Community Building

CommunityMost recently, we looked at the idea that content marketing efforts often stop short of actually building a community and by doing so, brands miss out on the incredible benefits of that strategy. The phrase “build a community” is nebulous so I wanted to give you a concrete example to spark ideas as you look forward to building out your 2020 marketing plan.

One of the most effective ways to build community is to bring your audience together to learn, discuss shared challenges, and to encourage them to be both the student and the teacher. One of our clients hosts an annual event that yields incredible results. Their annual one-day event focuses on sharing best practices and trends for the industry they serve.

They only invite clients and key prospects. Every invitee covers their own travel expenses but after that, it’s all on the brand. They host a full day of speakers, panels, and small group discussions. Everyone walks away with new connections, ideas, and renewed energy for tackling their shared concerns.

For their clients, it’s a perk of working with this company. For their prospects, it’s an opportunity to learn while learning more about their potential partner. But look at it from the brand’s perspective. Their best, happiest clients are mingling with their biggest prospects. What do they have in common to talk about? Two things. Their industry and the company that is hosting the event.

They bring in some big name outside speakers but most of the presentations are done by members of the host company’s team. This positions them as subject matter experts and they use case studies and other successes as examples as they teach. Imagine people flying to you, so you can walk them through your case studies of how you solved your customer’s problems.

When we do the ROI report for this event, the numbers are impressive. For a hard cost of around $40,000, our client will generate $300,000+ annually in new opportunities from both existing clients and prospects who become clients. In addition, the retention rate on the clients who attend is three times better than those that they can’t convince to come.

They keep that audience connected and give them additional opportunities to be both teacher and student throughout the year so that when they come back together at the next event, the ties are even stronger.

One of the aspects of this event that I really love but may seem counter-intuitive is that if a client is no longer working with the host, they’re still invited to the event. This is a bold move that’s aligned with the company’s values around relationships. In many cases, those former clients become clients again and even if they don’t, they become a referral source.

For some of you, this may be out of reach, at the scale they do it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create community by bringing your customers together. If most of your clients are local, host quarterly breakfasts that spotlight a specific challenge. If your clients are scattered all over the globe, leverage technology and create learning groups. Host the meetings on a platform like Zoom so everyone can still see each other as they learn together.

The key elements are that it has to be educational, not promotional. You need participants who are willing to share what they know as well as learn from others and it can’t be a one-time thing. No one forms a lasting bond after one encounter. Be mindful and realistic in terms of what you can sustain, quarter over quarter or year over year.

This isn’t a quick win but the gains can be substantial, both from a revenue point of view but equally important, from a relationship, referral, and retention point of view.