In previous posts, relationship marketing expert Elaine Gamble shared the pillars of relationship marketing in partnering, collaborating, and actively building value together with your consumers, versus focusing on selling.
Through partnership and engagement, we prove our value to consumers, generate sustained engagement, and drive business impact. Emotional and more intangible benefits supersede standard product features and comparisons. We differentiate our brands through the quality of how and when we establish an emotional connection.
In this post, Elaine explores the last, and perhaps most important, pillar of relationship marketing success: community (specifically an online brand community).
The Key Role on an Online Brand Community
In today’s connected and social marketing world, most would agree on the critical role of community in building and sustaining brands, fostering loyalty, and driving ongoing engagement with your business.
What is the definition of community?
As we discuss the importance of community, let’s first ground ourselves in a definition of community:
A feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
As we consider what community really is, we see a natural, intuitive alignment with relationship marketing’s vision of partnership and non-selling approaches.
- Community offers validation that the consumer has made an excellent choice to do business with your brand, supporting sustained interest
- Community aligns your brand with authenticity – feeling connected to and having the perspective of a broader peer community supports the consumer’s trust in your brand
- Community enables your consumers to feel truly understood – having a connection to others perceived to have similar interests is the hallmark of a relationship marketing vision
- Community offers your consumers a sense of belonging – the feeling of being part of something bigger and special is one of the most natural, basic human needs
- Community supports an emotional connection that sparks long-term loyalty and consumer advocacy
- Community enables the consumer’s access to peer advice and mentoring – these practical resources and opportunities have far more influence than direct brand promotional claims
- Community encourages loyalty by inspiring consumers to use your product in new ways and enhancing their receptiveness to doing so
Relationship Marketing & Community: Best Practices
Community as part of relationship marketing excellence sounds like a no-brainer, right? But as with most things, it all comes down to execution. It’s easy to buy into needing a sense of community conceptually for relationship marketing initiatives; the key is optimizing your community for relationship marketing success.
Here are some considerations that will allow you to maximize the value of community in your relationship marketing:
- A brand community should feel distinct from your broader base of consumers. There should be a sense of exclusiveness in customer service, experience, and offers, and the focus should be on providing value in tangible and emotional ways
- Marketers with communities may leverage the benefits of satisfaction surveys or other means to demonstrate “we are listening” and enhance relationships with our communities; however, it is important not just to take (by capturing feedback) but to give back (sharing the feedback you captured with the community and the ways you are using it). Sharing what you learned demonstrates partnership and two-way engagement, core principles of relationship marketing
- Make sure the tool you use to foster your online community are designed to truly support your brand. Too often, Facebook Groups is thought of as the marketer’s sole community-building tool. But Facebook does not allow a brand to own their consumer relationships or data. And they require marketers to spend money on advertising to effectively distribute your posts. Instead, utilize social media as a launchpad and direct consumers to a community that has been optimized for your branding, data, advocacy, and insights needs, such as Vesta’s community building software
- Leverage an online brand community to activate advocacy, custom surveys, promotional offers, online reviews, recommendations, and hosted/moderated discussions. In addition to supporting community, the insights you’ll capture will support innovation in a more natural and real-time manner (vs. launching an expensive and time-consuming external research project). If your organization needs to re-invent its consumer engagement, this can help position re-invention to happen more incrementally and organically over time, with higher acceptance and buy-in from internal teams
- Consider conducting pilots within your digital brand community of users as part of research, as well as part of your relationship building strategy. Results can be shared by community participants with a broader consumer group, deepening existing relationships, driving advocacy, and giving your community more reasons to be loyal to your brand
A thoughtful approach to optimizing your community over time will enable your brand to realize its full business value. Your online brand community is a special, captive audience. Continue to develop your Community Powered Marketing strategy and unlock its full potential.
Ready to see what Community Powered Marketing can do for your relationship marketing strategy? Check out how hello, Grubhub, and Seventh Generation have harnessed the power of Vesta’s all-in-one Online Community Building Software to grow their brand love.