Building communities among your stakeholder groups and facilitating interactions can generate benefits for each community member. And that, in turn, increases the loyalty community members feel towards your business. Whether it’s a group of customers, employees, vendors or partners, building a community enables them to share experiences and ideas that drive synergistic innovations.
“With so many people working remotely these past two years, it’s important to dig deep into your communities and give them extra attention,” says Brandy Alvarado-Miranda, CEO at the BAM! Marketing & PR Agency.
“It’s also important to look for communities you can join such as civic organizations in your city or town and industry associations. By sponsoring events within communities, you can establish trust with potential customers, employees and vendors—and you can position yourself to reach niche audiences with your messaging.”
Solving Common Challenges
Communities can help members solve common challenges and capitalize on new opportunities. And with your company as the centerpiece of a community, the goodwill that’s generated is directed towards you for bringing them together.
This is likely to create new business for your company and prompt your stakeholders to want to stick around and see what’s coming next!
In addition to creating communities among groups of customers, employees, vendors and partners, consider building cross-section communities with members from all multiple groups.
With diverse ideas, any community—given the opportunity to meet with each other and the tools to communicate—is bound to produce things they simply cannot do on their own:
- Bringing customers together gives you insights into how they feel about your products and services. What’s working well? What isn’t?
- Creating employee communities gives them a chance to tell you what they like about the company and if there are any changes they want to see.
- Within a community of vendors, you can get a better sense of what’s going on across your supply chain and if there are any opportunities to improve efficiencies or if any supply chain threats are lurking,
Among a community of all three groups, you’re bound to collectively discover new business opportunities to collaborate on. Introducing customers, employees and vendors to each other may make it possible to launch a whole new product or service.
Diverse Communities Lead to Insights from Different Perspectives
One of the key aspects of building communities is to assess potential members for the attributes they have in common as well as how they differ from each other.
In some cases, common attributes are good—members can identify with each other’s challenges and better support each other in overcoming those challenges.
But communities can also work well if members are diverse in their attributes and experiences. Members who see themselves as competitors may not readily share information. But when you group customers from different verticals or employees from different business units, their varying experiences might be more readily shared and lead to insights from different perspectives.
How to Help Communities Thrive
For communities to thrive, bring them together on a regular cadence that members get accustomed to. This could be monthly, quarterly, twice per year, or even annually. The less frequently the community meets, the bigger the event needs to be so the members have enough time to bond.
Face-to-face meetings are ideal. But virtual meetings in today’s world are more practical and less of a burden. Perhaps consider a combination of hosting meetings virtually with an occasional in-person meeting.
Also give the group communication tools to share and archive ideas. Productive idea exchanges can easily happen through email and video conferences. But it’s just as important to record conversations and save discussions so great ideas can be tapped into down the road
You can also brand your communities by creating social media groups that enable the members to share information in group chats. You might even attract new members who want to join the group. You can decide if they are a good fit and perhaps allow the members to vote on whether to admit new members.
Community Education Builds Rapport
Alvarado-Miranda suggests creating educational content for the communities you build. Getting members to attend webinars together builds rapport within the group and adds to the value of your community. This is key considering your members have limited time in the number of groups they can be active in.
How many groups to build and join is also an important consideration from your perspective. “Take a look at each community to assess the ROI both in terms of time and money,” Alvarado-Miranda recommends. “Some groups might be too large or broad in their membership requirement to connect with the smaller segment or niche you are trying to target.”
In addition to forming communities among your employees to increase the amount of time they can socialize with each other, also ask if they will participate in your customer and vendor communities.
The better your customers and vendors get to know your employees—outside of the normal course of business—the more likely they will feel emotionally committed to wanting to continue doing business with you.