How Community Can Transform Your Brand
When you start to build a business around, or with, or alongside of a community, you start to see your brand in a whole new way. And, largely, you start to see your brand through the lens of your mission. And another crazy thing starts to happen when you start to build a community. And that is your community, know matter how small, becomes an opportunity to play bigger. So whether you're creating a close-knit community of ten powerhouse clients or customers or you're building a network of a hundred people who are all working toward a similar purpose, or you're building a community of 1, or 10,000 or 100,000 people, you start to see that community as a reflection of a deeper, more meaningful to you and to your members mission. And that mission is actually what encourages you to play a bigger game. We're not necessarily talking here about "go big or go home". We're not talking about exponential growth. We're not talking about doing things that cause your company or you to feel out of con...
trol. But what we are doing is talking about thinking beyond ourselves. That's really what I mean when I say, "Playing bigger". It's about thinking about beyond ourselves, about what we can accomplish as an individual, and instead what your community and your brand, how that can make your mission a reality. One of the other folks that I asked to fill out that survey of communities that I use to kind of inspire the examples, and the questions, and the problems, and challenges that community builders face is Laurence McCahill, who is one of the founders of Happy Startup School. And I just found out about this great community a few weeks ago and they're incredible people, the co-founders of Happy Startup School. And I just, I felt like this reflection that he gave me in that survey really typifies what community can do for you, and even more importantly how community can really transform your brand. He says, "We built a community first and a business second. "We had an agency at the time that paid the bills, "but we closed it three years ago while it was thriving "to focus on Happy Startup School full-time. "Since then we've been on a journey "to build a sustainable business "that allows us and the community "to stay alive and thrive." He had a successful agency and he shut it down while it was thriving to focus on community building. That is awesome and also like that's the risk we're taking here. This is so important, so meaningful. Your mission is so key that you may be willing to eschew some profit for a while; to say no to big clients, to shut something down that's been working. That's what I did, too. That's what a lot of people I know who have built successful communities have done. Guys, this is sort of like the precipice of something huge. And if you leave this class thinking, "Oh gosh, I've got some changes to make "and I'm excited and terrified", well then I have done my job. (audience laughing) Because that's what this is all about. And, as I said, this particular lesson is a personal one for me and I'm not gonna share any like weepy stories or anything like this but as I really put 100% of the focus on building CoCommercial over this last year, I was finally for the first time able to really get into a brand building process. I've been using a personal brand for many years now. People know me as a business coach, or a consultant, a small business educator and trainer. And Tara Gentile has been the thing that we have sold; even when we were offering programs like Quiet Power Strategy or when I was promoting books or other classes, or through my partnership with Creative Live. It was still Tara Gentile. And putting my focus on CoCommercial has allowed me to define something that is much bigger than me. It's allowed me to create a mission that's bigger than I can accomplish on my own. And for me it was realizing the impact, the real impact, that a community like CoCommercial could have and letting that impact be the thing that influenced how I wanted to build our brand. And when I say brand here, of course I don't just mean logo and colors. And hopefully Alice is like, "Yes, that's right. "That is not what a brand is." (laughs) But, you know, the story behind CoCommercial, the way we talk about what we do, the values that we ascribe to, the way we make decisions, the strategy. All of that goes into our brand and how we talk about things and how we represent ourselves. And so as you are considering and going through this process... And, of course, this isn't something that's gonna get completed today. This is something that's gonna be an ongoing process. I want you to start thinking about how your vision, values, and purpose, how your community as a whole, starts to redefine your brand. What does your community say about the brand that is your business or the business that is your brand? What does it say about that? Because building a community, I guarantee, will change, will inform, will transform the brand that you already have. Maybe, you know, I went through a complete rebrand. We built a new website, we had a new brand name. We really started almost from the ground up. You may choose to keep the name, to keep the colors, to keep all of those things. But the meat of it will start to transform as your community becomes a more and more vital part of your business. And even as the vision for your community just becomes a more and more vital way of the way you think about your brand. I have been shocked over the last year as I have pulled back layer upon layer upon layer of how I have played small, how I have limited myself, how I have forced myself to work harder than necessary in building my brand because of me. And I've started to recognize little bit by little bit, layer by layer, all of the ways that the community allows my brand to be so much bigger and more meaningful than it was before. So this is going to be a process and I can't guide you through this. Maybe Alice can guide you through this (laughs). But this is gonna be a process of kind of reckoning and recognition and deep diving into what you really want your brand to stand for. Not just who you are, not just what you do, but what you want your brand to stand for. And the more you can tie that brand, and that story, and that mission, and your community together, the more solid and transformative that story is going to be for everyone else. So I'm not gonna ask anyone to share on this yet unless you're like dying to. In that case raise your hand. But I want you to start thinking about what your community is gonna start saying about your brand. And maybe think not just about right now and what could be, but think about where you're headed. What you want to have, where you want to be a year from now, three years from now, five years from now, ten years from now. Ten years from now your community still exists, your story is still being told, the brand is still there. How is that brand different than what you have now and how can you start living that brand, representing that brand now? Which leads us to the next question. How would you represent your brand differently based on this community that you're building? What kind of story would you tell? What kind of website would you have? What kind of content marketing would you be doing? How would you show up as a company? And also how would you personally show up differently? What would you choose to call yourself? What would your title be? If you're building a community, there's a good chance your title isn't coach anymore, it's not consultant anymore, it's not designer anymore, it's not brand architect anymore. It's something else because now you're the leader of a community. And as your title changes, and as your identity personally changes in relationship to that community, that's gonna cause you to show up differently as well. I don't have any guidance for you here. I don't have any advice. It was simply something that I wanted to kind of get off my chest and also prepare you for because the more you center yourself and your business around this community, the more you're gonna see opportunities to play bigger and the more you're going to see places where you've played small in the past; where you've limited yourself. And those can be frustrating realizations, I know. I still experience it on a regular basis. Like, "Oh man, that was a missed opportunity. "That was a silly decision that I made there. "I could have done something bigger. "I could have done something better. "I could have done something more meaningful." But the more you kind of start thinking about these things now, realizing them now, come to that process of reckoning, as I said, with the times that you've played small or limited yourself and your brand and your company and your vision in the past, the more you'll be able to play big and show up more intentionally with this community that you're building.
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.