The word community can mean different things to different people.
A sense of community can be brought about by religion, place of origin or background. Or your community might depend on where and how you live.
Lots of well-known, successful brands have harnessed this sense of community, and created armies of loyal advocates who engage and interact with each other based on a set of shared experiences, interests and challenges.
If you’ve not achieved this level of customer engagement quite yet, here are some tips to consider as part of your marketing strategy.
Involve your customers
User-Generated Content (UGC) is certainly one avenue to explore. The battle to be noticed in the age of content saturation makes it harder for traditional content to stand out. And based on the notion of peer recommendations and the power of social proof, many brands are teaming up with users and customers to create authentic content which is uniquely aligned to the goals of other customers.
User-generated content is a powerful aspect of online engagement and isn't reserved for B2C brands. B2B brands can harness customer advocacy by reposting blogs, testimonials and case studies - to name a few.
It’s also worth considering how to involve your customers in the process of creating content and media. Perhaps a podcast, a video, a photo shoot, or an interview with a satisfied buyer?
Bring the community offline
Hosting and running events, awards ceremonies, workshops or seminars are a great way to bring your community together offline.
They not only encourage face-to-face networking and facilitate connections with new prospects, but they help expose your brand to the right audiences.
If your budget is low, could you run a workshop or an event at your premises? Or perhaps a member of your team could offer to present at a local and relevant event?
There are other methods of delivering value to customers and prospects besides blog writing and producing content. This way, you'll put a face to your brand, humanise your teams and encourage that community to form.
Send a newsletter
The beauty of the newsletter is that, on the assumption you're practising due diligence with your data, your lists will be made up of high-quality, engaged contacts who will gratefully receive your emails.
Email marketing is so powerful because it allows you to personalise, tailor and segment your content, further nurturing your contacts and building on your sense of community.
Personalisation helps to build relationships with followers and subscribers but it’s also a tactic that can be utilised to help maintain a community environment.
To keep your community alive you must contribute your two pence in the form of useful, consistent content such as blog articles, tutorials, videos etc.
A regular newsletter schedule combined with the delivery of valuable content, updates and invitations, or exclusive discounts and trials allows subscribers to feel prioritised and nurtured.
Think of this as the fuel that ignites your community - invite and encourage subscribers to comment on, share and discuss the content on your social platforms. Offer talking points, answer questions and promote your users’ experiences.
Run a social media campaign
If appropriate, set up your social media channels for conversations around a topic of relevance or importance. Consult your buyer personas to help make a decision on what those topics could be. This is an excellent way to get your community conversing with each other and learning about others' experiences with your product or brand. Plus, it's free and simple to execute - sometimes all you need is a hashtag.
One great example is automation company, MailChimp, who have created a community through their Instagram platform.
Their campaign runs off the back of hashtags #shopsmall #smallbusinessweek which pertains to a shared challenge among their customers - most of whom are small business owners. Small business owners have flocked to use the hashtag on their own platforms, garnering an increase in interactions and engagement.
The campaign is supported with helpful blog content, and likely referenced in their newsletters too. MailChimp has an opportunity here to segment and tailor their content towards those who run small and large businesses, sending more targeted content based on their needs.
Use your culture
This may be my last point, but it is in no way the least important. In fact, this step will be primary in your strategy.
Think about how you’re viewed by outsiders: how do they perceive your team, your culture and your values?
Millennials are sold on companies that are aligned to their moral values, and culture is a huge deciding factor for them when considering whether to buy. And since half of the working population is set to be millennials by 2020, it’s worth taking note of what is important to them.
Mailchimp pretty much nails this yet again. One branch of that culture is their bike culture, which encourages employees to cycle to work more.
"Many of our 800 employees bike to work, so we built a bike room that boasts storage for more than 100 bikes, as well as locker rooms with showers so our employees could freshen up before starting their day."
These actions will undoubtedly appeal to their audiences. Think small business owners, environmentally conscious millennials and fitness enthusiasts - who will likely share these values.
A sense of culture and community will always be held in high regard by B2B prospects and customers. Chances are they're about to make a large investments which is reliant on a long-standing relationship with you. Being part of something bigger, such as your community, is a unique selling point that could put you ahead of competitors.