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Fierce Loyalty: Unlocking the DNA of Wildly Successful Communities

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by Lauren Hart Piper , Vice President, Product Management and Marketing.

As we’ve learned by working with The Community Roundtable, regardless of the type of community you’re building, a hallmark of a successful community is the ability to develop fiercely loyal members.  Whether you’re a hot consumer brand or work in an industry where excitement is more difficult to foster such as insurance or banking, it’s never as simple as, “if you build it, they will come.”  Yet, all communities share a common DNA and if you plan to properly cultivate fiercely-loyal brand advocates are much easier to discover.

Building loyalty starts with identifying the fundamental common interest shared by your members.  You may not nail this common interest right away, but don’t fall into the trap of waiting until you’ve perfected it to start; many companies falter in their community efforts, waiting to get it “just right”.  Don’t be afraid to iterate and pivot as you go along. Listening to your members is invaluable in making sure you understand what their common interests really are; they just might surprise you.

For a community built on common interests to succeed, it needs to organize the structure for engagement with clearly established rules and guidelines. These “rules of engagement” must be obvious so members can contribute, collaborate and benefit from peer-to-peer interactions and support. If you can establish a predictable environment free from barriers to contribution, your community will thrive and members will develop loyalty based on pride, trust, and passion.

Building a community of loyal advocates takes time, but it provides a return on your investment that cannot be obtained in any other way and those returns can have a meaningful impact on your business’ bottom line.  In other words, it is worth the wait.

Here are three key takeaways we’ve discovered in building strong communities of brand advocates:

  1. Communities Build Empowered Evangelists  

The ultimate goal of any brand community is the development of champions who will rave about your brand and tell your story for you.  In an age where people are bombarded with noise, peer recommendations are more valuable than ever. Consumers increasingly look to individuals they trust (rather than the brands themselves) to influence their buying decisions.  Positive word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most important by-products of a successful community.

Pro Tip: Engage with community members when they provide positive feedback on social channels. Customers love to know that they are being heard and this will foster continued interactions.

  1. Communities Are Your Built-in Research and Marketing Team  

Communities provide incredible market research and feedback for product development.  An engaged and passionate community can ensure more successful product launches and marketing campaigns by gathering feedback and advice from a highly-targeted audience. When your community feels it’s had a hand in building your next product or campaign, they’re far more likely to eagerly anticipate its release.

Pro Tip: Connect with members when their ideas translate into product updates, improvements or new launches. Nothing feels better than knowing your suggestion was taken seriously and implemented.

  1. Engaged Customers Translate Into Lower Attrition Rates

    When customers have a trusted place to go to learn, get personalized help and find fast resolution to problems, they’re less likely to shop around for an alternative to your product/service.  A community can serve as a defining facet of the brand experience and helps shape a positive image of your company among clients and in the market.

Pro Tip: Reaching out to frustrated members ensures they know their concerns are being heard and taken seriously. Even a simple “We’re sorry you’re struggling, how can we help?” goes a long way to building trust and loyalty.

By providing a community with clearly defined value to your members, you are building a framework for an ecosystem of loyal brand advocates.

What tips or tricks have you found are effective in establishing and growing a strong base of brand champions? Do you have a “Pro Tip” to add to our list? Let us know in the comments

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