Wondering what community-based marketing is and how to create a community marketing strategy? Then you’re in the right place.

In this article we’ll cover:

  • What a community marketing strategy is
  • How to grow a business using a community marketing strategy
  • 4 Benefits of having a community marketing strategy
  • 7 Proven strategies for community marketing

Let’s go.

What is a community marketing strategy?

A community marketing strategy might sound like the latest buzzword in the world of marketing, but it’s also become a crucial part of the buyer journey.

Let’s face it. Today’s customers have more power than ever before. From immediate access to the products and services they’re interested in, the ability to leave feedback on review sites, and spying on social media, customers are so much better informed.  As a result, brands have been forced to transform their marketing strategies and focus their efforts on building meaningful relationships that are driven by two-way conversation.

Consider your community marketing strategy, a way to engage your audience in a non-intrusive, transparent, and conversational way.

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How to grow a business using a community marketing strategy

Unlike traditional advertising that is solely focused on getting new customers, a community marketing strategy is more about connecting and engaging with people to build long-term relationships. It’s about conversation and the power of making your customers or potential customers feel recognized, heard, and important.

Community marketing bridges the gap between the direction you’re driving your business with the people who are driving it. People are more likely to shell out more for a product or service if it comes with a strong sense of connection, support, and service – and that’s exactly what community marketing is all about.

Benefits of having a community marketing strategy

If you’re still not convinced on whether community marketing is going to be beneficial for your business. Here some advantages of taking a community marketing-based approach.

1. Reduce your dependency on paid advertising

Though many inbound marketing gurus boldly claim that paid advertising is dead, companies are increasing their investment in paid search and social media by 10% year-over-year. While undoubtedly still effective in certain situations, paid advertising presents some big challenges that are often hard to overcome. We live in an age of banner blindness where customers are growing tired of intrusive advertising and machines are constantly playing catch-up as they try to better guess what sort of ads people want to see. This has given rise to serious concerns about privacy which, in turn, puts the brands relying on paid ads in a perilous position. Add regulations like GDPR into the equation, and paid advertising becomes an even more uncertain landscape.

That’s not to say a community marketing strategy is necessarily a fix-all solution. It takes time and effort to build a group of engaged members, but it also gives brands the opportunity to capitalise on the fundamental human need for social interaction. That’s something that will never change, and in an age when people are more connected than ever before, community marketing fast becomes an obvious need. As has always been the case, people are motivated by emotions, which makes it far more likely that customers will respond to real social interactions than paid ads that disrupt them as they vie for attention.

2. Increase customer retention through ongoing engagement

Customers are spoiled for choice to a degree that was unimaginable just a few decades ago. One sub-par experience or a handful of band reviews on Facebook is often all it takes for them to start looking elsewhere. With consumer review platforms dominating purchase decisions, it has become harder for brands to retain their customers. They need to create switching barriers that give people more reasons to stay. Naturally, a lot of that comes with having a great product or service, but that’s not the whole story. Consider, for example, the fact that most iPhone users will never consider buying an Android-powered device. They’re loyal to the brand, not because iPhones are better as such, but because the brand itself has become part of their identities.

When you use a brand community to create a strong social experience for your customers, they don’t just become loyal to the brand – they become members of a group of like-minded individuals. They become loyal to one another as well, members of a club that gives them a sense of belonging. Brand communities work thanks to the psychological effects of mutually beneficial relationships in which brands empower their customers with a voice and two-way conversation thrives. With a combination of network-based marketing and direct sales, brands can deliver better customer experience and increase retention rates substantially.  

3. Give your customers a voice in the direction of your business

More than ever, customer success drives brand success. The more your customers can get out of your product or service, the easier it will be to retain them and inspire brand advocacy. Thanks to the power of community marketing, brands no longer need to conduct costly outreach programs to learn more about customer sentiment. Instead of simply hoping that people will leave helpful and positive reviews or complete lengthy customer satisfaction surveys, an online community gives them a space to connect directly with the brand in the confidence that someone will be listening to them.

Successful brands are no longer driven by educated guesswork. They’re driven directly by the feedback and participation of their customers. When you can empower your customers with a voice in the direction of your brand and the development of its value proposition, they become part of the team. They’re the sort of customers who become brand advocates, evangelizing your business and, in the process, spending on average twice as much as other customers. At the same time, your product research and development teams can use your community as a one-stop-shop for collective knowledge, while support teams can help resolve more common issues in less time.

4. Sell directly to your community

The perfect example of a plain terrible social media brand page is one where there’s a constant barrage of sales pitches. Yet, too many businesses still use their communities for bombarding their members with advertisements in the hope that the numbers alone will yield results. That’s where advertising becomes spamming. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t sell directly to your community. What it does mean is that you need to give your customers the option to buy with as little friction as possible. Disruptive advertising is on the way out, but if your members have a way to make purchases through your community app or forum, then it’s simply a matter of making things easier for them. And, the easier the process is, the more likely they’ll buy.

Today’s social media marketing teams often apply the 60/30/10 rule, whereby 60% of what they post is engaging content, 30% is shared from other sources and just 10% is promotion- or sales-driven. The same rule may be applied to community marketing. With your own private brand community, you’re also not subject to the limitations of public platforms like Facebook Shop. Instead, you can provide a fully customized experience that incorporates features like in-app purchases, subscriptions, and exclusive discount codes.

why you should create a community online

5 Misconceptions About Community Marketing

When it comes to community marketing, seeing simplicity and clarity where there is none often has the effect of generating myths that take on a life of their own. These myths then undermine community marketing efforts and cause companies to waste money. Let’s take a look at 5 myths about community-based marketing currently making the rounds.

Myth #1: Size Not Only Matters, It’s Everything

The idea that bigger is always better is simply not true when it comes to community marketing. If you emphasize growth over engagement the people that helped your community get off the ground through their robust interactions will likely feel drowned out as new members flood in. Losing those bedrock supporters is often the first step toward irrelevance.

Myth #2: Father (or Mother) Knows Best

Online communities are a little like kids. You can try and imbue them with your infinite wisdom, but at some point, you have to let them go and be themselves. If you don’t, they’ll go anyway. They just won’t take you with them.

Myth 3: You Can’t Create a Community

The idea that all online communities spring up organically is a pleasant fiction and nothing more. The fact is, it is more than possible to create an online community out of whole digital cloth. There are many examples of successful community building by entrepreneurs armed only with a good idea.

Myth #4: One Niche/One Community

There is a common myth that’s been circulating for some time that if there is already an established online community related to a certain product, person, or idea that there’s no room for another. This is nonsense. The online marketplace thrives on competition – your success or failure will have far more to do with the quality of the community you foster.

Myth 5: Community Members Exist to be Sold To

Your community members are not consumer drones whose brand loyalty can be taken for granted. They’re human beings, there to have fun and engage with others who share their interests. Sure, community marketing entails marketing. But there’s a reason it’s called “community marketing” and not “marketing community”.

7 Proven strategies for community marketing

When you’re approaching community marketing, it’s important that you strike the right tone with your audience. You don’t want to come off as being too pushy with constant sales posts, ignoring your audience when they engage, or spamming them with irrelevant content as this can do more harm than good.

We’ve listed 7 proven community marketing strategies to help you get started:

1. Participate

Ultimately, people join online communities because they have a mutual love of a product, service, or cause. They’re there because they want to connect with others, share information, research, and learn about whatever topic you’re niche falls into. Nobody joins a community because they want to sign up for a hard sell – they’re there out of choice, not an obligation. Keeping this in mind and using your community as a space to really participate in conversations and getting to know the people who are hanging out there will make a huge difference to the online atmosphere you’re creating.

2. Contribute like a pro

When you set up a community, always remember you’re the expert in your field and topic. Every time you respond do it from a space of adding as much value as you can so that people see you as the authority and expert. Publishing educational articles, providing tips and how-to’s doesn’t only highlight your expertise it also helps you to strengthen relationships with your target audience. When you focus on actually helping your audience instead of using marketing jargon – you’re much more likely to build loyalty.

3. Be accessible

Nobody likes to be ignored so making sure you participate in your online community and show up on a regular basis will help others to build trust with you. It will also add a human element to your marketing and creates a sense of authenticity – something that people absolutely love. After all, people buy from people.

4. Create raving fans

There’s no denying that word of mouth marketing is the most powerful marketing tool. People trust their friends, family, and peers. You can use this to your advantage by discovering the positive influencers within your community and choosing to engage with them to establish a mutually beneficial relationship in the form of discounts or becoming an affiliate. This makes them feel like a part of your team and helps you to grow your business organically.

5. Advertise in an informative way

Providing value to your audience by advertising in an informative way is a great way to educate your audience on what you offer without coming across as sleazy. When you answer FAQ’s for example or talk about changes in your industry – you’re keeping people engaged without forcing them to buy your product or service.

6. Stay consistent

If people aren’t showing up straight away – don’t lose hope. When you remain consistent with your approach and with the content you publish, your community will grow and people will naturally build trust with what you’re doing.

7. Engage

Finding ways to engage with your audience in a way that works for them is crucial. Are your audience busy and on the go? If so, maybe videos will be faster than publishing blog posts. If you’re a community about a book club for example then maybe your audience will prefer to read and blog posts will be more appreciated by them. Making use of a Poll feature is a great way to find out what type of content your community most values and to drive more interactions.

Community Marketing Examples

Dead Space

Jamband music attracts a certain type of individual who appreciates spontaneous creativity and has a passion for bands like The Grateful Dead. David, the founder of Dead Space, was frustrated by the limitations imposed on his Facebook page and the way constant algorithm updates kept pulling the rug out from under his efforts to create long term relationships with fellow Jamband fans.

In mid-2019 David decided enough was enough and came to Disciple in search of a better way. A few months later he launched his Jamband community app and the results have been amazing. His community is thriving, and engagement is through the roof.

Her Spirit

The founders of the women’s fitness community Her Spirit were struggling to create meaningful engagement using standard social media outlets. They had a large following but felt there were artificially imposed walls between them and community members. Their quest for a solution led them to Disciple, and the rest is history.

The Her Spirit app has been a smashing success and allowed members to develop tighter bonds between themselves and the founders. Everyone involved is thrilled to have a safe, easy to access place to discuss all aspects of their individual fitness journeys.

Cerebral Palsy Alberta

People with disabilities and their families have had a notoriously difficult time creating and maintaining supportive communities, even with the advent of social media. Something about the impersonality of social media giants along with the limitations the Facebook page puts on professional involvement has long undermined meaningful community building.

Cerebral Palsy Alberta (CPAA) is one non-profit that found a better way with Disciple. Today, their app is home to a thriving community (including health professionals) that includes a multitude of groups focusing on specific topics and themes related to Cerebral Palsy.

Final words

Building an online community that’s exclusive to your brand and comfortably far away from all the noise of public social media won’t happen overnight, but it’s definitely an investment worth making. Businesses can no longer hope to compete solely on things like price and product selection, and conventional advertising can only achieve so much. Instead, they need a community of raving fans that in itself becomes a unique value proposition that more people will be drawn to.

Disciple community management platform helps people build independent, valuable, and trusted communities in a safe space that they own and control. Start building your community marketing strategy today with our fully customizable community app.