There is a famous saying in marketing — “People buy from people. Not brands.” Nothing builds brand loyalty quite like a strong sense of community.
Transforming your customer base into a community benefits nearly every department in your company. It gives the marketing team invaluable insight on how to connect with consumers, helps your customer service team learn how to better serve the public, and provides your entire company honest guidance on how to improve your products and services.
Beyond serving your company, building a community serves your customers. When customers feel like interacting with your company is a social experience, this fosters favorable feelings toward your business. It incentives customers to choose your brand among competitors.
Adopt A Customer First Approach
With every decision you make as a company, take your customers’ perspective into consideration first and foremost. A customer-first approach is the foundation of building a customer community and will come into play in almost every other step listed here.
You cannot create a community without excitement about your product or service. The first questions you should ask are, “What is my target customer? What do they want?” A long and thorough market research phase is key to answering those questions.
While this can be a daunting project, it is well worth the payoff.
Some actionable ways to put customers first include:
- Identify a specific target audience based on age, demographics, lifestyle, and personality traits
- Create customer personas to inform your messaging across all platforms
- Offer the best possible customer service
- Solicit feedback directly from customers by offering incentives for reviews, setting up a survey kiosk on your website, and sending automated emails asking for post-purchase feedback.
Provide An Online Platform
Back when the internet was relatively new, many companies created forums on their website where users could socialize, creating a digital sphere where people could interact with like-minded people.
With the rise of social media, it is not always necessary to provide a social forum on your own website, but many brands are now creating private platforms through outlets like Patreon or creating exclusive Facebook pages for select customers. Some companies even create apps with chat features.
Providing an online social hub makes people feel like they are getting access to something more meaningful than just a product or service and can also help your team glean invaluable information. By observing customer interactions, you can gain feedback in an organic fashion and learn more about your customers’ values, lifestyles, and so on. This allows you to anticipate consumer needs and adjust your product accordingly.
Listen To Your Customers
Customers want to feel like you are part of the conversation. This puts a name to your brand and makes the entire experience of buying from your company feel less anonymous.
Have an active presence on social media. Answer questions, respond to compliments, and handle complaints through outlets like Facebook and Twitter. If you have a community platform, have a representative from your brand be an ever-present force on that platform to address concerns, encourage discussion, and provide information.
Take the example of MM LaFleur. This retail company focused on comfortable clothing for professional women. They sent out an email to customers asking their community how their brand could be most supportive to women during the 2016 election. After reading through the responses, MM LaFleur launched an initiative to support women running for office by giving candidates complementary high-quality clothing. Post-campaign, all clothing was donated to organizations that help disadvantaged.
This yielded significant press attention, gaining MM LaFleur thousands of new customers. It also made existing customers feel like their thoughts, feelings, and values were reflected in the brand’s actions.
Create Compelling Content
It does not matter how high you rank in Google’s search results if your bounce rate is through the roof. If you want people to remember and think highly of your company, you need to create high-quality content that speaks to your target audience’s needs. This is where the customer-first approach truly comes into play. Ask yourself – What kind of content would benefit our audience?
Content should serve to both engage current users and attract new ones. With any given topic, ask yourself – what’s missing? There is almost always some forgotten niche or an underlooked question you can find through keyword research or simply by browsing relevant topics. Broad topics can often be made just slightly more specific, providing content users crave.
One trick for identifying underlooked topics is looking at Google’s “People Also Ask” featured snippets. If you click the drop down menu, you may notice some snippets do not directly answer the question. If a question has gone unanswered by your competition, see this as your chance to step in and write a more relevant blog post.
Think about the medium as well. Could complicated data be condensed to a shareable infographic? Could a brief video tutorial serve better than a lengthy blog for breaking down a complex topic?
Your audience should feel like they can get all the information they need from your company, and also get that information in the most digestible format possible. By tapping into your audience’s needs, you can foster a sense of appreciation and – ultimately – community amongst your customer base.
Ask Customers For Feedback
Most business owners understand that direct customer feedback – especially early on – is an important part of product development. What many overlook, however, is that feedback can often foster a strong sense of trust and community.
The most loyal customers feel like they are part of a company and respond well to feeling seen and heard. Even if you are not actively conducting market research, ask for feedback every time you have an interaction with a customer.
- Send automated emails requested reviews for customers who have made recent purchases
- Ask that people complete brief surveys after interacting with customer service team
- Encourage customers to leave online reviews on any platforms you use
- Have a digital suggestion box on your website where customers can drop in suggestions
Oftentimes, it doesn’t even have to be complicated. Asking for feedback can be as simple as having a company representative pop onto one of your forums or Facebook pages and post a question like “What kind of content would you like us to produce?” and “Is there anything you feel we can do better?”
Provide Personalized Experiences
We have written about personal marketing before, so you can check out a deep dive on the subject here. Personalized marketing has some practical and measurable benefits. Personalized emails often have higher open rates and personalized ads can increase conversions, but there is a benefit to personalization that is less directlymeasurable but equally important – fostering a sense of community.
There are no shortage of options when it comes to smart moves to personalize experiences. One simple trick is to have your web page automatically display a welcome message using a customer’s name once they have created an account. You can also try sending coupons for customers’ birthdays or emailing customers shopping suggestions catered to their tastes.
This makes customers feel like they are part of a community; your company understands them and their specific shopping needs, making them comfortable coming back time and time again.
There are privacy concerns (you can read the aforementioned blog for more details on this) to be aware of with personalization. Avoid using any sensitive information – like sexual orientation, gender identity, or medical history – in personal marketing campaigns. Personalization can always be a bit of a delicate balance, so be conscientious of customer comfort in the process.
Meet In Real Life
This may sound complicated as orchestrating a big conference with speakers can be costly. If you have the resources and the enthusiasm, a major event may be worth looking into, but meeting with customers in real life does not always have to be complex.
Hosting workshops about your product or service in a specific city – especially in bigger areas – usually takes little more planning than booking a space and having a few of your employees volunteer to lead. Happy hours can also be simple to orchestrate as can smaller events like casual meetups. Why not have a potluck in a local park, for example?
With a rise in remote work, many people are craving face-to-face interaction. Providing that for your customers does not have to be complicated and it can foster deeper relationships between everyone involved.
The Bottom Line
Building a customer community provides a better experience across the board and can help your company grow. While it takes a lot of work, it is ultimately worth it as it fosters strong brand loyalty and strengthens your team as a whole.