At the beginning of September, we started exploring customer loyalty and some overarching ideas entrepreneurs need to know about engaging meaningfully with the people they serve. These included learning customers, not underestimating follow-up and making the experience personal. Today, we will go into understanding and engaging with your consumer community.
Community in its broadest sense speaks to a group of people that share common interests and are going toward particular goals. This idea is translated into your small business as those individuals who are supporters of your brand, repeat customers and those within similar industries that help support the work that you are doing. The idea of businesses building a community around particular themes and interests surrounding an area of business can prove beneficial for your business in several ways.
In this post, we are focusing on the part of your business community that are repeat and loyal consumers of your product or services. These are a core group of consumers that have found particular value in your product or service and are loyal ambassadors of your brand. But, this sort of allegiance does not come out of thin air, it is cultivated through consistent quality products, offers, personalisation and rallying around a topic of interest be it philanthropic, cosmetic or industry related.
The Emergence of the Online Community
Since technology has afforded connectivity for businesses with their consumers in ways more accessible that previous eras, businesses would do well to consider how to build their consumer community online. In an article from Forbes titled How to Build an Online Community, Contributor Tom Ward encouraged entrepreneurs to, “figure out what your consumers want, create content that they want, engage and reward people for following your business.” There has to be a strategic approach when developing the community of your dream. Though strategic, it must never be void of authenticity which is key for any sort of relationship being developed and sustained, personal and human touches to interactions go a long way in creating a consumer community that is loyal to your brand and cause.
Like any relationship, there is an exchange, as the entrepreneur you are seeking to invite and intrigue customers to buy and spend their money with you and the customer is seeking a solution that they believe to be of a particular value. Consumers must first see the value in your business before they become loyal ambassadors, this type of relationship does not happen overnight but is cultivated through consistent and personal interaction as well as clear communication of your brand story and ethos.
The Power of the Tribe
Janine Fletcher-Taylor, Manager of the Marketing Services Unit at the Jamaica Business Development Corporation in a recent webinar on Customer Loyalty shared that “There’s always an exchange going on in a relationship and from that there’s a pattern being generated of behavior and that pattern becomes predictable and as it becomes predictable there’s an assurance taking place and over time loyalty is generated. As it is being generated businesses must also not take it for granted because it is not a permanent state of being.”
Communities can also constitute what has been called the “tribe”. This is an ever evolving and fluid group of people that can help to shape consumer habits and purchases. The tribe is not necessarily a group of people that your business has exclusive ownership of, but within this space there are influencers and thought shapers around particular conversations associated with your brand and they to a large extent impact the perception of your brand. These people may not be buying but they have the power to influence the ones making purchases and they are useful for insight and information as well they are good at leading you to your ideal costumers. So, it is important to keep your ear on the ground for influencers and thought-shapers within your particular industry that are having relevant conversations that can eventually lead to conversion for your own business.
Engaging Your Community
In the recent JBDC webinar, Ms. Fletcher-Taylor gave practical steps on building your community and customer loyalty. She mentioned the importance of getting the story behind the brand out there and not simply focusing on just the products or services themselves. She said, “Get into the persons behind the brand, you have to be willing to get vulnerable and expose the story to your customers.” She also encouraged building out a context for which your consumers can interact and benefit from your brand through customer clubs and membership.
Ms. Fletcher-Taylor also mentioned the importance of incorporating your customers in your development process as your business grows, this means having your customers as a key consideration within the different phases of your business’ development. Finally, Ms. Fletcher-Taylor spoke on the importance of nurturing leads. She said, “Sometimes you can do an event or promotional activity to get to know your customers and you must be deliberate in engaging them in conversation, ask them about their day, what they like about the product, what would they add or subtract because loyalty is not an overnight feat. It is something that you have to build.”
The JBDC is equipping entrepreneurs in the month of September to develop their Distribution and Consumer Management skills via the Virtual Biz Zone webinars. You can catch Ms. Fletcher-Taylor’s session on Building Customer Loyalty on JBDC’s YouTube page @JBDCJamaica and join in the conversation on Inventory Management on Tuesday, September 20, 2022 at 10:00am by registering online at www.jbdc.net.