We all know that growth is powered by people— loyal customers flocking to your business time and time again. To stimulate this, you need to create a genuine sense of community around your brand.
People power is vital for building a solid customer base that will keep coming back to your brand — just because they want to feel a part of it. So how can you create that community? Read on to find out…
Start a loyalty program
This one is simple, easy, and employed by businesses the world over. In fact, you probably used one yourself when you bought your coffee this morning. Sandwich shops, salons, restaurants — they’re a tried-and-tested method of keeping your customers keen.
And it’s not just stamping a card either. Many brands, such as Subway or KFC, offer mobile apps in lieu of the traditional loyalty card to cater for the 2.53 billion smartphone users out there.
The benefits of loyalty programs are numerous. They are proven to increase a brand’s growth by creating — you guessed it — loyalty. And they’re not as expensive as you might think. In fact, chasing new customers is more expensive than retaining old ones, so it’s a worthy expenditure. And at the end of the day, a freebie keeps your customers happy!
If you’re starting your own loyalty scheme (and it’s a good idea), make sure you cater for both online and offline purchases, and keep it straightforward too. A basic “9 stamps and your 10th purchase is free” is a classic. But if you’re working on a points system, make sure you make them valuable. Update your customer everytime they get points, and show them what bonuses they are eligible for.
Raise money for charity causes
Another great way to up your community game with through charity work. Most brands have some form of charity outreach. These can range from small activities like volunteering for community causes such as soup kitchens or litter-picking, to sponsoring local events like fun runs or festivals.
Raising money for charity is a great way to get your brand involved with the community. If you organise or sponsor charity events such as a concerts or fundraising auctions, it merits significant local press, which in turn gives your brand some positive exposure. It also lets people know that you aren’t just a business: you’re an active and willing member of the community.
Pride in particular is a hugely popular event for brands to boost community engagement. Sponsoring such an event shows that your business has an awareness of — and a desire to help — issues that will affect their customers.
Build an online community through social media
With Twitter boasting 330 million, Instagram with 800 million, and Facebook with a cool 2167 million active users, you’d be a fool to not get your brand on social media. The clue is in the name: it’s a social tool, and the perfect platform for building community.
Social media is a one-stop shop for customers to find out what your brand is up to, and to connect with you if they have any complaints or queries. Not only can you post updates about what your business is doing (like your great charity work we mentioned earlier), but you can also get your customers to share what they’re doing too. Content marketing is the backbone of any marketing strategy, and user-generated content can be a huge asset for your brand. It provides you with an insight into what makes your audience tick, and shows them that their thoughts matter.
Perhaps the greatest example of this was Coca-Cola’s #ShareACoke campaign. Thousands of users from all over the world (maybe even yourself) shared photos of themselves enjoying a Coke, a marketing feat which united customers with the brand.
Build awareness through education
Regardless of the industry you occupy, you’ll have a wealth of knowledge which can be passed on to your customers. Creating informative talks or courses which teach people about what you do provides your community with practical information which they can take away and use in the real world. If you own a restaurant for example, you could offer a cooking course to teach wannabe chefs the basics.
To capitalize on this, you might also consider opening an online store and creating and selling branded starter kits related to your industry. For example, if you run a gym, you could offer a basic exercise kit (shorts, tee, pedometer, etc) for any couch potatoes who might be cautious about stepping into a gym for the first time.
Reach out to your local community college or library to ask about running short courses for vital skills or seminars on related topics. By offering cheap or free insights into your industry, you can engage old customers and bring in new ones.
And if you’re selling a service rather than a particular product (if you’re a consultancy firm for example) you can create online masterclasses through tools such as Coursera and Udemy to potential customers. Offering useful guides on the things your customers need to know builds your authority in the community, and will have people flocking to your brand.
Create partnerships with other businesses
Many brands create community and widen their reach by linking up with local businesses related to their industry. This lets them take advantage of each others’ consumer base, and it shows to your customers that you’re out to create connections to benefit the community, giving your business that personal, human touch.
As an example, if you’re a masseuse, you can connect with a local gym to offer post-workout massages. You can mutually benefit each other through shared marketing efforts, or work together to create handy guides or courses that your customers can learn from. Through partnerships, you can both strengthen your community engagement.
Not convinced? There are lots of big-name brands have hooked up to create dynamic and beneficial partnerships. You might have seen tech firm GoPro’s collaboration with energy drink brand Red Bull, Stratos. They teamed up to help skydiver (and apparently amateur superhero) Felix Baumgartner free fall from 24 miles above Earth with a GoPro attached to him. Not only did he set several world records, he also provided the two brands with some massive exposure (as well as giving the acrophobics amongst us some serious bad dreams…)
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Tell your story
Finally, make sure your customers know your story. You’ve built your brand with hard work and dedication, and you’re not just a faceless corporation. Customers feel more engaged with businesses with a coherent history and value set, so make sure they know about it. Where did you come from? What struggles did you face? What did you set out to do?
Be honest, and be authentic. People will relate to a brand that is open about their background because they have their own story too. The body care brand Burt’s Bees knows this, and proudly shares their history with their customers. Their story is a genuine, by-the-bootstraps journey — something their customers will appreciate and identify with.
Image Burt’s Bees
A successful brand is made up of many things: great customer service, business savvy, careful investments, and discipline. But it’s also about building a community. Your customers are valuable assets, and to keep them coming back for more you need to show that your brand is for the people. Let them know how important they are, and they surely will.
Victoria Greene is a branding consultant and freelance writer. For all the latest on developments in marketing, check out her blog. Victoria has a drive for helping store owners get the best return on their ecommerce businesses.