Technology probably disrupted your industry. And if you sell to consumers the online giant, Amazon, most likely disrupted your business. Even if you sell to other businesses, large, online competitors can eat your lunch. So what do you do? What is a differentiator that can set you not just apart, but above the box store on massive online retailer?
Giant selection, instant shipping, good prices, and easy buying experience are what large companies have going for them. But you have something that everyone is looking for: the chance to be part of something. Most people want to belong and be part of something, and they will pay more and deal with a less streamlined experience to participate.
Here are some basic ways that you can build a community around your product or service:
Expose your Company Culture
Companies large and small are nothing more than a collection of people working together. And when you have a group of people you have a culture that is unique to that group. Do not hide it, share it. Using social media, blogging, or anecdotes when you interact with customers in person, share fun or interesting quirks or activities at your company.
If you have an IT guy that bakes cookies for everyone on Wednesdays, blog about it and talk about it. Maybe you all get together once a quarter and brainstorm new product ideas. Your customers want to know about that, they want to know what it is like working at your company because they have a deep need to be part of something.
Your giant competitor does not have a culture, they do not have something that your customers can relate to. Take advantage of that.
Share your Human Side
Culture is about what it is like to work at your company. An even better way to welcome your customers into your community is to share your human side. Put faces on who you are simply because your large competitor is faceless. Regardless of the industry, customers want to be connected to another person.
You can share your human side through social media and blogging if you don’t interact face-to-face with your customers. But if you do, then encourage your employees to interact on a personal level with customers. This does not mean they have to talk about their love life. But recommending a favorite restaurant, or mentioning that you just got back from vacation at Disneyland creates a human connection and hopefully finds common ground with customers beyond your business relationship.
Of course, be careful to respect your employee’s privacy.
People want to be part of a successful community. Help them make that happen by sharing your successes, large and small, with them. Also, share the success of your community members. If a good customer has a big contract win or opens a new office, congratulate them in front of your community. Just remember to ask permission if any information is not already out there in the public.
Take time to Interact
In the end, creating a community around your business that attracts your customers is about priorities. You need to take time to interact. Customers cannot get to know you if you do not take time to build a relationship. Your competitor is driven by 2% increases in productivity so they can deliver greater shareholder value. They don’t have time to tell a client about their new puppy or tell a funny story about the company Haloween party (not THAT story, too much information).
Stop, interact, build a connection and a community.
Create Social Events for your Community
One powerful way to pull all of this together is to create a social event for your growing community. If your business is local, this is easy. Just pick a time and some event, and invite people in. It can just be a social thing or maybe a seminar or a demo. Don’t sell, inform. Don’t ask for orders, build relationships.
Not everyone you want to will show up, and some people you do not want will show up. But over time if you keep it up you will create a stronger and more loyal customer base.
And… Blogging is the Glue
A good and robust blog can be the glue that holds all of this together that reinforces the community you are building. It is a single place to share information and celebrate success. Blogs can be set up to publish to social media and the comments section is a place where your community can interact.
Read “Better Blogging for Your Business” to see how easy it is to have an effective blog for your business.