29 Nov

Are You Building a Community of Loyal Customers?

Communities — there is more than just one small business community!Are you building a community of readers and customers and participants? 

That’s important, because a community is central to a strategy of reaching out to the small business market.  True, your ultimate goal has to be to sell your services and products to small businesses.  But to do that you first have to think about engaging them.  Engagement is not a one-shot sales pitch, nor is it an ad. It’s an ongoing dialog — multiple activities — that business owners participate in. 

On November 15, 2007 in New York I spoke at the Small Business Leadership Summit, put on by Moran Media Group. The panel was moderated by Jim Barrood, Executive Director of the Rothman Institute of Entrepreneurial Studies at Fairleigh Dickinson University.  On the panel with me were Ramon Ray, Editor of SmallBizTechnology.com and John Jantsch, of Duct Tape Marketing fame.

Jim did an excellent job leading the panel into pulling out lots of helpful information.  Interestingly, Ramon and John and I all ended up emphasizing community.  We did not coordinate our comments in advance (other than in the most general way), but everyone’s points dovetailed nicely. 

One of the points that came through, loud and clear, was this:

For a winning Web strategy, build a community

John kicked things off by offering up the 4 Cs online: content, consistency, contact and community.  As he pointed out, you start with content, you get it out there consistently, you make contact.  And where does it lead ultimately?  To developing a community.

I spoke about communities as being multiple.  While we may refer to THE small business community, in reality there are many communities.  So in your strategy, don’t feel as if there is only one community of small business owners and you have to beat everyone else out to grab control of that one community.  Each company, each organization can and should create its own community.  There may be some overlap with other communities, but that’s OK.  Because in the future, we all will belong to a variety of communities.  Each community have its own flavor and personality, and people will have different motivations to belong to different communities.

Then Ramon pulled it all together by pointing out that vendors and organizations that serve small businesses have to lead the way.  You have to live the walk and walk the talk, by creating your own communities. And you have to support small businesses by helping them with advice and tools to create their own communities around their businesses.

To learn more about communities, including defining characteristics and features of online communities, read the article “Community 2.0” by Alyssa Kroski.  It’s an excellent analysis and broad overview.   She also lists additional readings at the end of her article.

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  1. EJMalyn said on November 29th, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    I am in awe over the many, many online communities out there. I did read the article Community 2.0 and did find it to be excellent.

  2. Chris said on November 30th, 2007 at 11:57 am

    The article is very insightful and the way it’s broken down really gets to the heart of the matter in determining what would be effective for your particular needs in developing a community.

  3. Martin Lindeskog said on January 15th, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    We started out to create a community with Ning and then a group on Facebook. We are in process of creating our own Blue Chip Community with a user friendly web & cms tool. In this community you will be able to use a project management tool, put up classified ads and notes on a billboard, buy and sell stuff at an auction, participate in discussion forums and reading columns by different experts in e.g., sales, online marketing, memory training, etc.

    We want to connect the physical meeting place with virtual meetings in cyberspace. Discuss business stuff over a cup of coffee and conduct online chat sessions.

  4. […] tips quickly, anytime they have a spare moment. That’s what small business expert, Anita Campbell has […]

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