We've talked previously about the importance of building a community centered around you as the third pillar of success for your business. Today we're going to talk more about specific ways to do that. As we discussed, the key is to build a community in which you and your business are the common thread holding the group together. For instance, if you run a business that manufactures and sells high end video equipment and lighting, you want to build a community of technical directors that work on TV and Film production that allows you to educate them on why you manufacture your products the way you do and how they can use them for optimal performance. You should attempt to build such communities both online, through social media and blogging, and in the "real world." Below are suggestions for establishing vibrant communities in which you--and your products or services--are the common thread holding the group together:
1) Look to create a community where there is none. It shouldn't be hard to identify the types of people that are interested in the goods and services you provide. Once you've done so (this is similar to creating a profile of your 'ideal customer), do some exploration both online and off. Are there well established communities representing these people? Online, these groups often center around forums which allow for discussion of various topics. A quick Google search should turn up any relevant groups. Offline, these communities may take the form of hobby groups, business associations, or other gatherings.
2) If there's already a community for your area of interest, create a new one with a unique spin. If there's already a community fulfilling many of the needs of your market, look to see if there is a deeper niche that you could dominate. For instance, there are many cooking communities and recipe sharing clubs, but is there one for Southern cooking with an Asian fusion flare? Sounds strange, I know, but you get the point--there are often deeper sub-niches that you can get into that fulfill a need for a hungry market that is not getting what they need from a larger group that focuses on more than what they are interested in.
3) The more exposure, the better. Don't simply create a community and then disappear into the background. The more visible you are, the better--because remember, these communities are made up of your prime prospects. You don't have to try and sell your business because members of these communities already recognize the value and as you continue to create value for them, their trust in you (and their propensity to hire you or spend money with you) will grow exponentially. You just need to put yourself out there--the more involved you can be, the better.
It's great when business objectives and personal objectives line up. Building strong communities is a great way to build this synergy--you'll be interacting with individuals who share your interests and also happen to be your ideal customers. You don't have to think about making sales--just relax, be yourself, and build value.
JW Dicks (@jwdicks) & Nick Nanton (@nicknanton) are best-selling authors that consult for small- and medium-sized businesses on how to build their business through Personality Driven Marketing, Personal Brand Positioning, Guaranteed Media, and Mining Hidden Business Assets. They offer free articles, white papers, and case studies at their Web site. Jack and Nick have been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Newsweek, FastCompany.com, and many more media outlets.