It’s no secret that creating a loyal base of customers is a difficult task as an entrepreneur. In years past, holding a sale or a BOGO (“buy one get one free”) offer oftentimes was enough to entice prospective customers to become paying customers. While there are certainly instances nowadays where these strategies are still effective, for most companies, it simply isn’t enough due to the amount of options consumers have at their fingertips in the current online marketplace.
Instead, most brands today have to go above and beyond to keep their customers coming back. One way to accomplish this, which has proven to be successful, is building a community related to your brand. By creating a tight-knit community of individuals affiliated with your brand, customers will feel appreciated, accepted and an important member of a club or group as opposed to being someone who just pays for your goods and services.
The trend of building community is everywhere. This is why Mark Zuckerberg made it clear in 2017 that Facebook was going to double-down on community building on their platform as opposed to solely being a social network. This is why Starbucks loyalty program has become such a smash hit in recent years, and why YouTubers who make their subscribers feel important are able to sell millions of dollars worth of merchandise.
Want to learn how you can build a community for your own company? Here are 6 places to start.
1. Create a Lifestyle Brand For Your Company
Creating a lifestyle brand loosely related to your company is a technique that will increase customer retention, and it has gained momentum in recent years. The primary reason for this is because, as a result of creating a lifestyle brand, the business becomes bigger than the products or services they sell. Instead, there is a mission behind their products and services that customers can rally behind.
For example, let’s say you own a coffee shop that only serves locally grown, sustainable products. The community you build for your company could be centered around sustainability in the food industry as opposed to focusing just on coffee. Once you have your mission set in place, you can then design and sell merchandise and swag that brings life to that lifestyle brand, which will act as another revenue stream in addition to helping foster community.
2. Create a Facebook Group
Facebook Groups are one of the simplest yet effective ways to create a loyal community for your company. One of the most useful aspects of Facebook Groups is that members receive notifications for activity in their groups much more frequently than they do for content published in their news feeds, increasing the likelihood they will engage with it. With the team at Facebook continuing to decrease organic reach (posts published on the platform that aren’t boosted using paid promotion) year after year, the importance of Facebook Groups will only grow stronger over time, so create one for your company sooner rather than later.
3. Give Your Customers a Name
As humans, it’s in our very nature to want to be a part of something and to be accepted. If you are building a community, then give the members of your community a name to grant them even more identity. One segment of entrepreneurs who do this particularly well is YouTubers. Some of the most successful YouTube stars who are able to sell premium content subscriptions, merchandise and more give their audiences a name like “Nerds” or “Jake Paulers” or “Cool Kids”. By doing this, you will be subtly reinforcing the existence of your brand’s community, facilitating growth.
4. Host Events Using Eventbrite or Meetup.com
Even in a world as digital as the one we live in, nothing beats in-person interactions. Getting face-time with your customers by hosting regular events is one of the best ways to make your customers feel accepted, appreciated and understood. Luckily, there are tools available online which help streamline the entire process of hosting meetups and events, such as Meetup.com and Eventbrite. With Meetup.com, hosts are able to create meetups, find people in their area with similar interests, and even email members to keep them updated on what’s going on in that group.
5. Create a Slack Group
Slack groups are yet another way to stay in touch with your customers in a new, refreshing way. Unlike other platforms and options, Slack is still relatively underutilized when it comes to maintaining oversight over a group. Instead, most users of Slack use it to communicate with members of their team at their company. Slack also makes quick, authentic messaging easier than ever before, allowing genuine relationships with your customers to grow.
If you’re looking to make a community out of your loyal customers, then consider creating a Slack group. To encourage individuals to sign up for it, give them an incentive such as half off their next purchase of your products, or something similar.
6. Create a Stellar Email Newsletter
Email marketing is far from dead. In fact, with the lifespan of social media platforms being relatively short, collecting emails is one of the most reliable strategies for building an audience. Once you have a database of customer email addresses, begin to create and send out an email newsletter on a regular basis. Within the newsletter, give away valuable content and information as it relates to your brand and the community you’re building. By consistently showing up in a setting as intimate as a customer’s inbox, your community will gradually begin to grow stronger.
Retaining a base of dedicated customers is tough. Despite its difficulty, one of the best ways to keep customers loyal is by creating a community centered around the mission of your brand. By following the 6 steps laid out in this article and putting in the necessary time and energy, you will eventually reap the benefits of community as a result.