Every business is looking for an edge. Some have it by being the most competitively priced, others by having a product no one else has. For many businesses though, the best edge is loyal customers. Loyal customers are a byproduct of engaging with them. For many online businesses, a great way to engage your customers is to create an online community around your product or service.
In this article we will take a look at some of the benefits of building a community for your customers, how to build one, and the potential risks involved.
The Benefits of an Engaged Community
For many businesses that primarily operate online, their interactions with their customers are relatively brief. A customer finds their site, decides to purchase their product or service, and then forgets about the company entirely. However, there’s a strong chance your customers will likely need to purchase your products or services again sometime in the future and it’s easier to keep them engaged now rather than having to spend big bucks on advertising for them to find you again.
That’s the basic formula, spend a little now to keep customers or users engaged with your product in order to not have to spend a lot down the road for them to find you again. Engagement comes in many forms, and many of the most familiar forms are one sided with direct email marketing being the most common route. Businesses have another approach though, create an engaged community for their customers to connect with both the business and each other.
Building a Community in Practice
By creating an online space for their customers to connect, businesses are able to stay engaged with their customers for far longer than they normally would. This leads to future sales, referrals from customers, and an easy funnel to sell new products and services through. It all sounds great right, but just how can you go about building a community for your customers?
As an online business your web presence is your strength and you can leverage that to build a community. If you already have an email list of customers, which you should, use it to invite your first users to join. Something as simple as a Facebook group or discussion section on your website answering questions can be a good starting point.
Going further, many of your customers may share common interests and be interested in meeting up with each other. This is a very popular route many businesses take. The gaming giant Activision Blizzard for example holds BlizzCon, a yearly in person meetup. Another great example is HomeDepot, the retailer holds do it yourself classes for both adults and kids, building a community around their customers who are interested in home improvement skills. Similarly, BoatEasy, a peer-to-peer marketplace platform for boaters, holds regular meetups and on the water classes for their boating community. Events, discussion boards, meetups, classes, and more are all strategies companies use effectively to build their brand and keep customers engaged in the products and services they’re selling. Even something like a weekly YouTube livestream demoing your products where your customers can ask questions can be effective.
Building an engaged community for your business is not easy. For online businesses that may not know a whole lot about their customers it can be even more difficult. Nailing the right strategy for your community can be a major hurdle, and one many businesses never get passed. The cost of setting up community style engagement for your customers also has to be weighed against more traditional advertising techniques to retain them, since that is the ultimate goal. However, there is another risk that may not be as obvious.
A successful community centered around your business is an amazing thing. It drives traffic to your business and keeps users engaged. However, large communities end up taking on a personality of their own. A big part of engaging with your customers is understanding what they want out of your products and services. However, sometimes the customer isn’t always right and trying to appease a vocal community can be an expensive and time consuming process.
Like with everything there is a happy medium and when done correctly building a community around your business will lead to increased engagement and sales.