In the first part of this series, we discussed the basics of community strategy. It’s time to delve a little deeper into one of these pillars: sales. It’s common for those lacking experience with community marketing to misunderstand why they’re really doing it. They think that community strategy is an extra to be tacked onto a balance sheet, and that the most they can expect is a quick tweet about the release of a new product. Looking at the strategies (or lack thereof) being used, it’s easy to see why. For a savvy manager of a consumer brand, one of the linchpins of community strategy is sales.
Where Sales Fits Into Your Community Strategy
Marketing is more complicated than it used to be. Marketers can no longer simply tell customers how great their product is and hope that they’re believed. The problem is twofold: customers don’t trust what brands say, and they care about more than the features that you’re selling them. They want the details of the product, not the bullet points from your ad. How does your product feel? How is it used? How has it changed the life of your customers? Customers put extensive research into even small purchases. How much harder is your job if you’re selling a high price item, like a computer or a phone?
So what does a sales focused community strategy need? Opinions vary (and unique thinking always provides an advantage), but I’d recommend focusing on a few, basic common sense methods of generating sales:
1. Acquiring New Customers
Most fundamental of all, community can be used to get customers in the door. You want to introduce your customer to your product, and then keep them hooked in. By giving your existing customers a customer community, you provide searchers with a great place to discover conversation about your product. It’s important that this is a space that you can control, where you can interact with your customers and ensure they’re having a great experience with your product. Which leads to...
2. Converting Prospective Customers
A long term community strategy for generating sales should focus on the creation of brand advocates; people who will tell the world how great your product is. These advocates are far more easily trusted by consumers, because their views aren’t tainted by an obvious association with your product. Community allows you to market honestly, by giving your customers a reason to advocate for you to their friends, family and colleagues.
By engaging in dialogue with your users, you increase their investment in your product. They begin to see your brand as part of their brand. You’ll start to see what your biggest customers want from their product, not just on release but after six months to a year of serious use. This is more valuable than a traditional focus group, because users feel less pressured to give a “right” answer. When they start to see the product taking shape in ways they feel they influenced, they feel even closer to your company
3. Retain Existing Customers
Community is a place to keep your customer engaged. Not in a vague, wooly “liked a Facebook post” way, but in a way that creates an affinity with your brand and products. A customer who feels like part of your community is far more enthusiastic than one who doesn’t. Even if they have problems with your product, or your brand takes a PR knock, a strong line of communication with your community allows you to weather the storm.
Once a potential customer has spent money, a customer community gives them a place to talk about it, to integrate it into their own personal brand and to build connections with other customers based on their purchase. When you release further products in the future, or offer post-sale upsells and upgrades, those connections still exist.
Long Term Community Strategy Requires The Right Tools
Effective communication with your customers isn’t a simple task, and you need the right tools in place. A branded customer community allows you to not only communicate with your customers but give them a place to communicate with each other. The omni-directional nature of this communication gives it an edge over the less substantial, mayfly nature of traditional social media sites. Whatever tools you decide to use, great community strategy means strong brand links. Strong brand links mean strong sales.
The next article in this series deals with another crucial part of community strategy: support. See you then!
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