Tips for Community Building Around Your Small Business

You want to grow your business, but you also don’t have a background in marketing. It’s a college degree. A career. You can’t just pick it up one day like a hobby, can you?

Harley Davidson community

photo credit: Esmerrrr / Flickr

Well, yes and no. Professional marketing indeed takes training and professional development. It’s also true that business owners all over the world are finding small and effective ways to effectively communicate with the consuming public.

Below we take a look at how you can build an effective brand community that can be used to generate more sales.

What is a Business Community?

From a branding perspective, a business community is simply a group of people who feel that your business is an important part of their lives. Here’s the trick though — for the community to be effective, the business owner needs to know how to leverage it from a sales perspective to increase revenue while also giving the customers something they legitimately want.

Your brand community doesn’t have to be a physical thing. It probably won’t be. The digital world makes it easy to unite people all over the world. More often than not this community will be nothing more than a common perception.

Harley Davidson is a good example of a brand that has mastered this concept. Devout Harley riders would never dream of riding anything else, not just because they like the bike but because they have bought into the idea behind it.

Harleys represent freedom. Counter culture. The spirit of the open road. And so, Harley riders get a product they feel strongly about, and Harley Davidson gets a large stable of repeat customers who will not only keep coming back, but also go in for upgrades, custom jobs, and even provide word-of-mouth recommendations.

You don’t need to be an international motorcycle giant to create and leverage a brand community. Below, we look at tips that businesses of any size can use to grow their brand.

Decide on Your Brand

A brand is just the way that you present your business to the public. If your business was a person, the brand would be their personality. It’s what it feels like to interact with your company.

You can be the coffee shop with the cause. Fair Trade beans. A daily “pay what you can,” lunch special. And so on.

It could just be a vibe. Soft jazz. A fire in the hearth — the propensity for using words like “hearth” and a shelf with the occasional board game. Pieces missing,  but that’s ok. People don’t really use them for anything except to understand that this is a place you can sit around and hang out at for a while.

Why is your brand important? This is the thing that devout customers are going to cling to. The central idea that justifies their enthusiasm for what you are doing. It should be authentic, of course. Think about what excites you about your business. What makes you feel passionate? Then, think of ways you can creatively communicate that passion to your customers.

Build that Email List

Email lists are a critical first step in any marketing campaign. Well, let’s put a little asterisk on that before you roll your eyes all the way into the back of your head. Email lists used to be foundational to marketing. Now, however, there are so many ways to contact people online that it is one of many options.

For businesses, email lists can still be a dependable marketing tool, if you build an email campaign that encourages people to actually open your messages. Be sensible about the frequency and quantities of your messages. The average customer will be receptive to and tolerate of about two marketing emails a week. Beyond that, you risk getting blocked.

Make People Want to Open Your Message

Great. You have a list. You have committed to only sending out your messages a few times a week. But what to put in them? Promotions are the best way to get people excited about opening your messages. In the context of building a brand community, this is a particularly important feature of your efforts in that it rewards customers for being part of your inner circle.

They don’t have to be big promotions. Maybe ten percent off during the hours when you are usually slow. Be smart. Be creative. Think up things that will get people excited.

Take It to Social Media

Of course, social media is an invaluable tool for interacting with customers. Many major platforms even allow you to create your own private groups. Places where people who share an interest — in this case, your business — can get together and chat about it.

This can be an excellent location for your brand community in that it not only allows you to communicate the same way that an email list does, but it also solidifies the “community,” idea. Your regulars are literally (digitally) grouped together in a space where they can interact and communicate.

Social media comes with its own ropes that need to be learned to maximize the effectiveness of your efforts. Fortunately, most platforms provide free or low-cost analytic tools to business accounts. With a little bit of time, you will get the hang of when to post, what to say, and how to get people engaged with your social media-related branding.

Is All of this Really Worth It?

Oh yeah. It definitely is. Branding not only gives you devout customers — people who will spend more than the average person walking through the door — but it also promotes organic growth. Almost three-fourths of experts agree that word-of-mouth marketing is the most effective way to grow a business.

Why? People don’t trust marketing messages. They might make a purchase because of them, but they are well aware that their interactions with marketing are all carefully cultivated to generate sales.

Contrast that with a recommendation from mom and the effectiveness is obvious. People trust their friends and family and value what they say about consumer recommendations.

To that end, your branding community gives you a space where people can organically learn about and experience your business. It does take a little more thoughtfulness than traditional marketing, but it is much more effective.

More Ways of Reaching Out to the Public

Social media and email lists aren’t the only way to tell the public who you are. If you are a slightly bigger business that wants to make a statement about your beliefs and culture, consider forming a Diversity Equity and Inclusion board.

Corporate responsibility is important both from an ethical and marketing perspective. People like working with businesses that care about more than just their bottom line.


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