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Community Building: for High Growth Brands
Building strong communities is almost inevitable for businesses. The faster you get to it, the wiser it is.
It’s Sunday once again, 15 days since my last email to you. And boy it feels long.
[Well, if you’re receiving my email for the first time, it’s because we’ve either interacted in the past or someone in your network added you to my subscription list. But don't worry, this is pure experiential & actionable information. No ads, spams or offers]
Today’s newsletter is a 7 minute read.
I’ve spoken with 10 high-growth companies in the past couple of weeks. And everyone had one challenge to tackle: Building a Community. So here we go, on to what really makes a difference for your business.
Brian Chesky said “Build something 100 people love, not something 1 miillion people kind of like”
But first, it’s essential to understand that most brands misunderstand the word ‘community’ with ‘fans’ or ‘loyalists’. To make it simpler, a COMMUNITY is people having shared values, interests & choices, who come together for many to many interactions (customers to interact with other customers) and not just with the brand.
And that’s the challenge about building a community: the ability to foster & moderate communication between community members. And not get personal ‘marketing’ agendas in the way.
The truth is that community fosters consumption: commerce consumption or information consumption. And that’s the goldmine you must look at hit.
To be honest, after the pandemic, people are longing for communities more than ever before. Digital has accelerated communication and hence the time for community building is absolutely ripe. There’s a certain pent up energy that people need to exude; and communities give them the funnel to such opportunities.
So how do you really create a fan base of 100 abso-fucking-lutely loyal customers who you can fall back on. And then turn it into a community.
My personal take on community building:Whether you’re a consumer business that’s grossing a million dollars in revenue or someone who’s just getting started with selling direct to consumer, community building is an absolute ‘basic’ need of any business. It doesn’t differ based on your size or revenue or number of SKU’s. It depends on you.
So everything you need to build, grow & amplify community building, in a step by step guide below.
Start with a loyal fanbase: But what would you do with this fanbase? Well, here are starting points:
New product / variant launch - market research
Evangelizing your product to others, for free
Conduct quizzes / focussed group discussions
Critical feedback on campaigns
And all of these are critical elements for a longer haul in marketing. It’s what starts to directly impact your CAC, over time.
But Sak, how do I build a loyal fanbase at all? Here’s how.
If you’re a brand marketeer or owner, start with:
Understanding who are 10-20 people who are regular customers of your product. If you have a larger pool of such customers, pick them from your ideal demographic. Niche them down as much as possible - keep the brand vision in mind.
Reach out to them, personally and understand if they’d like to become “Brand Ambassadors”. Brands do go wrong here sometimes. They confuse brand ambassadors with influencers or celebrities. Well, that’s not true. To sail you through your daily chaos, you need a more relatable audience set than a celebrity.
On-board them as a brand ambassador. Send them a few products in return for their acceptance. As a regular customer, they’d love these gestures.
Set-up monthly interactions with them with your marketing teams. Try and have someone up the hierarchy chain talk to them. This could happen over a group zoom call or maybe one on one. In fact it’ll be fun to set up group calls with them together - also builds a sense of networking within one another. People love that association.
Do everything that’s mentioned above with what you must do with your community. Involve them with new product development, get UGC videos done (so organically), ask them to tag you on their social media platforms (doesn’t matter how many followers that have).
And gradually, increase this fanbase with new people every month or a similar number depending on your overall customer set.
Once you’ve piloted this model over time, scale this up with more people on your website. Ask people to sign-up and then shortlist / select the ones who fit your original cohort.
And once you’ve championed the above basics of what you can drive with / through a fanbase, advance it by:
Inviting them for shoots (more original, organic & authentic)
Calling them during events
Hosting meet-ups between community members
Flying them into retreats
And because you’ve chosen your core demographic, likelihood of them being vocal about your brand, evangelising it, is far higher than anyone else.
The power of loyal customers snowballs into so many avenues, it would surprise you.
Once through this initial grind, you’re now into more mature steps to BUILD A COMMUNITY:
If you haven't already done, use a platform like Discord / Slack to on-board these ambassadors.
Let them invite 1-2 people who they feel match their interest. They may or may not be consumers of your product now. But that’s how you tap into a newer segment of customers, who have similar beliefs & values.
Give your community a name & purpose. If you are Royal Enfield, you’re essentially talking to adventure lovers. If you are a Sleepy Owl, you could talk to travel enthusiasts. Pick your objective to be slightly larger than the brand’s offerings (that’s biking or coffee in these cases).
Appoint 1-2 people from your team (because it now demands so) to foster some engagement & interactions between these people.
Engagement could be around interesting new products (definitely beyond yours) in the market, experiences, challenges they face on a day to day basis and so on. Just germinate seeds of these opportunities and they’ll latch on to it.
Creating a set of ambassadors is like the barebones of a satellite that you are creating on ground. Launching it into space to orbit the earth is like the aspect of community building. It has a certain direction, purpose, but yet free to explore.
These were my two cents on where & how you get going with building sticky communities. Easier said than done though.
In other news, my latest episode of Design Grid with Neer Sharma, Forbes 30 Under 30 and ex-founder, Haiku-Jam, is finally out. I’ve recorded over 30 podcasts so far. And I say this with caution and respect to everyone: it’s been my favourite episode so far. It’s a breeze to listen.
I’ll see you next month with more enriching information. I’m always looking for feedback, so don't hesitate to respond to this email with what you liked / didn't like about it. Until then, take care of yourself; no one else is going to do that for you.