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  • Writer's pictureNeil Mathis

The Community Marketing Roadmap

Updated: Aug 12, 2019

Community Marketing (CM) has a lot in common with content marketing. It’s all about the consumer, it’s all about delivering value beyond your product, it’s all about engagement.  But CM differs because, in many ways, the community itself is the ultimate goal. Everything else is a by-product. You create or join the communities, you deliver that value, you build up trust, and you engage. Eventually, the “good” stuff – insight, feedback, growth, profits – follow as a natural extension.

How do you do this?

1 - Decide On What - Your first step is to decide on what your CM efforts will deliver to your members. What’s in it for them, and what will they get from their involvement?  It might be nothing more than an always-open and available channel to communicate directly with you about problems, complaints, and questions.  That's valuable!  Or, perhaps you want (no, you NEED) to share the knowledge on this topic you're incredibly passionate about...  That's great too!    Whatever it is, you should have a sense of what you’re doing before you jump in.

Ask yourself: What does this community need? Now deliver on that. 

2 - Decide On Where - Your next task is identifying where to find your community. Limit yourself to just a few spots at first so you can give the community the time and attention it deserves.

Are they primarily online, or in the real world? Choosing the “right” one should be about more than just what’s popular. Again, consider your target.  Teens and early 20s? Explore Snapchat. Business professionals? Try LinkedIn. A broader community such as adults that play an instrument? Head to Facebook.  

You’ll also need to determine whether you'll aim for a sponsored or organically community (or both). Are you going to create a Facebook Page and attract your community? You’ll have more control, but you’ll start with a community of zero.  Will you seek out existing communities connected with your niche? What you relinquish in control, you make up for in sheer numbers from the start.

3 - Uncover Your Core Value - What are you  about?  Yes, you want to make a profit, but there needs to be more if you want to connect with shoppers on a genuine and authentic level.  What is it you do for your customers and users? What makes you, you?   This should be a part of your unique selling proposition. Write it out as a statement: I [blank] for my customers.  Build your presence upon that idea. 

4 - Participate, Participate, Participate.  This is the cardinal rule. You need to engage, participate and become a trusted member of the group. Consumers are wary of businesses lurking in their 'hangouts' and don’t want to be sold to. They want to share, discover, communicate, and network with like-minded people. Demonstrate that you’re an expert in your field. Ask questions. Answer questions. Share your stories.

5 - Influence the Influencers - Influencer marketing is nothing new. In every group or community, there are those that everyone looks to as a leader.  These people can help you.  Finding them is pretty straightforward: Who is posting frequently, who is 'shared' regularly, and who is one step ahead of everyone else? That’s your community influencer. Reach out and connect with them. Build that relationship.  You could invite them to participate in unique initiatives.  You can pick their brain for feedback or ideas. You can even ask them for a review of your product or service. Just get them involved and they’ll likely share their opinion and experience.

6 - Just Be You - Community building is largely about humanizing your business. People want to know what you stand for, what you believe to be true, and that your ideas mesh with theirs. Cultivate and reflect the group values you genuinely agree with. It’s a powerful way to bond with the community. Be real. Be human.

7 - And finally... Listen - The golden rule in community marketing is this: Listen more than you speak. Your group will have ideas, wants needs, complaints, feedback, suggestions, requests, and compliments. Listen to them.  Take them to heart.

We all want to be part of a community. As small business owners we need to that our advantage. Create communities for your customers. Join those that already exist. Participate more than you pitch. Listen and use what you learn.

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