“I have only one purpose, to serve the community. Everything else will follow through.” – Ralph T. Scurfield.
The late Ralph T. Scurfield was truly ahead of his time. He was the legendary Calgary entrepreneur who, in addition to co-owning the Calgary Flames and establishing Sunshine Village, was the founder of Nu-West homes. In the 80s and 90s, he built entire subdivisions of affordable family homes in Alberta and Ontario. Not only did he construct houses, but he also made sure these subdivisions were equipped with parks, rec centers, and hockey arenas. He didn’t just create neighbourhoods; he created communities where people could interact.
The idea was to create neighbourhoods where residents didn’t feel isolated. They could connect with friends and neighbours at their local gathering spaces. They could also talk about their Nu-West homes, what they liked, what they didn’t like, and discuss issues like warranty repairs. United by their Nu-West home connection, they built and cultivated a community.
Thirty-plus years later, online communities provide much of that same interaction. They are places where people can discuss their shared experiences with various brands. These online communities provide companies with growth opportunities. By tapping them, they can increase brand awareness, learn more about their customers, and, in turn, build brand loyalty.
Build a brand, and the community will follow
So how do you start an online community for your brand? Experts will tell you to let it grow organically and feed it with interesting content. You can foster this audience by creating events, getting involved with local issues and being involved with your local community. Give them a reason to participate and provide their input. It’s a two-way street, but be ready to play the long game – building a community requires time and effort.
Here in Calgary, apparel company Local Laundry has done a great job of fostering its online community. They give back to local charities and create items that capture the spirit of the city and its people. They also check the box for providing interesting and engaging content. The founder of Local Laundry, Connor Curran, realized the value of building a community early on.
“It was important for us to create an online community because (a) we couldn’t afford to build our own physical space when we first started, so everything had to live online, and (b) we wanted our messaging to expand beyond just the Calgary area. We saw how we could connect with others from around the world who share our similar values.”
Marketers know the importance of brand awareness because it’s the all-important first step of the sales funnel. Customers enter a funnel because of what they see, hear, and feel. Do you know what helps them get there? Word of mouth.
In the 1970s, there was a famous TV commercial for shampoo where the spokesmodel said, “I told two friends about Fabergé Organic Shampoo, and they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on…” The screen splits into smaller and smaller screens as the line gets repeated. The ad inspired political scientist James Fowler to write his dissertation about the power of social networks and how the influence of a few can change hundreds, if not thousands, of people’s opinions.
The key takeaway is this: never underestimate the power of word of mouth. According to Invesp, it drives $6 trillion of annual consumer spending. Furthermore, 90% of people are more likely to trust and buy from a brand recommended by a friend or colleague.
Get inside the minds of your customers
People tend to be more unfiltered in a community setting. They are not taking part in a formal company survey, so they are far more honest regarding feedback. Connor Curran uses this dialogue as a more honest gauge of their Local Laundry clothing line:
“Without feedback from our followers and customers, we die. When people use social platforms to voice their thoughts and opinions, we see it as an opportunity to learn, empathize, and better understand how we can help them or solve their needs.”
A loyal customer is a repeat customer
In marketing, loyalty is king. It’s what keeps customers as repeat customers. Don’t take them for granted. Customers loyal to your brand are less likely to switch their allegiance to a competitor, even if it’s costing them more to stick with you. Researchers show that loyal customers spend 31% more than new customers and are 50% more likely to purchase your new products or services. Be grateful for them!
Growing your community means growing your base of loyal customers. Ensure you consistently provide engaging content and events and promote it on your social channels. If you stay invested in your community, they’ll remain invested in you.
Give your business a LIFT.
When it comes to building a community of loyal customers, you have to start with strategy and ensure you have a solid understanding of who your customers are and what delights them. If you’re ready to dig in, check out our LIFT program. LIFT provides business owners with a marketing strategy, implementation plan, audience personas, and competitive analysis. Over eight weeks, we’ll dig into your business together and help you build the strategic marketing foundation you need to overcome obstacles, capture opportunities, and achieve your business goals.