Today I’ll ask you to consider the biggest overlooked opportunity in the history of marketing opportunities: Brand communities.
First, let me connect the dots of where we are in the world today. I’m guessing everybody in this community is immersed in social media marketing. While this channel is still an important opportunity to connect with potential customers and fans from all over the world, it’s just not very effective for building a brand in most cases. When I post on social media, it feels like I’m throwing a message in a bottle into the ocean. Like most businesses, I just don’t have a solid emotional connection with most of my followers on social media. It’s ephemeral.
The best I can hope for is creating enough interest in my posts that somebody will click further and subscribe to my blog or podcast. Boom! Now we’re in a stronger emotional relationship. Subscribing to my content makes them part of my audience. They have opted into a new level of emotional connection – a level that can result in power business benefits because they have opted-in to the value of my company content.
It’s great to have an audience. This is where most businesses stop. But there is another emotional level to explore that is staring us right in the face – community.
The idea of community is not new. People have flirted with this idea since the earliest days of the internet. But most communities have failed because they were designed to sell stuff … and people generally don’t want to gather every day for that reason!
But what if you had a community that created these benefits:
- Brand differentiation
- An emotional barrier to brand-switching costs
- Conversations that reveal opportunities for brand relevance
- Insights that lead to product innovation
- Organic brand advocacy
- Significant gains in brand loyalty
- Improved customer retention
- Co-created products and services
- Access to firsthand customer data
… to name a few. Wouldn’t you think that every business would jump on this opportunity? But consider this – When was the last time you saw “community” as a discussion track at an industry conference? That’s what I thought. Never. And that’s why this is a massively overlooked opportunity.
Here’s the good news. This is one of the few times in your professional life you can truly be ahead of your competitors. In my new book Belonging to the Brand: Why Community is the Last Great Marketing Strategy, I explain the step-by-step strategy behind community-based marketing that results in extraordinary competitive advantage for you and your business. There are case studies in the book from solopreneurs to the biggest companies in the world. This is a strategy that is accessible to anyone including B2B, B2C, healthcare, nonprofits, and universities.
Here’s even better news. Community is not just a strategy that works, it’s a strategy that heals. It’s the only kind of marketing customers actually want … and need!
- Did you know that we need community to complete our full identity (according to Identity Theory)?
- Community fills a deep psychological need and also provides a physical health benefit.
- Positive feelings that build between friends in a community spill over to brand loyalty and love.
This is “wow” stuff to consider for a marketing professional. So yes, the primary purpose of this book is to explore community-based marketing to benefit your business. But there is also an undeniable power to contribute a healing power to the world.
I’ve been in marketing for four decades and can say with some authority that this is the most difficult time to succeed in our profession. Marketing is hard work. But here is where I think you can have real hope: Community-based marketing builds lasting emotional connections with your audience and customers like no other. If you’re going to work on a marketing strategy, why not devote your time to something that works?
There is no spam in community-based marketing. There’s no lead nurturing, robo-calls, or SEO Wars. It’s marketing without marketing, at least as we now think about marketing.
This is marketing that works, that heals, and an effort we can be proud of. Please consider this opportunity in your marketing strategy.
Mark Schaefer is an acclaimed keynote speaker, marketing consultant, and the author of 10 books including Marketing Rebellion and Belonging to the Brand.