What is a community marketing strategy?
A community marketing strategy might sound like the latest buzzword in the world of marketing, but it’s also become a crucial part of the buyer journey.
Let’s face it. Today’s customers have more power than ever before. From immediate access to the products and services they’re interested in, the ability to leave feedback on review sites and spying on social media, customers are so much better informed. than they used to be. As a result, brands have been forced to transform their marketing strategies and focus their efforts on building meaningful relationships which are driven by two-way conversation.
The need for social interaction isn’t a luxury – it’s a fundamental need. Thanks to the rise of technology and having a strong sense of connectedness, customers can now have a very real impact on the brands they do business with. Companies can contribute to this sense of belonging by building a community marketing strategy that prioritises meaningful engagement over conventional mass advertising.
Consider your community marketing strategy, a way to engage your audience in a non-intrusive, transparent and conversational way.
1. Reduce your dependency on paid advertising
Though many inbound marketing gurus boldly claim that paid advertising is dead, companies are increasing their investment in paid search and social media by 10% year-over-year. While undoubtedly still effective in certain situations, paid advertising presents some big challenges that are often hard to overcome. We live in an age of banner blindness where customers are growing tired of intrusive advertising and machines are constantly playing catch-up as they try to better guess what sort of ads people want to see. This has given rise to serious concerns about privacy which, in turn, puts the brands relying on paid ads in a perilous position. Add regulations like GDPR into the equation, and paid advertising becomes an even more uncertain landscape.
That’s not to say a community marketing strategy is necessarily a fix-all solution. It takes time and effort to build a group of engaged members, but it also gives brands the opportunity to capitalise on the fundamental human need for social interaction. That’s something that will never change, and in an age when people are more connected than ever before, community marketing fast becomes an obvious need. As has always been the case, people are motivated by emotions, which makes it far more likely that customers will respond to real social interactions than paid ads that disrupt them as they vie for attention.
2. Increase customer retention through ongoing engagement
Customers are spoiled for choice to a degree that was unimaginable just a few decades ago. One sub-par experience or a handful of band reviews on Facebook is often all it takes for them to start looking elsewhere. With consumer review platforms dominating purchase decisions, it has become harder for brands to retain their customers. They need to create switching barriers that give people more reasons to stay. Naturally, a lot of that comes with having a great product or service, but that’s not the whole story. Consider, for example, the fact that most iPhone users will never consider buying an Android-powered device. They’re loyal to the brand, not because iPhones are better as such, but because the brand itself has become part of their identities.
When you use a brand community to create a strong social experience for your customers, they don’t just become loyal to the brand – they become members of a group of like-minded individuals. They become loyal to one another as well, members of a club that gives them a sense of belonging. Brand communities work thanks to the psychological effects of mutually beneficial relationships in which brands empower their customers with a voice and two-way conversation thrives. With a combination of network-based marketing and direct sales, brands can deliver better customer experience and increase retention rates substantially.
3. Give your customers a voice in the direction of your business
More than ever, customer success drives brand success. The more your customers can get out of your product or service, the easier it will be to retain them and inspire brand advocacy. Thanks to the power of community marketing, brands no longer need to conduct costly outreach programmes to learn more about customer sentiment. Instead of simply hoping that people will leave helpful and positive reviews or complete lengthy customer satisfaction surveys, an online community gives them a space where they can connect directly with the brand in the confidence that someone will be listening to them.
Successful brands are no longer driven by educated guesswork. They’re driven directly by the feedback and participation of their customers. When you can empower your customers with a voice in the direction of your brand and the development of its value proposition, they become part of the team. They’re the sort of customers who become brand advocates, evangelising your business and, in the process, spending on average twice as much as other customers. At the same time, your product research and development teams can use your community as a one-stop shop for collective knowledge, while support teams can help resolve more common issues in less time.
4. Sell directly to your community
The perfect example of a plain terrible social media brand page is one where there’s a constant barrage of sales pitches. Yet, too many businesses still use their communities for bombarding their members with advertisements in the hope that the numbers alone will yield results. That’s where advertising becomes spamming. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t sell directly to your community. What it does mean is that you need to give your customers the option to buy with as little friction as possible. Disruptive advertising is on the way out, but if your members have a way to make purchases through your community app or forum, then it’s simply a matter of making things easier for them. And, the easier the process is, the more likely they’ll buy.
Today’s social media marketing teams often apply the 60/30/10 rule, whereby 60% of what they post is engaging content, 30% is shared from other sources and just 10% is promotion- or sales-driven. The same rule may be applied to community marketing. With your own private brand community, you’re also not subject to the limitations of public platforms like Facebook Shop. Instead, you can provide a fully customised experience that incorporates features like in-app purchases, subscriptions, and exclusive discount codes.