Loyal customers benefit a business’s bottom line, but avid fans can actively increase it. Not only are they loyal customers, but they will often share their passion with others and attract new customers to your business. The secret to creating genuine fans is not just providing an outstanding product or service (although that’s an essential first step). It’s building a community that draws them together based on the interests, values and vision they share with both you and each other.
Fortunately, now that the public can easily learn more about you and your company online, building a community of fans is easier than ever before—if you take the right steps. Below, 15 members of Fast Company Executive Board share their best tips for building an engaging community for your customers.
1. START ON THE INSIDE.
It is key to build connections between team members in the beginning, then continue weaving connections into the fabric of your ongoing community. Connection moments between community members do not have to be long; they just have to be often. – Yasmin Davidds, Dr. Yasmin Davidds Leadership Institute
2. FOCUS ON FAMILY CULTURE.
I believe we can build an engaging community by continuously bringing in the Ohana (“family” in Hawaiian) culture. Relationships build lasting communities. If there is a meaningful relationship—like a family—then there is trust. Because of this trust, we can meet and exceed our customers’ expectations, and not just on the education and investing side. – Lane Kawaoka, SimplePassiveCashflow.com
3. EMBRACE RELATIONSHIPS.
One of our core values is “Embracing Relationships” with colleagues, clients, and partners. This value is paramount to our company culture and influences how we conduct our day-to-day business. By focusing on long-term outcomes and genuine relationships, we develop relationships based on trust, and this contributes greatly to our success. – Matthew Wool, Acceleration Partners
4. FOSTER A SENSE OF BELONGING.
When we design a community, we think in terms of hosting potlucks rather than opening restaurants—everyone has something to contribute, and you succeed when choices are made by those who love you the most. Instead of focusing on content, thriving communities focus on ensuring that their members experience a sense of belonging, reciprocity, and recognition of their aspirations and accomplishments. – Hugh Weber, We Must Be Bold | TGD | IOP
5. CREATE EXCLUSIVE CONTENT.
One tip for building an engaging community is to make your community feel special through exclusive content, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and “priceless” moments. These unique offerings are things your community will never forget and will associate with you and your brand for a lifetime. – Kwasi Asare, ESAIYO
6. BECOME A CO-CREATOR RATHER THAN A DIRECTOR.
Participate as a co-creator with your brand community instead of carefully controlling or directing engagement. The community is an opportunity to stay close to your customers and to identify their needs. This should spur you to then discover ways to innovate around those needs. – Krishna Kutty, Kuroshio Consulting Inc.
7. HIGHLIGHT YOUR CUSTOMERS ON SOCIAL MEDIA.
Post user-generated content on social media and feature your customers in your posts, in addition to sharing curated content relevant to your brand. It is also important to change things up by diversifying your content. Never utilize social media as a sales platform! – Kelley Higney, Bug Bite Thing
8. PRACTICE RADICAL GENEROSITY.
Radical generosity is what builds a community worth belonging to. Give without expectation of reward, be intellectually generous, give of your time and experience, and open your Rolodex. You will find others will do so as well, and that is what will make your community a magnet for like-minded people. – Esther Kestenbaum Prozan, Ruby Has Fulfillment
9. HELP THEM EXPLORE AND SHARE THEIR INTERESTS.
Focus on creating an authentic connection with your customers while driving value. For example, if you own a jump rope brand, you could create a jump rope community on Facebook sponsored by your brand where avid jump rope fans can share tips, tricks, and other info about their jump-roping efforts. – Fehzan Ali, Adscend Media LLC
10. DEVELOP ONLINE COURSES.
Create online courses related to the problem your product is trying to solve. Learning management system platforms include Q&A or forum options where users can discuss subjects. Such areas are also great places to showcase a student’s progress and achievements. You will build social proof, create conversations, and bring people together around your brand. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
11. INVITE YOUR CUSTOMERS INTO YOUR PROCESSES.
Bring people into the process so they feel like they’re part of your success. We had a client who was introducing a new product and decided to finance the launch with a crowdfunding platform for this very reason. They could have funded the launch in other ways, but they wanted to gain interest and real buy-in from the ground up. – Scott Baradell, Idea Grove
12. PROVIDE VALUE WITHOUT AN ASK.
Building a community means providing actionable, intriguing, and quality content or some other value upfront. This is the key component of building a critical mass for your product or service. After two years of compiling YouTube content on the recruitment industry, I was able to amass a following of nearly 20,000 followers across a multitude of platforms. Value without an ask was the key. – Benjamin Nader, 6 Figure Recruiter
13. BUILD ON A FOUNDATION OF SHARED VALUES.
The only communities worth joining are the ones built around shared values. If that foundation doesn’t exist, the rest of the community will eventually crumble, no matter how great the product or service. Clearly articulate what you stand for and then prove it through consistent action. That’s the best and most straightforward way to build an enthusiastic, loyal community of customers. – Ryan Anderson, Filevine
14. OFFER GENUINE, PERSONALIZED SUPPORT.
Customer service is all about making customers feel valuable and important, and all customers deserve your full attention and a positive attitude. Support needs to be personal—every customer is unique, as is every issue raised. You cannot treat a customer as a number or a one-off transaction. Care for your customers, not with an agenda but with an offer of genuine support. – Eric Schurke, Moneypenny
15. FIND WAYS TO BRING YOUR CUSTOMERS TOGETHER.
Create opportunities for your customers to talk to each other. This will reinforce a feedback loop: Bring them together, they will talk to each other, they will learn from each other, and then they will pull others in. It becomes a snowball effect. – Riggs Kubiak, Procore Technologies