Invite Your Charter Members Inside
The next thing we're gonna do is actually talk about your charter members. Again, Gina set me up really well for this. She talked about how you really wanna think about who you want in your community before you even launch the community, don't build the space before you have the people to put in the space, okay? And that's why this is coming before anything else. It's coming before hey, pick your platform. It's coming before hey, figure out if it's free or paid. Your charter members will help steer the ship for you and the reason for this is because when you're building a community, people is your value proposition. You're asking people to pay for, to act in a certain way, to join up because of people. So those people better be the right people. If you get the people wrong, your value proposition sucks. If your value proposition sucks, you don't have much of a product and even still, whether we're talking free or paid, it will not support your business. Now this is not the same thing a...
s defining your target market or your ideal customer. Because you have people who are in your target market, people who are your ideal customer who are not ideal community members because not everyone who could benefit from your community values community and that's okay. There are people out there who want a step-by-step process, that want hand holding, that want a quick answer. Nothin' wrong with that. That's not what a community is though. So not everyone who could benefit from your community, not everyone who is an ideal customer, not everyone who is in your target market values community, access and shared concern for others. That's okay, they may find other ways to buy from you in the future or they may not, depends on how you build the rest of you business model. Either way, totally fine but let's recognize that there's a certain type of your ideal customer or a certain type of person in your target market who does value very highly community, access and shared concern for others. Those are the people you want to have in your community. So you want to start asking yourself, again this is in your workbooks so if you wanna do this work right now, I suggest diving right in and I'd start with who isn't a good fit, you've had these people. You know who these people are right now. And again, they could be great customers of yours but they're not a good fit for the community. Maybe they're people you liked working with but just didn't want to work with others. Right? It's fine, it's fine. But let's name some names, not right now, don't worry, I'm not gonna name any names. People are freakin' out, let's name some names, let's get really clear on who's not a good fit. People who are not a good fit want step-by-step formulas, they want things presented in a certain way. They want to learn directly from you and they don't care about other people and I've had plenty of people say that to me too and not with just CoCommercial. Even back when we were doing the Quiet Power Strategy program that some of you are familiar with, we had a really, we had a community aspect to that program in that we actually, we gathered small groups of people together and you worked through the program with a small group, helping each other out and one of the value propositions behind the program was you are too isolated as a small business owner. You don't need me, you need you and here's a framework that you can use to talk to people about these bigger problems that you have in your business or these bigger opportunities that you have in your business and every time we ran this program, we'd get an application or we'd get an email that would say "I love the idea of the program. "I love the curriculum that you've created here. "I love everything that you do. "I don't wanna have to talk to other people, "can I work with you privately on this?" No, the answer is no, you can't work with me privately on this. It's not because I'm a diva, it's because I created this program with this in mind. You need to be someone, it doesn't matter how awesome I think your business is, it doesn't matter how awesome I think you are, you can't work with me privately because the right people for this value having access to other small business owners. Okay? So what is the difference between someone who isn't a good fit and someone who is a good fit? Someone who is a good fit for your community does value access to other people, they value diverse perspectives. They value collaboration. They value working through things in public. Public, as in the community. They value transparency. That whole long list of values that I showed you earlier that can really cement your community as a whole are also values that the right members are going to have as well. So you want to create that values match. So just as Gina said, you can download that CSV from LinkedIn, you can look through all your connections on Facebook, you can look through your past customer list, some of those people share those values and some of them don't. The ones who don't, don't invite them. Because they're either gonna cause your problems or they just won't join and you'll get frustrated. And I'm not saying judge people but I'm saying who do you know, who do you know is going to really value that kind of access to other people? Who's gonna value collaboration? Who isn't gonna worry that when they join a community, someone's going to steal their ideas? That's one I hear, there is a lot of nodding to that. That is one I hear an awful lot is like here I am at CoCommercial and I'm afraid to talk about my business because I don't want anyone to copy what I'm doing. You're probably not a good fit here. I mean I can tell you no one here is going to copy your ideas but I can't guarantee that. I can't guarantee that someone doesn't watch this class and copy it and teach it to their class. Teach it to their people, right? I can't do that. That doesn't mean I stop operating in public. Operating in public has gotten me further than anything. Transparency has gotten me further than anything. Openness has gotten me further than anything. So if you're the kind of person that's afraid of that, you're not a good fit for my community. Because you're just not gonna like it. You will self-select out. So look through that list. Look through your people and match them up, values for values. What do they really, how do they love interacting with other people? How do they love interacting with new information? How do they value getting past challenges or obstacles or figuring out problems that they have? Those are the people you want to invite. Now, I want you to know at least of those people before you join. Now 20 is not some magic number. I pretty much pulled that out of thin air. There are actually some magic numbers when it comes to community building. I'm not gonna get into those here because I find that it creates more barriers than it does actually help. There's some studies about how many people you need to have before a community really takes off. Don't Google that, it's going to mess with your head. I just want you to have 20 people you know who would value prioritizing talking to others about the problem that your business solves. Or the interests that your community is based around. Or the identity that your community is based around. Who are those 20 people? Are you guys starting to run through some names in your head right now? Good. There is space in your workbook for you to literally write all those names down, write their email addresses down and then check off when you've invited them to the community because these people are going to be your charter members. Maybe not all 20 take you up on the invitation but maybe 10 do, maybe 15 do. If you get less than 10, I'd say find another 20 and invite them too. Get at least a core group of people that you can start building this community with and I want you do to that before you pick a platform, before you set up shop. Because I just want you to loop these people in. If this is, if you are watching this class a month from now, you're not watching live and you don't need to keep up with us, you can pause and take a break, I literally want you to email them now. Make your list and just let 'em know, I'm taking this class, I have this idea. I'm inspired to create a community around blank, can I keep you up to date? Are you there for it? Can I include you? Will you join me? Just loop them in. They don't need a space to congregate yet. You just need to know that they have your back and that they have the back of all the other people they want to meet in that community. So loop them in now because they're gonna shape how your community evolves. A lot of you have heard me talk about virtual focus groups before, those three or four people that really inspire your product development, inspire how you think about your customer journey, inspire your business model and your marketing as a whole. Your charter members are sort of the virtual focus group for your community. These are the people who you are developing this community for and you have the goal then of going out and photocopying them 100 times, 1,000 times, 10,000 times and finding more people who are just like them. Those are your charter members. Questions about charter members? Pretty self-explanatory, good, Maya?
I just have a quick question. I don't know off the top of my head if there's anyone in my immediate network who might be a good charter member. I was thinking of writing a piece and publishing it somewhere and having a call to action. Want to be one of my 20 charter members? Let's talk.
Yes, I think that that could work. I would put, speaking of complicated boundaries, I would put some vetting in place with that. So yeah, if it's a let's talk like let's get on the phone or a let's talk, let's have an email conversation or fill out this application, I would not just take anyone who raises their hand. Because your charter members are so important. They will shape your community, so you want to make sure you've got the right people and I would dig, dig, dig into your network because I bet there are people that you know that would fit that description. Maybe there aren't 20 but I bet there are people that you know whom you can feel more comfortable starting things out with. Any other questions?
If you have a paid community, are you asking your charter members to pay?
Ha ha, no.
Generally not, I mean sure, if you really want to have charter members pay, I suppose you can. I'm gonna say 99 times out of 100, I would recommend inviting a core group of people in for free and seeding your community with the right people first. To the extent that I would actually invite those people in, guide the conversations, let them talk to each other for a period of at least weeks but probably months before you invite in anyone else because what they do is create the groundwork of content and the groundwork of culture for you because culture isn't something you can impose on someone, right? Culture is always built from the ground up. It's built through interaction. It's built through shared language. You can introduce someone to culture, but you can't impose it on them. And so what those charter members start to do is actually build that culture before anyone else comes in, which means that culture is set so that members who maybe end up crossing the boundary who aren't right can't hijack your culture and so that's one of the things at CoCommercial that we inadvertently did really well is we took a community that's existed or that existed for five years and transitioned it into the space and the group of people that it is now. The culture was set a long time ago and the culture was based on, can I even say it? I can't even say the culture was based on specific things. We lucked out with a great group of people like Melissa and some of the other people who joined very early on who created a phenomenal culture alongside of the work that we were producing and so when we decided this year to open the flood gates and say hey, this is what we're doing, we want to invite as many people in here as possible, we could honestly say no, our community can't get hijacked by that growth because the culture already exists. Yeah, yeah totally. Did I see there's questions online? Let's go to some online questions since I had to skip them in the last segment. Paula says, hey Paula, does it make sense to create a list of Charter Members that you have in mind for specific functions or topics? Oh I love that idea Paula, yeah that's a great idea. If you can kind of seed a diversity of expertise maybe in your community, that's a phenomenal way to go. Not everyone is gonna have that luxury I think but if that is something that you do have accessible to you where you can say yeah, I can get these three people who are really good at marketing and these three people who are really good with sales and these three people who are really good at business finance and invite a variety of people, that's a phenomenal idea. Next question, from Stacey. She says I'd love to hear some more real world examples of product-based businesses that do community well. Product is definitely more challenging. I'm gonna kind of, if you guys know of other, what? Tom's, do they have community space? Are they actively comm... Yeah, I mean definitely when you see other Tom's people, I used to be a big Tom's person, you're like yeah, that's a Tom's person. Apple? It does informal community well. There is a reason Steve Jobs was very big on the Apple being upright on the laptop when you open it, why? Because it's a symbol of the product. It's a symbol of the people who use it and it is a very people-based brand. At least, Apple lovers think that. The non-Apple lovers don't think that but that's okay. You do you. So that's another one, like I said Lululemon and Athleta. Yeah, Jen?
Ooh, Betabrand is a great, yeah tell us more about Betabrand and why that's a good example.
So their customers get to submit designs. I'm pretty sure it's anybody can submit a design and then their other community members get to say well, I'd fund that. It's like a Kickstarter but it's their own private Kickstarter and the people who build the designs and go out and share oh, I built this design on Betabrand and can you come fund it so I can get it made and then it's kind of like this spurring on of oh, that's a great idea for those pants, let me, I want a jacket that matches and if it doesn't get funded, they don't make it. So they're kind of like getting the community but also from a financial perspective, they're not building things that don't sell.
Totally, yeah that's a great example. I mentioned Brass Clothing earlier, that's a really great kind of community-based product brand, Nadia?
There's a Facebook group that I'm involved in, it's called Introvert, Dear.
Actually I came across their Facebook page, they have a blog, so I was following their blog and then they invite people who like their posts to come to the private Facebook group and then more options in the future but they really vet people, they actually go over to check your Facebook page and what kind of posts you do. So they kind of judge, like oh, is this person really introverted or not?
I feel like I don't read as an introvert online. Now I'm feeling judged. (laughs)
It's pretty cool.
That's awesome and then what's the business behind the group?
You know what, I'm not really sure what the business is. I recently saw that there is, there was an invitation to give your email and maybe buy some gear.
Maybe they're still building. Awesome, yeah?
Any product that requires or can enhance technical support, so anytime you buy a WordPress theme or some kind of software or any kind of application whatsoever and same thing as real products, like Apple for example, a lot of times the technical support community isn't run by the person who developed it, it's run by the community who has used it. For example, WordPress alone has so many blogs and communities, micro-communities all about how to pimp out your WordPress and that kinda thing, so anything with a technical support.
Yeah, that's such a good example. The Divi theme I know has a huge community behind it that is not necessarily affiliated with Elegant Themes. That's a great example. There was another one that popped into my head while you were talking and I, it's gone now, maybe it'll come back, who knows? Yeah, actually yeah, Mighty Networks is a great example because their host community, you don't actually have to be a Mighty Networks host to join their host community and there's lots of sharing and mutual concern for others on there, so yeah I mean it's huge, it's just, yeah. There's so many, so many opportunities. It can be a little more difficult to just think I'm a part of this community because they tend to be more informal. Although, like the WordPress communities tend to be very formal and very well defined too. So it goes lots of different ways. But Stacey, thanks for the question.
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.