Communicate Who Belongs in Your Community
We talked about your charter members, who is a good fit and who's not a good fit. We've talked about boundaries, how boundaries are more about including people than excluding people and making sure the right people know they belong, and I also alluded to this earlier as well. Charles Vogl writes, in his book The Art of Community, that there's a common phenomenon in many groups, particularly highly selective, elite ones, those are often the kinds of communities that you wanna build for your small business, where many members become convinced that they don't belong. This can be true even when each member has been invited inside an exclusive community. So you might handpick someone, you might tap them on the shoulder and say come on in, I've got this great community for you. Who was talking about having an application to their community? Yeah, Jen was talking about having an application for her community. Great idea; just because you approve someone's application doesn't mean they're goin...
g to feel like they belong, right? And in fact, they can get sort of that imposter complex, feeling as soon as they enter, or maybe it happens a week or two weeks or a month later, where they start feeling those fraud-y feelings, like she made a mistake when she approved me, she made a mistake when she tapped me on the shoulder. This is so common. I have seen it happen with CoCommercial. I have seen it happen with Mastermind groups I've run. I've seen, we were just talking about retreats quick before the break, I've seen it happen with retreats. This is so, so common. Please, do not underestimate the importance of making people feel like they belong. And as I said already, too, boundaries, the boundaries that we create around our communities, whether that's an application, a tap on the shoulder, a personal invitation, a webinar, a pay wall, those boundaries are less about excluding people and more about making sure people know that they belong, that they're in the right place. And when we create those boundaries, we have to work hard at retention, keeping people inside the boundary, just as much as we're working on acquisition. In fact, I would argue you need to work harder on retention than you do on acquisition. Especially in a paid community. Don't worry, we're gonna talk more about that, but I wanna hone in on this topic of belonging and the communication that you can do to ensure members feel like they belong, because there's some really tactical things that you can do. There's some things that you can implement very, very easily, to help people feel that sense of belonging and to recognize themselves, their needs, their experiences, in other members, so that they feel that sense of connection. One way we do that at CoCommercial, and one thing that I would highly recommend that you do, are member spotlights. So these are just a couple of the members that we've spotlighted over the last few months. We do this both internally and externally, so Shannon will do a quick email interview, kind of almost like it's a form you fill out, you fill it out, and she puts together a big long post in CoCommercial. Gina was talking about this a little bit earlier when we were doing the Q and A, and people love those posts, they read them, they connect with them, and they can start to see themselves in the members that we're spotlighting, and we try and spotlight a diverse segment of our members, so some B to B people, some B to C people, some women, some men (laughs), some younger, some older, because there's always a question, well, I feel like this is only a community for young people, and I'm always, like, really? (audience laughs) And then they'll say, I feel like this is only a community for more mature, more sophisticated people, and I'm like, really? Or this is only a community for women. And I'm like, really? We never have anyone say this is only a community for men, because we are predominately female; however, or it's only a community for designers and makers, and I'm like, really? So we, oh yeah, it happens (laughs) so we try and really highlight a diverse set of our members, and I would encourage you to do the same. Different kinds of backgrounds, different geographic locations, different cultural backgrounds, as much diversity as you can get, that represents your ideal member. We're not talking about representing people who don't actually belong, but people who do actually belong, and highlighting them, and as I said, we do this internally with a big long interview post. We also do it externally, so these member spotlights, part of them gets posted to our Facebook page as well, and we're looking at other ways we can do member spotlights, we're gonna start doing a monthly check in. We talked about a weekly check in, we're gonna start doing a monthly check in, where we're gonna highlight members as well. And so this gives us an ability to talk about, these are the people that belong. If you recognize yourself in the story, if you have a similar type of business, if you have a similar type of background, you have a similar type problem, you wanna get something similar than this person gets out of this membership, out of this community, you belong here too, and so it creates this wonderful cycle of people recognizing themselves, creating that connection, and feeling a deeper sense of belonging to our community. Another way we do this is through public contributions. We run a blog on Medium, called Help Yourself. I write a lot of the content, but we also take content from members. This is a post that Jenny Nash, who is fabulous, wrote for us, called The Ultimate Word-of-Mouth Marketing Tool: Write a Book. It's a great article on why books can help you create word-of-mouth marketing, word-of-mouth referrals, in your business, and this gives us an opportunity to say hey, this is how smart one of our members are. And the more we say, hey, this is a member, look how smart they are, look at this perspective that they gave, look at this expertise that they have, look at this life lesson that they learned, and are sharing, the more people want a piece of that, so that gives us another way to talk about who's part of the community. We also ran a member survey at the end of last year because I wanted to really quantify who was in our membership, so it's not just me saying, oh yeah, there's young people here too, or oh yeah, there's people over 50, over 60, here too. Absolutely, there are, but how do I know? Well, member survey was how we did it. So we looked at things like how old are you (laughs) and got a snapshot of that. Very few of our members are under 30. In fact, I think it's more, right? Yeah, more that are over, just barely. There's more that are over than there are under 30, okay, so is it a community for young people? No; I mean, it is, if you're young, it's fine. You can join us, we'd love to have you. (audience laughs) The largest segment of people is 30 to 44. The next largest segment is 45 to 59. We're right in the middle there, guys, right in the middle. Now I can say, 54% of our members are between the ages of 30 and 44. 30% of our members are between the ages of 45 and 59. Quantifying it makes it real, right? We love numbers, we respond to numbers. Another thing that we survey people on is what level of school they have completed. I always love this one, because it makes me feel not as smart as the rest of my customers (laughs) because we always test really high for graduate degrees, and as much as I'd like a graduate degree, I don't have one. So, 35% of our members have a graduate level degree. 45% of our members have at least a college degree or have a college degree, so what is that? 80, 90, 80% of our members, have a four year degree or higher. That's incredible; that's not to say that people who don't have degrees aren't smart and aren't vibrant members of our community but I love being able to point to that as yet another recognition that this is something different, maybe, than you've belonged to in the past. And this is my favorite one: how long have you been in business? There are so many communities in our industry that are based on beginning in business, getting started, and we really position ourselves as being a place where more sophisticated business owners or people who have been around longer, no matter what level of success you've had, can come and get answers to the questions that tend to crop up after year two, year three, year ten, year 15, and so here you can see a majority of our members have been in business three years or more, and a huge percentage of our members have been in business six years or more. And I can point to this, and I can say specifically, these are the percentages, here's who's really here, come and join us. We also asked about industry, so I could say the same thing. We've got these people who do art and design and illustration, we've got these people who do business coaching, we've got these people who do photography, we've got these people who do video production. We're all over the place, and I have it spelled out on our sales page, boom boom boom boom boom boom boom. These are the different industries that we have represented in our top members. This is how long they've been in business. So that immediately you can see, all right, 10% of this community is just like me, and I bet the other 90%'s pretty cool too (laughs) that's the idea. Quantifying it really makes it real for people. It can really show them, you know no matter how imposter you feel, no matter how fraud-y you feel, no matter how out of place it can seem, because joining a new community is overwhelming, there are other people like you here. You do belong; we can help you. So always be on the lookout for opportunities to reinforce that the right people belong. There's three ways that you can do that. But there are plenty of others, plenty of others. It is your job in your community to always be looking for the next opportunity to help people connect with that sense of belonging.
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.