This article is contributed by Donald Adams.
Technology has changed business in a large number of ways and created a wealth of opportunities for start-ups and small companies that can at last go toe to toe with larger corporations. New internet marketing techniques have enabled them to reach a wider audience than ever before. Digital production methods have reduced overheads and automated manufacturing, and better distribution channels have made order fulfillment easier than ever before. But what the web really gives to business is the benefit of community, and that’s something that many of us aren’t taking enough advantage of.
Thanks to this new ease of communication, businesses can now have a two-way relationship with their clients and customers they’re serving, and this can result in a mutually beneficial situation that results in better products, more orders and higher profits. Here’s how you can create a community around your business that means your customers and clients really feel involved in your business and emotionally invested in your success.
Join a Social Network
Research shows that people are more likely to buy a product or use a service if they have liked or followed that brand first on Facebook or Twitter (though of course this factoid assumes a causality that is almost certainly in fact two-way…). The real point is however, that we normally associate social media with connecting with friends, which means we’ll immediately feel more loyalty to a company that we’re connected to in this way – particularly when they follow their fans back…
Use a Mailing List or Let Users Log In to your Website
By using a mailing list or letting users create their own profiles on your website, you give them the opportunity to ‘join’ or ‘sign up’ in some form or other. When they do this they will instantly feel more involved with your business and will be much more likely to return – after all they’ve invested the time necessary to sign up and they won’t want it to go to waste. There are connotations to ‘joining’ anything, and this is something that can be a great benefit to you.
Update Your Customers Via a Blog
The internet has created a much greater capacity for transparency and enabled businesses to keep their customers and clients informed of their activities at all times. Having a blog is a great way to do this and to create a feeling of openness and disclosure among your user base. When you first come up with a new concept for a product or service, who are the first people you inform – the press? Why not your customers who will actually be putting their money into your creations and who can maybe even help give you pointers on exactly what they’d like to see from you? Which brings us on nicely to the next point…
Crowdsourcing means making use of the community you’ve established in order to help with your projects, both conceptually and practically. This could mean for instance simply using a forum, social network or the comments section of your blog in order to collect feedback on a concept and suggestions. Or it could mean asking for ideas regarding the name of a product or even suggestions as to how you could overcome technical challenges or what features your offering would benefit from. This way you not only take advantage of the ‘genius of the crowd’ (a million heads are better than one), but you also create a device literally tailored to the very audience that you want to buy it. A great example is the forthcoming Razor Edge Android gaming tablet – which began life as a concept sketch on Facebook that the company announced would only see development if it generated enough likes – a great way to test the water before investing time and money into such a big project.
Then there’s crowdfunding which is crowdsourcing for funds. For small businesses this is a fantastic option that involves using a crowdfunding site such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo in order to find ‘backers’ to help fund your project. Not only does this mean you can afford more ambitious projects risk free, but it will also be a great way to market your release prior to its launch and benefit a buzz, and you’ll find that the backers who support your ideas will be much more invested in them as a result and so more likely to spread the word and try to aid in your success.
Giving away branded gifts, whether those be t-shirts, mugs, mouse mats or something else entirely is a great way to ingratiate yourself toward your in-built community, and you may find they even feel obligated to return the favour. Furthermore, if you want to create a feeling of belonging among your community; then this is something you can achieve very nicely by getting them to wear your logo or drink from a mug displaying it. Not only is it free promotion for you, but it’s also a great way to create a sense of perceived affiliation (and promotional gifts can serve as a great incentive for your backers on Kickstarter too).
These are just some of the ways you can start getting people to really line up behind your business, and to start making the most of your audience as your greatest asset – which is precisely what they are.
Donald Adams is a graphic designer and says that almost all businesses give personalized pens in Canada to make customers aware of their presence in the local business market.
- corporate pens image courtesy of Telstar Logistics via photopin cc
- social network image courtesy of Marc Smith via Flickr
- wrapped gifts image courtesy of Muffet via Flickr