The Ultimate Guide to Community-Based Marketing
Community-based marketing involves establishing or tapping into an existing community to exchange values and create mutual meaning. A community sometimes means a local community, but there are many forms of community, especially in the digital world. For instance, Apple users are a community, the same as the fans of some trend, band, or TV show.
By appealing to a specific community, you're approaching marketing from a standpoint that may, in the nearest future, yield a loyal and vocal audience. So, for all interested in this trend, here is a brief guide on how to use community-based marketing to your advantage.
Benefits of Community-Based Marketing
Before we proceed with the specific strategies and ideas, we must address why this is worth doing in the first place. With that in mind, you need to consider a few benefits of community-based marketing.
Clients instead of consumers
The first significant advantage of community-based marketing lies in treating its target audience as clients instead of consumers. While this may seem like a minor difference in nomenclature, the difference is quite significant. First, it takes a more human approach and implements it into B2C interaction.
The better customer experience
Second, it leads to a far better customer experience. The numbers speak for themselves, and brands that invest heavily in community-based marketing usually see a sharp rise in revenue. Seeing how the relationship and communication appear more organic, the customers find it easier to start trusting the brand. Trust means spending more and returning more regularly. There's nothing quite like return customers for any aspiring business.
Higher customer loyalty
Community-based marketing also allows your target audience to develop a sense of belonging to your community. This way, they might eventually start seeing their loyalty to your brand as a part of their identity. Aside from maximising their customer lifecycle, this can also increase the odds of them becoming brand ambassadors.
Alternative customer support
Reliance to the community and living a life of their own can make quite a difference in your customer support. A large community can resolve the majority of issues on its own. Someone asks a question and starts a thread, then an organic discussion occurs, and the best answer is filtered out. All of this strengthens your brand even further. It even legitimises you in the digital environment.
Community marketing usually implies that you're interacting with your clients in a much less formal setting. This creates natural conversations that reveal much data you wouldn't be able to gather any other way. A conversation (or conversations) you'll have during a meet-up might give you an entirely new perspective on your customers. Similarly, studying a heated-up comment section is like researching a case study.
Community-based marketing may take a while to get off the ground. However, once you've made the community, it will become, more or less, self-reliant. You may still need to lead with the activities from time to time or moderate (if it's an online community we're talking about). However, aside from this, the community is supposed to function relatively independently.
People will create their content if you inspire them. If hosting a live event, they'll take photos of their attendance, your decoration, etc., and post them on social media. They may include some tags and hashtags, thus giving you a free social media boost. They might also write reviews of your products, praise you in external comment sections, etc. Overall, well-established community-based marketing may earn you a ton of user-generated content.
Community-Based Marketing Challenges
While benefits are numerous, there's a reason why many entrepreneurs refrain from investing more heavily in community-based marketing. It's not just that they're unaware of its benefits or that they are unaware of its existence. The truth is that community-based marketing makes all the difference in the world.
A unique skill set is required.
Community-based marketing requires you to display skills such as:
- Social awareness
While you can develop each of these skills, the truth is that most of them are innate. For instance, you can dip into literature like How to Win Friends and Influence People, to become better at networking, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. In reality, it takes much work to develop the concept (hence social awareness) where you can apply these skills.
- How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie 1998 Paperback New
- Brand New
- Officially Licensed
- Dale Carnegie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
In other words, while possible to apply, this is not easy and something that only some will be able to pull off. Just remember that this is a concept that requires more involvement and more active work on your part. While community-based marketing primarily lies on the backs of community managers, higher management should also participate.
It takes a long time to pay off.
Another thing you need to understand is that it takes much time to build an active community. Sure, once established, it will live a life of its own. You can recruit moderators from amongst the community, and you can rely on user-content generation. Think of it as a subreddit. The users and user interactions in the comment section generate all the content. Ideally, it will all stay on topic, and moderators will have minimum involvement in the community.
It takes commitment
Lastly, this is not a project that will pay passive dividends, regardless of your involvement. It takes a lot of commitment and requires you to be all in. Sure, it will give passive returns in time, but you still have to put much thought into moderation. Otherwise, you might soon face a backlash or a full-scaled PR nightmare. Leaving the community unmoderated is just asking for trouble. Still, this doesn't mean you should be too strict or hands-on. This is a great way to establish your brand identity.
How to Track Results
Tracking community marketing can be quite a challenge. Sure, in the digital world, you can do this. You can see how many people clicked on a link, what they did on a page, and whether they became a lead or a customer.
The problem, however, lies in tracking your community outreach offline. The simplest way to approach this is to gather feedback in person and track your word-of-mouth (WOM) reach.
One of the more complex approaches to this subject matter is to start community-only promotions. You see this online every day. A YouTuber provides their community with a unique code they can redeem at the sponsor's website. This way, the sponsor knows the exact number of people from that specific community. Via coupons, the same thing can be done offline, as well.
Lastly, the simplest way is to ask them. Start with a community survey, and you'll get the exact numbers that you're looking for.
The CARES model
For those who find the tips listed above to be “too abstract,” there's a more systematic approach to this question. Namely, we're talking about the CARES model. This model constitutes of five crucial points:
- Content: The first thing you need to do is try and calculate the amount of money saved/made this way. First, you need to consider the number of content pieces produced this way. Next, you can measure the number of content creators. A bit more abstract but just as relevant is the earned media value (EMV). Then, you can also calculate how much money you would have to spend to produce this content.
- Awareness: This is virtually the growth of your community. This can be measured via new member sign-ups, an increase in reach, or if we're talking about social media, follower growth or a weekly number of users. Each of these factors makes a massive difference in the standings of your brand and is, therefore, not to be taken lightly.
- Retention: Since just 20% of your customers make about 80% of your total profit, you should always appreciate the importance of community-based marketing. So, the first thing you're measuring is the retention rate. Other than this, you also want to see a customer checkout rate. While this may sound negative, the truth is that a shopping cart abandonment might turn into a future purchase. Moreover, some items are on a wish list and can be bought during the sale.
- Engagement is the simplest to track, mainly on social media.
- Sales: Finally, the S in the CARES is quite self-explanatory and easy to track but hard to improve.
This way, you'll know precisely how effective your community-based marketing is.
A simplified method of tracking
While it is more systemic, the CARES system is not for everyone. Some find it to be too abstract, while others find it to be too much work. So, for those looking for something more concrete, here's an equation you can proceed with.
- Objective – measurable goal – a tactic – cost
This method is straightforward, and it gives excellent results. Sure, it's not as insightful as CARES, but it's a lot simpler, which means it offers two massive advantages. First, it's convenient for day-to-day decisions, which makes it quite dependable. Second, while it's not as accurate due to its simplicity, it has a smaller margin of error.
To explain how this method works in even simpler terms, you draw a map of what you want to accomplish and calculate how much it will cost you to get there. Yes, this can be done for community marketing, as well.
Ways to Get Involved with the Community
The biggest challenge is that community involvement requires a unique skill set and is a long-term investment. Regardless if you're joining an already existent community or creating one, this is always a challenging thing. The most challenging is a community outreach that requires direct involvement with the local community. This is something that you need to approach more from a human than a marketing perspective.
Organise something for the local youth
The critical thing is that you manage to provide value to the audience or the community. Schools outreach is incredibly effective, seeing as how it invests in the community's future by investing in its youth. The best thing about this is that it also introduces the younger audience to your brand, ensuring your audience's future growth. Just look at the income demographics across the globe, and you'll see millennials and Gen Z have more money than ever before (this increases daily).
A free service or a discount
This is a brilliant move because it provides value to the local community members while simultaneously showcasing your products/services. Many people are interested in how your product works but might not want to overinvest to sate their curiosity. Now, while you could offer a free trial, the truth is that many people still need to be more suspicious of this kind of promotion. However, promoting them via a free service tied with a community event makes it seem less of a hard sell.
Run a workshop
Another way to provide educational content to the local community, generate value, and promote your business is to run a workshop. A solid demographic of people need your products/services or, at the very least, to learn how to use them. Even in a digital environment, you can host a free webinar or something along those lines.
Sponsor a local event
You don't have to make your business/product a centrepiece of your event. Some might say it's a bit of a bad case if you do this while hosting a charity event. No one is arguing that you should leave out the promotion aspect entirely. If you sponsor a charity or a local event, people will still notice that it was you and value you more highly. It's as simple as that.
Ask them directly
We live in the age of the internet, where it's pretty simple to put anything you want up for a vote. Let's say you want to host an event but need to figure out what kind. Why not offer your users a poll and check the results? Remember that focusing too much on the percentage is only sometimes a good idea. What if the poll needs a better reach? If only three people voted, two votes are almost 70%. However, with such small numbers, the randomness of the outcome is through the roof.
Place a donation
There's an even easier way to get some favour within the local community – donate to a local cause. You see, 10/10 times a donation will earn you a shoutout. Most importantly, this will come from someone else (usually someone with a high reputation within a community), which will make it carry more weight. Just compare the idea of getting praise from someone else and praising yourself. Not quite the same, is it?
Join the local chamber of commerce
A local partnership or an alliance can go a long way. Generally speaking, mingling with people from the local chamber of commerce will open up numerous exciting B2B opportunities, but it will also help out with the rest of your networking. Small business owners have suppliers, accountants, marketing specialists, and legal experts who may be willing to share. If nothing else, you at least get a reliable WOM on some of the most critical issues.
To make your community-based marketing work, you must take a more strategic approach. Here's how you should tackle this matter.
- You want to start by showcasing real users in your content. There's no way to make your brand more relatable than to show that it's used, loved, and followed by real people. It's as simple as that. Now, the problem is that, early on, you might need more user-generated content. So, try to encourage and even incentivise it. Once it starts rolling, you won't have any problems with it.
- Offer them a say in matters of branding. While this is controversial, it might generate considerable customer loyalty. Imagine launching a new product and leaving its naming process to your community. It's a controversial decision that will give your audience a stake in your business and even encourage them to feel a greater sense of ownership towards your brand.
- Ask for their feedback and follow up on their insight. Actions speak louder than words. One of the critical components of active listening is your ability to demonstrate (while listening) that you're following the story. So, how does this work for your brand? Ask them what they dislike about your brand or what you could do better and then improve on it. You could shout out to the person/people who offered this insight.
- Demonstrate social responsibility as soon as possible. The best way to humanise your business is to show that you care about more than just profit. Taking a stance on a social issue and demonstrating your values is the simplest way.
With these four strategies under your belt, the planning stage will become much more straightforward.
One of the best real-life examples of community-based marketing is the LEGO community. Just think about it, people post their own LEGO collections and ideas that urge others to buy new sets to recreate some of these ideas on their own. What's brilliant about this is that the interest and sales are driven entirely by user-generated content. Still, it took LEGO a long time to establish itself as a brand. Getting there is a success that not many enterprises can recreate. Even just planning this branding and identity-building requires heavy reading on the subject matter.
Frugl is a childrenswear brand with one of the most substantial social media communities. Their dedicated Facebook group is a playground where parents can compete in creativity and unique ideas. All that Frugl did was provide them with an official, moderated platform and give them a customisable product that they could play around with. While this is not much, the results are often quite staggering.
Another excellent example of community-based marketing done right is Adidas Creator's Club. Here, you have a combination of community-based marketing and a loyalty program. Every time you post, you receive a reward, which incentivises you to try harder. Unlike Lego and Frugl, this is a scenario in which the brand takes a more active part in the community.
Lululemon is an example of how even a massive community-based marketing campaign can rely on something other than the digital world. Instead, they did their best to create localised communities in an offline world. Human contact is a compelling motivator, and it's the best way for you to tackle this issue.
In the end, running a community-based marketing campaign requires a substantial initial investment of time, effort, and money but provides an incredible return. Later on, all you need to do is moderate and keep your finger on the pulse. Seeing as the exponential growth, the sooner you start, the sooner you reap all the benefits.
Also, remember that you can access an existing community or create a new platform. Finally, it would be best to appreciate offline community outreach's value. An online community is cheaper to start and easier to track, but it could be better.
Last update on 2023-12-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API