How to Build a Community Into Your Business: A Guide for Small Business Owners
Creating a sense of belonging is key to keeping members coming back time and time again. It’s also the type of thing that can take your business from good to great. In this blog post, we’ll give you some ideas on how you can build a community into your business and keep patrons coming back again and again.
A meaningful connection with your customers will also open up new opportunities for your business -- whether it's bringing in more foot traffic, making it easier to sell advance tickets, or expanding into new markets.
Why Does Community Matter?
A community is more than just a group of people. It’s a place where people can share their experiences, connect with others, and feel like they belong.
Strong communities can create a lot of value for those who participate: Research shows that people who are more involved in their communities are happier, healthier, and more satisfied with their lives than those who aren’t.
Community engagement also provides benefits for businesses. Businesses that engage with and provide value to their communities (such as through charity partnerships or by listening to feedback) are more likely to see an increase in brand loyalty and foot traffic, which can translate into higher sales and profits.
How to Build a Community Into Your Business
First, you need to identify the type of community you want to build. Every type of business can benefit from one of the following community types:
Fan Communities - These are built around the love of a particular product or service. You’ll find fan communities in businesses like sports teams, museums, bands, or online magazines.
Customer Communities - These are built around solving problems, answering questions, and providing advice. You’ll find them in businesses like consulting firms, financial advisors, and information websites.
Member Communities - These are built around creating a sense of belonging among people with a shared identity. You’ll find them in businesses like charities, professional associations, and social clubs.
Offer Something for Everyone
One of the best ways to build a community is to offer something for everyone. It doesn’t matter if your business sells products or services: you can still offer value to your members through things like discounts, insider information, or expert advice.
This could mean offering special discounts to people who come to your events or opening your online ticketing system to customers who can’t make it to the show in person.
It could also mean providing in-depth information on your website or in online discussion forums, or hosting conferences and meetups where you teach others what you know.
Whatever you do, make sure it’s valuable -- and that it applies to as many people as possible. The more people who feel like they get something out of your business, the stronger your community will be.
Host Regular Events (and Announce Them)
Another great way to build a community is to host regular events. This could be anything from open mic nights to craft fairs, to book clubs, or even trivia nights.
For these events, make sure to post them on your website and social media. This will help create a sense of community by not only drawing people into your space, but also by making it easier for people who don’t live nearby to join in.
Regular events also make it easier to keep customers coming back. Eventually, some people will become members of your community -- and when they do, it will be even harder for them to leave.
Ask for Feedback and Ratings
To strengthen your relationship with your customers, ask for feedback on your services and products. You can do this in a variety of ways, from sending out surveys to hosting online discussion forums where people can give their opinions.
For example, you could host a monthly “hangout” on Facebook where you invite customers to discuss your products or services, or you could create a section on your website where members can leave feedback about your offerings.
By regularly collecting feedback, you’ll be able to understand what your customers want, how they use your products, and what they would change -- and you’ll be able to respond to their needs more quickly. This will help you make your business stronger over time, and it will also make your customers feel valued.
Guide People to Your Business Through Marketing
As your community grows, you’ll want to make it easier for people to visit your business. This can be done through marketing: Offer special discounts and/or freebies to members of your community (such as discounts for people who book appointments online or free samples for people who sign up for your mailing list).
You can also add special codes and symbols to your website, social media pages, and marketing materials to let people know when they’re in your community.
For example, if you’re a bakery, you could offer a code for “free samples” on your website and social media pages, and you could display a symbol on your front door to let people know that they can get free samples when they walk in.
We hope that this article has inspired you to build your business into a community. Creating a sense of belonging can take your business from good to great, and it can open up lots of new opportunities for you in the process.
Remember, though, that building a community is a long-term strategy. You can’t expect results to happen overnight. In fact, it could take years before you start seeing a difference in your business. But it’s worth it: a strong community can make your business stronger and help you achieve new goals that you previously thought were out of reach.
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