Dornubari Vizor April 17, 2020

All You Need to Know About Customer Community

Building a customer community has become one of the hot topics and the most powerful marketing strategies in the last couple of years. Whether you’re a community manager or a business owner, being familiar with this concept and everything it entails is a must if you don’t want to be phased out. More importantly, you need to know how to grow a strong customer community and how to do it properly.

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This is something to think about right away when you start developing your long-term business strategy. Customer communities require commitment for you to reap all the benefits they bring. We are here to tell you more about why a customer community is important. We will also tell you how to build one and make it strong. Finally, we will explain how to differentiate between a customer and a brand community. But before we do all that, let us address the most significant question for a start — what is a customer community?

What Is Customer Community?

The main purpose of a customer community is to gather all your existing and potential consumers. It is a place where they can discuss a product or a service, ask questions, and look for reliable answers. Nowadays, most communities are built online. But, as we’ll see later on in this blog, the old-fashioned in-person meeting is also still desirable.

There are many different types of communities, serving different purposes and built on different platforms. Whatever your purpose or your chosen platform is, be sure that building a customer community is crucial for your business development. Whether you choose Slack or you go for another platform, what’s important is that you do create a platform where your customers can all join. This is beneficial for your business just as much as it is for them.

Why Is Customer Community Important for Your Business?

In case you are wondering, Why is the customer community important? let us stop you for a second and correct you – you’d better ask yourself Why not? We live in an era when everything revolves around customers and your own business practically depends on them. Thus, the customer community is important for several crucial aspects.

From brand awareness to customer success and so much in between, there’s so much good that the customer community can bring to your business. According to Forbes, it is the customer community that helps you show your corporate values both to your existing customers and, more importantly, to the prospects.

Plus, when they join a community, your customers think of you as approachable. They don’t shy away from asking questions, commenting and brainstorming. This, in turn, helps you develop your business.

By being active members of your customer community, consumers help you increase brand awareness and brand loyalty. They also help you learn more about their needs and expectations. But how, you may wonder, does this happen exactly? Let’s take a closer look at how your business can benefit from building a customer community.

Raising Brand Awareness

According to Insight, people are as much as 84% more likely to trust a brand if someone recommends it. And customer communities are an excellent place for them to learn more about your brand. When customers are fond of a brand, they gladly share it with others. So, there’s your best tool for raising brand awareness. Whenever you wonder how to increase brand awareness, remember that word-of-mouth still remains the most powerful tool.

Namely, one of the best ways to raise brand awareness through customer communities is to turn the community members into your brand ambassadors. To make sure that happens, you need to motivate your existing members.

For instance, theSkimm, a popular media company providing newsletter, rewards their customers for spreading the good word. So, you, too, could think of some kind of reward that would do the trick with your loyal customers (depending on your industry). Use your customer community to get customer referrals or generate brand awareness.

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Increasing Brand Loyalty

As previously mentioned, customer communities can help you show your core values. But it is not just about showing them. You need to stay true to your brand values all along. That, in turn, is sure to increase brand loyalty among customers.

According to this research published in Harvard Business Review, “brand loyalty starts with shared values.” Your customer community enables you to communicate with your consumers directly. Thus, you can use the community to share your values with them and then prove consistency. Customers stay loyal to brands that show consistency in quality and values.

If you fail to do so, it will cost you a lot. And losing loyal community members is the last thing you need. One of the best examples for this is how Pepsi lost Cola war Against Coke due to poor brand management and constant shifts in core values.

According to Social Media Link, one of five ways to increase brand loyalty is to cultivate a long-lasting relationship between your brand and consumers. To make it last long, your relationship needs to be meaningful. Show your customer community members that your brand is worth being loyal to. Do so by letting them know that their opinion is of great importance for the brand’s future. Listen to what they have to say as members of the community.

For instance, we can see how the founder and CEO of Insightly, Anthony Smith emphasizes how building lifelong customer relationships helps increase brand loyalty. Namely, the company monitored the products their customers used the most to improve those. They also addressed all their concerns along the way. This has helped them get to know their consumers better and, thus, build stronger relationships. And all that combined eventually helped with brand loyalty.

Don’t ever underestimate the power of special offers, either. Give your customer community members offers such as coupons or a mere chance to sample a product or beta test a new feature. It will show them that you care about them. When they know that they matter, they are more likely to stay loyal to your brand. It’s that simple.

Statistics show that 74% of loyalty program participants say that they are more willing to buy from a company that offers a loyalty program than the one that doesn’t. Take advantage of your customer community to introduce such a program. It will help you find out what your customers think about it.

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Customer Discovery

As Steve Blank, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, put it, “Customer discovery is not sales. Customer discovery is a lot of listening, and not a lot of talking.” And what makes a great place where you can listen to what customers have to say? You guessed it — what better than a customer community, right?  As it is stated in the case study Customer Integration with Virtual Communities, “communities are a perfect place to listen to the consumer.”

The very idea of customer discovery is to get to know your customers. Find out what they think, how they feel, what they like or dislike, what their needs and expectations are. Based on these findings, you get to learn whether your product will suit them or not. In a way, you can predict their reactions to it. To some extent, at least.

One of the ways to get to know your customers is to make them participate. For instance, Francesca Krihely, senior manager at MongoDB, empowered their community members to write about their use of the software. It proved to be a useful way of learning more about their experience with this product.

You can, of course, use surveys and form focus groups, too. However, when you’re learning about your customers through communities, it happens more naturally. Your existing and potential customers tell you about themselves spontaneously. Thus, their reactions are more likely to be true. People answer and react differently when they are aware that they are being studied.

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Customer Success

When you get to know your customers better, it’s time to think about customer success. With enough knowledge, you will be able to predict the potential challenges that your customers may face in the future. Customer success revolves around anticipating any concerns or issues and then acting proactively.

When you solve anything troubling them, customers appreciate it big time. So imagine how much they’re going to appreciate it when you solve problems before they even arise. By doing this, you are sure to keep your customers happy and satisfied. And happy customers are the key to your business success. So, it’s a win-win.

A good example would be Gainsight, a software company. They use their own software to process relevant data that indicate that a customer is likely to cancel their services. So, when they notice that a customer is unhappy or inactive, they act proactively by supporting and encouraging the customer in question.

To make sure your community members actually see the helpful content you prepared for them, it needs to be easily accessible. You can create a separate category for this purpose or you post it in the form of recommended content. It’s up to you. The bottom line is that the content can be found easily. Otherwise, customers will simply ask for an answer. In that case, your whole effort to act proactively goes in vain.

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How to Build a Customer Community?

If you’re wondering how to build a community, we are here to help you out. One of the most efficient ways of achieving superb results when developing a strong customer community content strategy is to set your goals.

If you don’t have a clear and straightforward goal of the community, your customers will feel that. When you set your goals right from the beginning, the consumers are more likely to find the community useful and helpful. This is why they looked for a community to join in the first place, right?

Whether you’re new to this or you need some additional help, let us walk you through. Here are a couple of the most important steps to take to build a customer community.

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Inspire and Engage Your Audience

To start with, it is crucial that you make sure that your audience is always inspired and engaged. You need to put in some effort and use community engagement strategies to ensure a positive outcome. From getting to know your community, through high-quality content, to collaboration with other communities, there’s so much you can do to achieve this.

For instance, The Giving Keys, a jewelry company in LA, found a way to engage their customers through their strong mission. And their mission is to employ people transitioning out of homelessness. So, a strong and meaningful mission inspires and engages customers.

There are also many different things you can do to energize and inspire your community. To start with, you need to “connect with them in an authentic, human way.” How you lay the foundation will shape all your future connections. So, it’s crucial that you do it right.

If you’re new to this, you may find it useful to check out some tips to help you get better at audience engagement. Pay special attention to the content. Ask questions to know what’s on their mind. Make sure that they are not left indifferent. And then, when you repeatedly meet your customers’ expectations, you keep them engaged.

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Why Business Owners Should Join Discussions

Being an active member of your community discussions is particularly important in the early days. Managing customer communities becomes less demanding as time goes by. In terms of your presence. In any other sense, it requires just as much or even more attention.

You, as a business owner, need to show that you care enough about your customers to join the community yourself. Be there to address their doubts and concerns. When they hear the answer from you, they’ll find it more reliable. As a result, they’ll find your brand, too, trustworthy.

You should be there to answer questions. But it is also a good idea to be the one who starts a discussion every once in a while. Customers love it when they feel appreciated as a part of the development process. And this is one of the most effective ways to show them that.

Among other reasons why every entrepreneur needs to join an online community, there’s also a chance to build B2B relationships. Plus, this is an excellent opportunity to learn something new yourself.

Consider Getting Together Offline

Yes, we live in the digital age. And we’re used to getting things done online. It almost goes without saying that customer communities are built online. But what if you got together in person from time to time?

A simple meet-up goes a long way. You can also organize a workshop or hold a customer conference. You might even think of some other event that you believe will be of interest to your particular audience. Whatever you go for eventually, remember one thing — you are doing this to spark your customers’ interest, not to sell them your product.

According to HubSpot, your online marketing can benefit a lot from building an offline community. No matter how convenient online communities are for various reasons, let’s not forget that we are, after all, humans. Customers are sure to develop stronger bonds with each other when they meet in person. This makes the entire community stronger.

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Collect Feedback from Your Customers through Surveys

You need to be sure that you don’t miss out on anything that your customers think and feel about your products or services. Thus, it is essential that you hear them out. That’s when collecting customer feedback comes in handy. That way, not only do they feel more appreciated, but you also get to hear straight from the horse’s mouth what to incorporate in the future.

According to the study The Power of Positive Surveying published in Harvard Business Review, surveys can even be used to promote customers’ satisfaction. Namely, the idea is that you form your surveys and questionnaires in a way to give your customers a chance to give positive feedback, too.

Most surveys ask customers about what they were not satisfied with. That way, it all ends with their complaints. But when you lead them to give you some positive feedback, too, that increases the chances of them coming back for more.

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What Makes a Strong Customer Community?

When you start building a community, the very first steps you take can affect the final outcome to a great extent. In other words, how you set it up at the beginning has a direct impact on your success in making your community strong and trusted. So, let’s see what you need to pay attention to in order to develop a thriving community.

Suitable Platform

Picking the right platform is of utmost importance to allow your customers to interact and communicate without any disturbances. This platform is supposed to be vibrant enough to keep people coming back to it. On the other hand, it should also be simple to use. It should also have quick access to FAQs and answers. Give them what they came for right away.

Furthermore, you should also choose a platform where you can have a personalized feed. Customers expect you to deliver content based on their interests and preferences. To achieve that, you need a smart, self-service platform.

What platform you’re going to use will depend on several factors. Some of these include the following:

  • Your industry
  • Number of members
  • The platform where they are likely to have accounts already
  • The type of platform your target customers are usually familiar with
  • The type of platform they check to look for solutions to work-related issues

For instance, some might go for Facebook or Patreon. But if you don’t find these options suitable, there are other solutions. Don’t forget that there are various useful Facebook group alternatives, as well as Patreon alternatives. Other commonly used platforms include LinkedIn, Slack, Discord, etc.

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Useful Metrics

Designing metrics for online customer communities is another crucial step you need to take to make a strong community. When it comes to metrics, you need to know what you’re measuring and why. You don’t need just any data collected. So, try to focus on particular pieces of information. You need data that will show you the correlation between the customer community and your business success.

Here are some useful metrics to follow to get the real picture of how successful your online community is:

  • Content consumption
  • Community vibrancy
  • Engagement
  • Customer satisfaction
  • The number of active/new users
  • Retention

When you measure these and other metrics relevant to your business, you can use the results as tools for taking your community to the next level. If you still find yourself having trouble with metrics, one of the golden rules to follow is to align the metrics with your business goals.

Customer Community vs. Brand Community

Even though some of their aspects do overlap, the customer community and brand community are not essentially interchangeable terms. To make a difference, think of a customer community as the source of answers. It’s where they look for help when faced with a problem. Brand community, on the other hand, is where customers share their admiration for a particular brand.

The main reason why people join a customer community is to be a part of a group of people who can help them. They are drawn here by the need for a solution. You can then use customer communities to raise brand awareness. But your brand is rarely the reason why they looked your online community up.

It is important that you keep your brand promotion low in customer communities. Always remember the fundamental reason why people are there. If they come for answers and help and you disappoint them, you won’t get the chance to see them turn into your brand advocates.

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What Is Brand Community?

You want to understand how beneficial a brand community can be for your business? First, you need to understand what a brand community actually is. One definition that puts it quite clearly reads as follows:

“It refers to a community that formed on the basis of attachment to a product or brand and built upon shared values, common interest, and connections.” (Handbook of Research on Managerial Thinking in Global Business Economics)

You need to understand this concept to know why you need such a community. But you also need to grasp it fully to be able to build it to start with. Getting brand communities right will help you draw up an effective strategy.

You are building a brand community for future members. Always remember that. Their needs and expectations should be your primary guidelines. You and the community are there to serve them. The benefits you get from that are just a result showing that you did a good job.

An excellent example of a brand community would be Lego Ideas. This community consists of lego enthusiasts who can join to give their own design ideas. They also leave feedback and vote. Then, the most popular ideas go to market.

A clear example of a customer community, on the other hand, would be American Express Community. Customers join it to seek help from a professional for questions or issues with their account.

How Brand Communities Engage Customers

According to Inc., brand communities are the answer to engaging a new generation of consumers. Namely, brand communities allow you to turn your existing customers into brand ambassadors. In a way, you get to thank them for spreading the good word about your product or service. This, in turn, attracts new community members.

Another important thing to emphasize to engage customers is your brand’s strong mission. Be transparent about what you are trying to advocate. That way, people know what they are supporting through your brand. So, transparency plays a vital role in engaging customers.

For instance, Traditional Medicinals has a successful brand community called Plant Power Journal. What makes it successful is how it engages customers. They do this by offering DIY ideas and recipes, as well as encouraging feedback.

If we take DietBetter, we can see how anonymity helped engage their customer community members. This is an excellent example of how anonymity can prove to be beneficial. Especially if you decide to build a community around such a sensitive topic.

It might be challenging to build a brand community and propel its growth in the beginning. But you can be sure that the effort you put in will pay off in the long run.

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In a Nutshell

As you can see, customer communities bring a wide range of benefits. Both to you as a business owner and your customers. You want your business to thrive. And they want to have a place where they can find assistance and reliable information. Want to kill two birds with one stone? Build a strong customer community!

Be sure you follow the crucial steps to make sure your online community is strong and vibrant enough to make customers want to come back. When your early community members are satisfied, it will be a matter of time when the number of members starts rising. And remember, with the rising number of customers comes a number of brand ambassadors, too.

Finally, always keep in mind that you need to learn about your customers over and over again. Then, act accordingly. Take advantage of your customer community to learn everything you need to know about them. But don’t ever forget one thing. Whatever you do, your primary goal should be to help the consumers and meet their expectations. The customer comes first, right?  

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