exceptional:
- How can your products or services exceed customer expectations?
- Is there anywhere you can add a personal touch to customer services, such as a handwritten note or a gift of appreciation?
- Is your messaging customer-centric, or are you presenting yourself as the all-important hero taunting your greatness every chance you get?
- Are you operating from a half-cup full mentality or are you trying to cut corners every chance you get because you feel your cup is half-empty?
- Are all of your systems automated, or so it is hard for customers to feel that there is another human at the end of the line?
- Are you generous with your customers? Do you try to help satisfy even your most difficult customers?
- Where can you improve your messaging to show your prospects what benefits they will receive with your products and services, especially over your competitors?
Other than organic word-of-mouth, another form of paid word-of-mouth marketing includes affiliate marketing, where a business makes a deal with another business to promote its services or product on its social media, email marketing, or website.
Usually, the basis of affiliate marketing is centered around a business using and liking another business’s products or services enough to become their “paid ambassador.” In this scenario, business A promotes business B, where both agree to split the sale proceeds that were purchased due to business A’s promotion. In most affiliate marketing partnerships, business A proceeds usually range between 30-50%, depending on the agreement.
Overall, business A’s desire to promote business B because of the belief that its products and services will benefit its own audience helps business B access qualified leads that it otherwise would not be able to reach. It’s a win-win partnership that helps elevate both brands!
How to Build a Solid Community of Advocates
Long gone are the days when most communities met regularly to discuss mutual goals and problems, and to facilitate support. Today, most individuals go online to connect to like-minded people that share their interests both locally and globally. That is why community-building under common values and mission is so important for brands that see their brand as an advocate for a lifestyle, a cause, social transformation, innovation, and more.
For example, even if your business sells home-building tools, your values can extend to making homes safer for generations to come. You can always unite loyal customers and interested parties under these values. And then, there are always individuals interested in niche pursuits and would be incredibly happy to find a community where they could discuss the latest models and trends in the building tools industry.
Simply check out the ask-answer platform Reddit, and you will notice thousands of communities uniting under very unique interests. You can be that for your loyal customers or industry fans who will connect with your brand on a deeper level that will transcend simple monetary transactions and who will be the key promoters of your business for years to come.
6 Essential Tips on Building a Solid Community of Advocates
#1 Build a Community on Facebook and Social Media
Social media community building is nothing new in the world of digital marketing, but using social media platforms strategically to create a community around an ideal that transcends a company’s immediate existence is something very few businesses have embraced fully.
For example, platforms like Facebook offer businesses the capacity to create a community where individuals with the same interests can come together and collaborate, as well as support and offer advice to one another. Facebook Groups offer brands exposure and the capacity to capture community emails for further email nurturing. By providing value through community sharing, curating, and engagement, brands can show their personable side and connect with potential customers on a deeper level.
Aside from Facebook Groups, you can launch your groups on other free or paid platforms. The free community platforms include Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, GetApp, Quora, Reddit, G2 Crowd, and Discourse.
What most businesses don’t understand is that most individuals would not be ready to buy from them when they interact with them initially and that it takes repeated positive exposure to the brand to convince buyers to take the leap with a business when they’re ready to make a purchase.
Another great feature of social media communities like Facebook Groups is that they can offer businesses an insider perspective of what their most targeted audience needs, wants, and cares about. By understanding the inner fears and desires of your audience, you can better serve them with improved messaging, services, and products.
You can also use the community as a means to ask your audience directly which services and products they would prefer to use as well as to take surveys of their perspectives about your industry to understand the trends that will help you navigate your business in the right direction.
Providing this type of ecosystem for your customers or like-minded individuals that are interested in your industry is a wonderful way not only to add value to your audience by showcasing your knowledge and authority but to nurture your community for long-term brand recognition and loyalty to your business.
#2 Collaborate with Like-Minded Businesses in Your Community
Collaborating with other businesses is a wonderful way to solidify your reputation in your community and to get exposure to your partners’ audience. The best way to approach such a collaboration is to come together with another business for the sake of providing mutually-beneficial information to one another’s audience, be it through regular guesting on a podcast or a blog, through on-site event sponsorship, or through a community speaking event.
Another way to collaborate with businesses that may not be in your immediate community is through affiliate marketing where either you or another business provides a platform to showcase the others’ services and products. This can be done both online or through on-site collaborations. Many small brick-and-mortar stores, especially artisan shops, choose to sell other local businesses’ products in their stores, offering foot traffic and brand exposure to small businesses for a percentage of the sale purchase.
When businesses collaborate with other businesses that share their values, they can pool together authority, influence, resources, and brand recognition to help each other succeed and thrive. And since joining forces with others gives a business more leverage for influence, there is a potential to provide enormous value to audiences that will correlate its brand with helpfulness, trustworthiness, and generosity.
#3 Start a Podcast, a YouTube Channel, or a Community Platform
Indeed, as visual creatures, we process images much more quickly than words. Images make a greater neural impression in our brains, getting us to feel, learn, or act more viscerally. No wonder images and videos are the go-to resources for online information consumers these days!
One way to introduce your brand to audiences that care about what you have to say is to guest on podcasts in your business niche. This way, you’ll expose your values, message, and brand to a vast audience that trusts the podcast to vet for the best guests and informational value. By passing that marker of “quality assurance,” the audience will eagerly listen to your story and the “whys” and “hows” behind your brand.
If you use these guest opportunities wisely to connect with the podcast audience, there is a large probability that a percentage will connect with your brand afterward. Podcasts have become one of the most effective ways to connect with leads emotionally through storytelling.
Another very effective way to build a community around your visual content is to start a YouTube channel where you provide valuable information about your business niche in a digestible, fun, and unique way. The success of YouTubing for business is mostly contingent on focusing on what you can do for your audience, as opposed to showcasing updates about your business and team. For example, what can you teach your viewers that they don’t already know? Will this information make their lives easier, better, and more enjoyable?
People often subscribe to YouTube channels for a sense of community and the connection they feel with a YouTube host. They usually get alerts whenever new content is posted, and the more they interact with the content regularly, the more likely they will respond to calls to action to support the brand.
You can also participate in live streams so that you can answer your followers’ questions, which will make you even more personable and relatable as a brand. By being transparent and generous with your time, your community will feel like they’ve just had a coffee date with a friend who has their best interest at heart. Indeed, the more approachable you become as a brand, the more likely will your community relate to you and want to support you.
It is no wonder YouTube influencers can be even more influential than traditional celebrities in shaping culture and consumer behavior. In fact, 6 out of 10 YouTube subscribers would rather follow advice on what to buy from their favorite YouTube creator over their favorite television or movie personality.
#4 Make Your Products and Services Really, Really Good!
Perhaps one of the best ways you can build a solid community of advocates is to make your offerings outshine your competitors in quality, features, generosity, and presentation. If your customers love your services and products, chances are that they will naturally talk about them to their family and friends. And that is all you have to do – invest in quality and customer experience, and the people will come!
Long are the days when clickbait ads and a slick marketing copy could win over customers. Today, customers have a bombardment of information coming at them vying for their attention and pocketbooks. To truly stand out and have a long-lasting reputation, a business should strive to be exceptional.
If you invest in your products and services without cutting corners and make them for your ideal customer needs, half of your marketing efforts will already be in place! To better know what to improve about your services, you can seek direct feedback from your customers through surveys, social media prompts, and even studying what targeted audiences are discussing in community groups and forums like Quora and Reddit. All of this investigation will give you the insight you need to understand how users experience and interact with your product so that your offerings can be the best in your business niche.
Ultimately, investing in your products and services will not only save you money on marketing but will lead to partnerships and branding opportunities that will elevate your business to the next level.
#5 Have Great Customer Service
Amazing customer service will not only promote customer loyalty but will also help your branding in many ways! Satisfied customers who want you to win will go out of their way to write a shining review or to take a leap with your new service offering.
By satisfying your customer needs – even by appeasing the most unreasonable, over-the-top complaints – your brand will be seen as generous, kind, and helpful. Indeed, brand associations are truly powerful and help us solidify how we feel about a certain business through their care for our needs, emotional and visual cues, and overall interactive experience.
If you can perfect your user experience so it is seamless, you will naturally create a community of advocates who love everything about your brand. Since many businesses only concentrate on short-term sales goals and treat their customers as disposable objects to these ends, they miss out on building brand loyalty by nurturing these intricate relationships that have quite the leverage in helping them grow over time.
By focusing on a long-term vision of success, a company can utilize community-building as one of the best marketing ROIs. People tend to trust those that add value to their lives, and if you can do that, you will be on your way to creating a solid community of advocates that will support you throughout your journey.
#6 Engage, Be Helpful and Personalize Your Interactions
It is no secret that customers prefer personal interactions over automated ones. This is especially true for small businesses whose trademark is a more personalized approach than big business. If potential customers can’t feel your personality in your branding or don’t understand your unique proposition, it will be hard for them to connect to your message and take the next step with your offer.
Bland messaging and businesses that try to speak to everyone will usually miss out on being heard by those that matter, which will jeopardize their ability to create powerful brands that shape communities and culture.
To truly stand out in your niche, narrow down on your ideal customer avatar and speak to that individual’s goals, needs, desires, and pain-points like a friend in all of your messaging. By being that special guide in your customer’s hero journey, you will come across as that special friend that is always consistent and caring.
As the adage goes, people don’t usually remember what you say but how you make them feel. As a brand, prioritize your customer experience by personally engaging with your customer, being generous with tips and discounts, and offering one-on-one services or customized items.
Take note of some of the most beloved brands like Chewy, a pet food and supplies company that is lauded to have some of the best customer services around. Not only is the company generous by offering a multitude of discounts, it also has a very flexible return policy and personalizes its delivery packages and customer engagement through mail-in postcards and frequent coupons.
Chewy’s social media pages also feel like community hubs where they encourage their shoppers to post photos of their pets playing with the Chewy delivery box. Their personalized touch, customer-is-always-right mentality, and understanding of ways to leverage pet lovers’ engagement for community-building, make them a stand-out brand in the pet food and supply industry.
So develop your unique voice and add that special touch to your business that will make interacting with you truly memorable!
Why Generosity is Key to Relationship Building
If you got one thing out of this article, it should be that generosity with your prospects will go a long way. From free consultations and money-back guarantees to discounts and seldom-shared industry tips, your prospects will lower their skepticism and resistance to doing business with you if they feel that your brand is abundant and prioritizes generosity.
Essentially, when people sense our cups are full, they are more likely to feel like they won’t be taken advantage of or schemed. They assume that we don’t need their money, but instead, have something to offer that they could really benefit from.
Generosity also signals that our business means more to us than simply making a quick buck. It shows that our mission is bigger than us and that we want to take others on that journey of change and transformation. By giving, we naturally receive, and what we invest in our potential customers today inevitably comes back to us many-fold tomorrow.
Generosity fosters generosity, and when others are generous with us, we feel called to reciprocate.
The foundation of how to build a solid community of advocates for your business is being generous as a brand – generous with your time, resources, knowledge, and advice. By investing in your community, your community will reciprocate once it is convinced you are the right guide to solve its problems or meet its needs.
What community building for branding does is invest in others without seeking an immediate return on investment for this generosity. In time, this approach will be a catalyst for a reputation that literally pays for itself.
Other key ways to build a community of advocates around your brand are to make your products, services, content, and customer support exceptional, to create online and on-site communities built on helpfulness (that are customer-centric), and to collaborate with like-minded businesses for the mutual benefit of bringing exposure and sharing valuable information with audiences that need it most.
At Idea Marketing Group, we understand the power of customer-centric branding. Whether you’re looking to improve your messaging or would like help attracting your ideal customers, our award-winning boutique marketing firm is here to assist you every step of the way!