We are going to talk all about how building a community is a phenomenal way to not only grow your business and grow your brand but really to build a movement bring people together, connect people in an incredible way, and to really fulfill the mission behind your business. And you guys have missions behind your business, right? I know you do out there watching live so let's talk about why this is truly an incredible time to be building a community around your business, for your business, with your business, on the side of your business, however you wanna do, and we're gonna talk about all of those things. First off, anyone remember Prodigy? Do you remember Prodigy? I do, because Prodigy is what introduced me to what would become the internet. Back in the day, we're talking, like, 92, at this point, which, I was 10 years old, it seems like a very long time ago, so what is that, 25 years ago, we got a disk, my family got a disk in the mail, floppy disk, we were talking about this right b...
efore we went live. We got a disk in the mail, you popped it in your computer and they gave you two weeks free, or a month free, and your computer modem made that awful sound, I'm not gonna try and reproduce it, other people are much better at it. But when we got logged in to Prodigy and I got introduced to being connected, the opportunity to be connected with people all over the world, it was an absolutely life-changing experience. I can remember going into those chat rooms that we used to do back in the day and I'd go into the kids chat room and sometimes I'd go into the Star Trek chat room. (audience laughs) Or the forums that were there and I'd talk to people and that we had user names and it was so cool. And then you know later we moved on to AOL or whoever would send us free internet in the mail that was who we used. And so I grew up in this incredibly formative period of my life being connected to people all over the world and having conversations with people I would never meet in real life. And I grew up with this feeling of there really being a neighborhood, a community for me, on the internet. And when I was in college, that kept going, I started blogging in 2003, and I was, again, just completely taken with the opportunity to write something and have people all over the world see it and connect, and have conversations in the comments, or on the side, or via email, and I knew that the internet was everything I wanted to do, and be, and create in life. And so later on as I was not on the internet or not kind of immersed in the internet for a while after college and kind of getting started in my career at the time I felt kind of disconnected from the rest of the world but then, but then, I had a kid, this was 2008 now, I had a kid, and I decided, well, I've got this kid, I really should check out that Facebook thing that everyone's on, right? Because if I was on Facebook then I can post pictures of my kid and that would be really awesome and so again I became immersed in the promise of community online. Whether it was Facebook, or it was Twitter, or it was Pinterest, or Instagram, or whatever platform of choice we've had in the 10 years since. That promise of community, that promise of connection, that promise of meeting amazing people like you guys, and like you out there has been an integral part of my life, and my vision, my dream, and I have a feeling for you guys it has been a similar journey. These tools that we have now these application, these platforms, create such an incredible opportunity for each and every one of us whether we're talking about business opportunities, or personal opportunities, and I've seen the internet, and the communities it creates works wonders on both sides of things. But I also know that the community-building on the internet is changing a good deal, right? This last year, this last two years especially, we have been bombarded with a lot of things we don't wanna see a lot of conversations that feel very off, very weird, very gross. We've seen the manipulation that can happen on those spaces that we've really trusted to create community for us and really it kind of looks like a whole smattering billboard-y thing that's just like, where do I belong? Which is the right piece for me? Where is what I want to see? Where are the people I want to connect with? Because even though all of Facebook or all of Pinterest or all of Instagram might look like this giant billboard really all we want is right up here, in that one little corner, right? There's just that one little note that one little postcard, that one little call for help, that one little, hey, I'd like to meet someone who... Kind of thing. That's what we really want, right? And that's why this moment, this time, right here, right now, is such an incredible time to build a community around your business, around your interest, around who you are, around a mission, a purpose, a vision for something bigger, and that's what this class is all about. Now my friend Chris Guillebeau, who's another CreativeLive instructor, he's a New York Times bestselling author of a number of things, he said this to me in an interview on Profit Power Pursuit a couple of years ago, he said, "I would say the next big thing is small, "and far, far more focused on connecting "with much more intentional, smaller groups "and going deeper than going broader." I believe this is what more and more and more of the people you meet online want every single day. They want that space where they truly feel like they belong. And not like they're just another part of the algorithm. And this is the opportunity that each and every one of our businesses has today. I'm not gonna say it's right for every single business and I'll tell you more about that as we move on. But I think it is an opportunity that more and more of us can and should be taking advantage of and over the course of this class I'm gonna show you exactly how to do that and how it can fit into your business but we are gonna put the focus on community building here. Another thing that's really interesting about the market right now and why this is such a beautiful time not just for creating something more intentional, smaller, deeper, instead of broader, and bigger, and constantly more, more, more, more, more, is because there's a fascinating trend happening economically where people are willing to spend more and more money on experiences and on information. So a lot of us have been in the information marketing space for awhile and a lot of us have been in the experience marketing space for awhile. I think probably each of you guys in the audience here could find yourself maybe not securely in one or the other of those groups but you could identify with one or the other of those groups in one way or another. I'm gonna argue that community building as it pertains to your business is really the intersection of information and experience. That we can create really fully featured immersive experiences online or in person with communities that are built around our business and in those experiences information trades hands in a way that it's never been able to do before. And so when we build a community we're building off of this meta trend. And this is really where you come in because this is what you're really good at. I asked you guys right before we went live if you were ready to nerd out with me, right? And you guys were all like, "Yeah, we are so ready to nerd out." Guys, I know, we're all giant nerds here, right? I know you out there also, you're a giant nerd, for whatever it is, that you are really into. And so you've got the information. And it's not just your information but you love getting the nerdy information from everybody else, right? That's the information side. And you love creating those kind of immersive experiences you want people to experience something new to experience the feeling of belonging to experience a sense of relief a sense of pride in the community that they belong to and you create experiences that allow them to do that. This is why this is already in your wheelhouse even if you don't know what you're really getting yourselves into here with this class, I'm gonna tell you right now, this is in your wheelhouse. This is a huge opportunity for you, your business, and, I would say this most importantly, your mission. So many of us I think have some inkling of a mission or maybe you have a very fully formed idea of what your mission is as a business. But what you do to make money or what you do to market yourself or what you do to kind of put yourself out there doesn't feel as connected as it could to what that mission is. And I'm gonna argue that community building is how you can really start to embody the mission behind your business and use it to fuel everything that you do. So let's talk about who this class is really for because as I said it is not necessarily for everybody. I think it's for you guys, it's for you guys watching, but just to be sure, let's take a look. So, this class is perfect for you if you are a small business owner with a mission. Yes, check, okay, good, we covered that one. This class is also perfect for you if you believe in subverting traditional power structures and creating value you get paid for. This is a both and, right? Because a lot of times people think well if I'm gonna be really subversive with my business then I have to let go of the moneymaking part it's almost like a starving artist kind of thing. I'm gonna argue there is a lot of opportunity to do both and community building is the key. So if we can create community we can subvert traditional power structures we can knock down hierarchies we can bring people together in a much more egalitarian way. And at the same time we can create value that we are going to get paid for that our companies get paid for and that comes back to us many, many times over. Alright, I know that one's a bit out there we're gonna talk about this one a little bit more. This class is also perfect for you if you want a better way to find and nurture potential customers or clients. You know maybe you don't really jive with some of the marketing techniques, tactics, strategies that are out there, and, you just love getting real with people. Community building is a phenomenal way to get real with people in a way that they understand or would want to do business with you. And this class is perfect for you if you have high values for transparency openness, honesty, and cooperation. Alright? You guys check off that list? Okay good, we will move on then. Otherwise, I mean, we can end it here. (audience laughs) Alright, so by the end of this class you're gonna have a plan for incorporating a free or paid community into your business. And really the workbooks that you're gonna see all the students using throughout this class this is your plan. So you can go through this workbook which you get when you purchase the class and fill it out, and when the workbook is done, you've got your plan, it's here. The marketing is here, the mission is here, the vision is here, the boundaries, the price, all that good stuff, it's in the workbook, alright? You're going to design the systems and procedures to manage the workload of building a community. Okay, good, I'm so glad that people are smirking right now because they're thinking, okay, this sounds so good, but that is so much work. Yes it is. And there are ways to make it easier on yourself and your team. You're going to identify a clear reason why people will want to join your community. This is harder than it sounds. (laughs) Trust me, been there, done that, but we're gonna work on it I'm gonna to give you hopefully a really clear framework for figuring out what that is or creating experiments around that and you're gonna have a plan for marketing your community. Now I know that a question on a lot of people's minds probably right now is this a class about free communities or is this a class about paid communities? Is this gonna help me to grow my Facebook group that I've made for marketing purposes or is this all about creating membership sites? And I'm gonna say it's about neither. It's about communities, period. Some of you will decide that the community that you're building will be free and available to everyone who wants to join and fits your ideal member ideal and some of you will decide, no, this is a product, this is my core offer, this as a supplemental offer in my business, this is something that people are going to wanna pay for, and I'm gonna fees, membership fees for it. So we're not talking about one or the other and we're not talking about Facebook groups and we're not talking about membership sites although those two things can fall under this umbrella sometimes they do sometimes they don't. What we're talking about here is building community. Connecting people and creating value in the structure of connecting people giving people access to others who have the same interests the same questions, the same problems, the same needs, the same identity that they have. Does that make sense? Okay good. I'm glad, 'cause I don't know how else to explain that. We're gonna do that in four parts. So over the course of these upcoming eight segments of I think it's like 40 lessons we're gonna cover, they kind of fall into four different pieces that's how your workbook is loosely broken up it's how this whole class is broken up. We're gonna start off with foundations. And our first few lessons are going to be on, really, the foundation of what building a community is really all about, why this is the right time, why it's not about you, what this means for your brand, all of that kind of good stuff. That's gonna be this first piece and the reason we have to start there even though it's maybe not as exciting as I would prefer to start class off is because we need to have a shared language a shared understanding of what we're talking about when we're talking about this opportunity for community building in your small business, alright? So that's where we're starting. And in a really soon, upcoming lesson, we're actually gonna have the founder of Mighty Networks, Gina Bianchini, who's gonna join us and talk about her perspective on why now is the right time for your small business to be building community as well and it's really awesome what she has to say I've heard it several times and I'm really thrilled we were able to include it in this class. The next piece is gonna be development we're gonna talk about community development so we're gonna talk about the boundaries that you're gonna put on your community. We're gonna talk about the scope, the vision, who your ideal members are, who belongs, who doesn't belong. We're gonna cover all of that in development and really kind of set the stage for what this community is gonna be. Then we're gonna talk about community management. So that's the day to day workload piece. How do you keep things energized, how do you keep members coming back, how do you get new members to join and what happens when new members join? And then finally we're gonna talk about community and your business and we will talk about why maybe your community should be free, why maybe your community should be something people pay for. We're gonna talk about marketing there we're gonna talk about sales, we'll talk about pricing. So I know there are a lot of... The big questions, the seemingly more pressing questions, for you, that are actually gonna wait until the very, very end and the reason for that is this. If you get hung up on those questions now you will not answer all of the much more important questions that lead you to much clearer answers for those questions that seem more pressing right now. I don't want you to think about whether this community you're building is gonna be free or paid right now. I couldn't care less, you shouldn't care less right now. I want you to put the focus on the community first and then we're gonna figure out how it fits into your business, okay? That's how I've designed this and that's how I really think... If I were to go back and do it again that's how I would do it. (laughs) All right, so now, who am I? 'Cause I've talked a lot about how I got started on the internet and why I think the internet is so cool and why I think communities are so awesome. But I've been playing this community game if we want to call it that which I don't really want to call it that for a long time now. My very first foray into small business and to online business was a website called handmadeinPA.net, I started it nine years ago, January 2009. And it was basically a community blog that brought together artists and makers, designers, in Pennsylvania, the Keystone State, where I live. And it was very much... I was very focused on community. I didn't have a forum, I didn't have a group, I didn't have it this or that, but I was very focused on highlighting people instead of highlighting myself or even highlighting their products. I would write these big long feature interviews about the makers that I was finding and was really intrigued with in Pennsylvania and through these features the artists would connect with each other. And it was incredible. And I'm not saying that as a pat on my back but it was incredible to watch how something as simple as a blog could bring people together, create friendships. I see them on Facebook now the people that we brought together back in they still hang out, they still do shows together, they're still helping each other build their businesses. It's awesome. Now I moved away from that business later that year. Actually sold it over to the Pennsylvania Guilt of Craftsmen and they continued their community building which is really what their organization is about as well and I got more focused on kind of blogging and the hand made space and the independent business space in a more traditional fashion. And from there I got started into business coaching and consulting and business training like I do here on CreativeLive. And I got further, and further, and further away from community building. Till finally last year. The end of... Well really the end of 2016, beginning of 2017. I was feeling as many, many, many of us were kind of a crisis around what I was gonna do with my business next. Was this really doing what I wanted it to be doing? Was what I was doing, did it even matter? And when I thought about it it's like, yeah, okay, these people got great results, these people did this or that. But I still don't... It doesn't feel like it matters it doesn't feel like it has that legacy behind it. And I don't even know what got me started down this line but I knew... I had a moment, I had an inspiration that if I could get back to my roots, if I could get back to that community building element, I could create something that really mattered again. I could create something with legacy. I could get back to the initial mission behind my business. And man, from that moment, I just totally took off in terms of, I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna do that, and I'm gonna make this decision, and this decision. I kind of blew my team out of the water in terms of just giving them way too much to think about at once. But we've completely pivoted my company away from training and coaching and consulting and into community building exactly a year ago now. And we've been doing it ever since. I've been immersed in what it really means to build a community in regards to a small business and I've seen so many of you guys right here ask, like, this is incredible, I love what you're doing, I love this approach, how can I do this too? And that's really why we're here, that's why this class exists. I never dreamed I would be teaching a class on community building, but I'm so glad I am, because now, I get to nerd out about it with you and we all get to build incredible communities after this hopefully.
When you have a small business, you’re always on the lookout for your next customer. They might pop up at a networking event, they could subscribe to your email list, they might fill out the contact form on your website.
Too often, knowing where your next customer is going to come from seems unpredictable at best and, at worst, like a huge gamble.
Luckily, there’s a way to ensure you always know where your next customer is coming from—and that your existing customers purchase from you more often—and that’s by building a community.
All sorts of businesses can benefit from making community-building part of their growth strategy and many can benefit from making it part of their business model, too. Whether it’s an informal community (like an email list or Instagram hashtag), a brand-driven community (like a free Facebook group that brings together people in love with the same brand and values), or a dedicated community (like a local group, interest-based social network, or a support group, your business can cultivate deeper connections with existing and potential customers.
Of course, an engaged community doesn’t just happen. If you want to reap the benefits of community-building for your business, you need a plan.
In Build a Community & Grow Your Standout Business, Tara Gentile, the founder of the small business support & social network CoCommercial, will share the must-dos, nice-to-haves, and compelling extras you need to make the most of the community you build around your business. By the end of this class, you’ll have a plan for making community-building an integral part of your marketing strategy—and always knowing where your next customer will come from.
Tara will cover:
- Simple ways to generate community without a group or forum
- Why and how to level up into a dedicated space for your business’s community
- How to create a clear reason Why for joining or participating in your community
- The systems and procedures you’ll need to manage the workload
- How to avoid community management burnout
- How to plan to earn more through your community—whether that’s through charging for membership, selling add-on offers, or generating more word of mouth marketing
Stop waiting for your next customer to come to you and start building a community that brings new business your way every day.