An increasingly connected digital ecosystem that is driven by social media and interactions often leads us to quickly find out everything we want to know about any and every company. This means we can be picky about who we do business with.
But here’s the thing- when customers are deciding where to spend their money, they often listen to what other people they trust have to say. Their opinions matter- a lot.
While the task of convincing not just buyers but also the influencers might seems daunting (and many businesses often find out that it is, in fact, daunting), the few that can break through have an immense opportunity.
Community-led brands often find that the hard metrics quickly fall into place when they focus on making their ecosystem happy. eCommerce has an average CAC of $44, while consumer goods half half of that- both very high costs in an industry where the per unit price often runs in the single digit. The creation of a community ensures that repeat purchases are higher, consumer buy products without necessarily needing to be advertised to, and brands can build sustainable, cash-flow-positive busibnesses.
Yet, building a thriving brand community requires more than just offering a quality product or service; it demands a strategic approach. You’ve got to reach out, share stuff that matters, and tell stories that connect.
The right approach to community building then, is to look at them not as a marketing investment, but as a core element of the business and its purpose.
The Power of Co-creation
Gone are the days of straightforward transactions between shoppers and businesses. It used to be as simple as heading to a store when you needed something. Maybe sometimes you’d receive the occasional coupon promising you the best deals, but that was mostly it when it came to active communication.
Fast forward to today, and it is a whole new ball game. An era of passive consumerism has given rise to this dynamic relationship, wherein companies don’t just want customers; they want fans, enthusiasts, and active participants. They’re not satisfied with you simply buying their products; they want you to be part of their world.
Community-building may require effort and resources up front, but the long-term payoff is huge. While traditional marketing interrupts people with self-serving messages, the community pulls people in by creating value. And when you build community the right way – with transparency, authenticity, and a shared purpose – people will willingly spread your message for you.
The Role of Brand-led Communities
From a business standpoint, communities are more than just a sense of belonging. They are like a digital watering hole where people gather to share their thoughts and passions. Obtaining loyalty is what you need to wholeheartedly direct your efforts towards.
Think about Harley Davidson, for example. It’s a way of life. Harley riders aren’t just customers; they’re a part of an iconic brotherhood. They attend rallies, swap stories, and proudly sport the Harley logo.
Or take a sip of that iconic Starbucks latte. It’s not just coffee; it’s a lifestyle. Starbucks didn’t just sell caffeine; it sold the idea of a “third place” between work and home. You walk into a Starbucks, and you’re part of a global coffee-loving club.
So what are some of the ways communities strengthen your brand?
- They provide authentic word-of-mouth marketing. Community members share their genuine experiences with your brand, which is far more believable to potential new customers than brand-created marketing.
- They give valuable feedback and insights. Engaged community members will provide honest feedback about what they like and don’t like.
- They reinforce your brand identity. The conversations, content, and overall vibe of your community will reflect your brand’s values and mission. This constant reinforcement strengthens your brand in the minds of members and casual onlookers.
- They foster a sense of belonging. By building a community where people feel like they belong, you’re giving customers an emotional connection to your brand that transcends any single product or service.
So whether it’s a skincare routine or a trendy shoe collection, these brand communities are not just places for interaction- they are engines that power brand success in the digital age.
Tips for Brands Looking to Embrace Community-first Ideas
Start with Why
Ask yourself why you want to build a community in the first place. Is it to increase brand awareness, drive sales, get feedback or something else? Having a clear purpose will help guide your strategy and messaging.
While community building is often used as a buzzword, building and maintaining an active community requires a formidable amount of patience and a genuine desire to create something bigger than the brand itself.
Don’t expect people to join your community just because you built it. Offer content, experiences and connections that provide real value to members.
These could be exclusive perks, behind-the-scenes access, or opportunities to shape your future products and services- especially a big one for software services and other products of long-term use.
Always remember to tie this shared value back to your own core metric. If you want to build a brand that is profitable early on, you need to be focusing on earn vs. spend every quarter, and how these efforts can help you optimise your spends.
Engage Your Audience
Engagement is key to building a thriving community. Once you have members, keep them engaged. Share questions and polls to spark discussion. Highlight inspiring community stories.
Create shareable branded hashtags, photo frames, and stickers. But always ask yourself, “What’s the one thing people come here for, and how can I give them more of that?”
Build A Moat
Today’s thriving community could become tomorrow’s dead Slack channel, and you don’t want that. This is where identifying your competitive advantage, and working hard to retain it, comes into the picture.
Often, the best way to find out what makes your community unique is to just ask the people in it. Some people prefer to workout in a core, non-judgmental space, and this is where brands like BlissClub filled a gap. Some others needed to make their travel look better, and so Mokobara was born.
A keen look at the business moats for these two brands shows that while one focuses quite heavily on digital engagement to decide what to make and sell, the other focuses on creating and launching visually interesting and utilitarian products.
At MALOKA, this is one aspect we spend a significant amount of time discussing with all of our early stage founders- why you, why this, and why now. If you have a community-led product idea, do contact us to brainstorm further and find out how you can grow your idea sustainably.