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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

14 strategies to build client community engagement

Here’s how business leaders are getting customers to participate and connect.

14 strategies to build client community engagement
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]

Launching a viable company is not only about developing a quality brand of products and services, it’s also about building long-lasting relationships with loyal clientele. But how can a business owner gain initial attraction from potential customers and partners in the marketplace that will enable their early establishment to grow?

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Whether it’s an online chance to stack up on reward incentives, or an in-person special event featuring a CEO AMA, the customers are sure to appreciate every opportunity to rub shoulders with the company’s representatives, share their feedback on an added value item, and much more.

To offer leaders and their teams some additional ways to keep the conversations going, below are 14 Fast company Executive Board members to share tips on what’s been working for them.

1. CREATE USEFUL CONTENT FOR PEER COLLABORATION. 

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If the community is delivering value, customers will be engaged and keep coming back. Two keys to driving community value are to provide useful content and enable peer-to-peer collaboration. This allows customers to get answers to their questions. It’s also important to measure engagement, ideally through the number of new members, logins, and specific contributions to the community. – Scott Brown, FinancialForce

2. ALIGN YOUR MISSION WITH SOCIAL ISSUES.

Social impact is key. In a world where consumers can often feel taken advantage of, make your mission purposeful. As a result, your customers will feel like they are part of something greater. By building impact into your product, you and your customer no longer fight over the same coin, removing any conflict of interest. – Nina Rauch, Lemonade

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3. PROMOTE BRAND AUTHENTICITY.

Engagement may be what helps bring in customers, but authenticity keeps them returning. It’s not enough to offer an engaging environment; you must also find ways to build a space and culture. So whether online or in-person, doing so provides value, builds brand attachment, and connects with customers on an authentic level. Engagement comes from people respecting, trusting, and valuing your brand. – Josh Perlstein, Response Media

4. FOCUS ON SOLVING A PAIN POINT.

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Building community, even among your most loyal followers, can be very difficult. One of the best means of doing so is allowing users and customers to interact with one another to solve problems and find solutions among themselves. Forums, chat boards, social media, and even live events can be helpful. But, the main focus should be solving a pain point or creating value. – Tyrone Foster, InvestNet, LLC

5. FOSTER A TEAM ATMOSPHERE.

Engage your best customers! The more we have invited participation in thought leadership, panels with non-competitive firms, social outings, and amplifiers, the greater the mutual impact. This reinforces that we are on the same team. It’s not an us versus them situation; rather, it’s two sides of the same coin! – Michelle Hayward, Bluedog

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6. ASK FOR CUSTOMER INPUT.

Let your customers participate in the creation of your next generation of products and services. Launch a platform and build a program encouraging them to submit ideas. Let them vote on the ideas of others and build on their creative thinking. You’ll find that the best new ideas for the future of your business will come from your community of customers. They know exactly what they want to buy. – Barry Fiske, Merkle

7. LEAD BY EXAMPLE.

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Be engaging yourself, and lead by example. The more you are authentically and enthusiastically involved in community initiatives, the more engaged your team and broader stakeholder community will be. – Ashleigh Vogstad, Transcends Marketing Ltd

8. BE READY TO SUPPORT.

We build an engaging community for our nursing professionals through “Meet-Up” events that we host across the country, via our social media platforms, and in features on our app. Our nursing professionals may identify as gig workers, but they also know that we have their backs and that they are part of a larger community of nurses and nursing assistants united by our support. – David Coppins, IntelyCare

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9. DE-COMMERCIALIZE DIGITAL CONTENT.

When possible, de-commercialize the content. If you really want current or potential customers to engage with your brand, you need to create an environment where you aren’t obviously selling them something. – Abhilash Patel, Within Health

10. STAY CONNECTED, AND SERVE.

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The answer is simple: Connect, connect, and connect. A community is about serving others. You should never make it about yourself but about how you can help your community. When a true community is created, everyone is helping each other. If not, it will turn into a one-way relationship that doesn’t work. – Pablo Listingart, ComIT

11. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE CUSTOMERS.

Focus on the people and their needs. Aligning your product or services with your target audience’s needs and lifestyle habits will multiply the impact you have. Be genuine and authentic. Don’t underestimate your customers, because they can tell when you don’t walk the walk. Instead, create dialogue and get feedback as often as you can. Then learn from it and communicate it back to your team. – Anna Malhari, Veris Residential

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12. OFFER INCENTIVES.

To build an engaging community for your customers, you can leverage surveys, data from Google Analytics and social media to help create the customer persona you’ll model the community for. The community must serve the customers and give them an incentive to remain active. Many thriving communities gamify the experience and promote the most engaged customers with badges, promotions, and more. – Jevon Wooden, Live Not Loathe

13. PROVIDE INTELLECTUAL VALUE.

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All too often, brands are looking to extract from their customer base. However, generosity is essential, and more valuable than material generosity is intellectual generosity. You have a platform to share ideas, spark thoughts, and connect with like-minded people, so cultivate your community. – Todd Bracher, Betterlab

14. BUILD A COLLECTIVE MOVEMENT.

Humans are inherently social. Collaborative interaction within a collective is a natural phenomenon. Providing a passion-driven outlet for like-minded user groups where ideas can be shared freely and feedback can be heard is a building block for brand loyalty. People like to be part of a movement, initiative, or something larger than they can be on their own, to contribute to learning from each other. – Goran Paun, ArtVersion

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