This article was originally published on the Zapnito community on the 18th August 2020.
The panacea for any brand is a base of passionate, loyal customers. Not only do loyal customers spend more, they encourage others to do the same. Retaining customers is also significantly cheaper than acquiring new ones.
We spoke about the marketing power of communities in 2019, and since then, we have seen this play out in real-time. 70% of consumers prioritized the brands they knew and trusted during the coronavirus lockdown - therefore brands with loyal customers have greater resilience against unexpected events.
So how do brands foster this strong connection with their customers?
The power of brand communities
Brand communities, when done well, create a participatory experience for customers that helps to form a genuine connection. Rather than talking ‘at’ consumers, they create a dialogue, driving conversations between a brand and its biggest advocates (from employees and partners to customers and other stakeholders).
They also create a more sustainable, long-term way of growing a brand and an audience. Lots of B2C brands do this well, and none more so than Glossier. This beauty brand has raised $86 Million in total funding for their digital-native beauty brand, with 80% of growth coming from peer-to-peer recommendations.
At the core of Glossier is its community. This was built around their content - they focused on educating their customers, and became a trusted resource and authority on beauty. Comments on this content grew organically into a 2-way conversation between brand + customer. Now members share tips, beta test new products, and feedback to the Glossier team about their needs and wants.
Glossier now has an almost cult-like community of passionate brand advocates. This is the power of brand communities. At a time when influencer marketing is on the way out, and consumers increasingly look to their peers whose recommendations they can trust, having this kind of community underpinning your brand is an invaluable resource.
What about B2B?
But where B2C is fast getting to grips with the power of community, B2B brands are lagging behind. But the power of brand communities is not exclusive to B2C.
All buying decisions depend on how we feel about a brand. As explained by Susanna Kempe last year, communities self-identify based on the interests, experience, and emotions that they relate to. When you’re specific about what you stand for as a brand, others can identify with you, and forge a brand loyalty and momentum that makes them more likely to say yes, to spend more, and to encourage others to do so too. This is universal, regardless of if you’re speaking with a business buyer or a consumer.
A trust crisis
As Stephanie Buscemi, CMO of Salesforce, explains “Specific to tech, there is a trust crisis. That’s why it’s so important right now to have a community who are speaking authentically on their own experience and doing it in their own words. It’s no longer enough to have a great product or service. You have to build a deep relationship with your customers. No more pitching or preaching. It’s about having a conversation.”
Brand communities are an essential tool to build trust. They open up a brand, giving it a face and a voice, and a direct, unfiltered channel of communication. Customers will start to feel heard, recognized and rewarded, and from there, trust will grow.
Communities for a competitive edge
Brand communities also help a brand to differentiate. By providing a single, trusted, and unified channel to speak to your people, it creates a space for customers, partners, employees, and other stakeholders to share their thoughts, wants, and feedback. And because of the community format, you’re more likely to get unfiltered insights and feedback from your audience. If people are sharing throughout their day-to-day, they’ll be more open and transparent compared to a formal survey.
Additionally, having a community centered around a common interest or goal taps directly into the needs of our purpose-fuelled society. You’re giving people a place to meet like-minded peers, to further their knowledge and (therefore) feel more positively about your brand. A place with no added noise, no ads, no algorithms.
Ultimately this creates a greater sense of belonging. It powers innovation and can deliver new insights for your product, sales, and marketing teams. It builds long-term loyalty and will drive advocacy at scale. A community pays off in many ways, for your business and your people - it’s a win-win for everyone.