our product or service—your offering—is what your business is about. Customers may purchase it, but anything more than that is unexpected. However, if your business develops a community of customers, they will share, nurture and enable you to improve your offering.
You’ve got to get customers. Your success is determined by how many customers you attract and how frequently they buy your offering. Reviews are based upon these solid customer facts and incentives are drawn from them. Slowly, your business succumbs to a cold metric-focus and the customer is relegated to a database record for sales to call once in a while.
How you think about customers determines everything in your business. Thinking of customers as metrics will limit your business growth because you’re going to lose touch with them. When you lose touch, it opens the door for your competition to better understand and respond to them, stealing your market share. To keep in touch and think of customers correctly, you’ve got to create a community of customers.
To achieve a community, we first need to know what behaviors define a customer. Customers’ basic behaviors are to buy, return, or talk about (for better or worse) your offering. Customers may become repeat buyers due to various motivations such as brand loyalty. When customers start interacting with each other regarding your offering, additional behaviors manifest.
Customers may give product feedback and discuss how best to use your offering. But does your business encourage customers to behave this way? Do your strategies and infrastructure support these behaviors? When executives, marketing, sales, customer support, product management, etc. think “customer”, they should be thinking “community”.
That’s my point: how you view the customer limits your business. These valuable—and critical—community behaviors are there for the taking if you plan it right. A community of users exhibits behaviors that will accelerate your business. Behaviors such as providing excitement, evangelism, brand awareness, and accountability will boost growth and quality.
If you garner the support of a community, you have augmented your awareness of the business environment through the feedback of the community. You have access to your customers’ ideas, perspectives and expectations—you’re in touch with them. In return, you can create a more valuable offering for them. Your competition won’t have the breath to catch up with you.
How to create a community of customers
Creating a community of customers is a staged process requiring know-how beyond design, development and marketing. Assembling the pieces empowers you to create, maintain and nurture a community.
More than likely, there is no one department that has all the know-how to pull this off. We can help. Acumenity knows the pieces and can help you build your community. Here are some of the basic components:
- Create a branded atmosphere making the customers feel comfortable to join and participate.
- Educate them about your offering and allow them to start educating each other.
- Encourage them to collaborate with you sharing in your success.
- Incentivize them to share the value of your offering to others.
- Have multiple touch-points like customer support to capture complaints, issues, feedback.
- Discover and tend your community’s growth and trends via analytics.
A community of customers is akin to a living, breathing ecosystem. Each component is as vital as the other in supporting the community. If you are missing one component, or it is deficient, then your community will falter.
Bear in mind, the key is to make it comfortable for the customer. This makes the conditions ripe for participation, belonging and contributing.
Communities as a balancing act
If you successfully build a community (congratulations!), you’ll have to maintain it. To do so, think of communities as a balance of your expectations and the customers’ expectations. This balance comprises 3 dimensions: value, authenticity and motivation. And like balances, if one dimension is off, the community will slide into failure unless you help it self-correct.
Continuing the balance metaphor, each dimension has its optimal state and extremities.
With an ecosystem for your community, you will
- see the warning signs of imbalance causing your community to fail.
- Example: analytical reports show that customers do not provide feedback on your offering—do they feel comfortable participating, and do they have enough incentive?
- have the perspective and tools to adjust.
- Example: product managers see fewer customers collaborate with you on your next product version than before—why are they not as interested?
- see the opportunities for your business.
- Example: when asked, customers show they don’t know the full range of benefits from your offering—you can educate them via an app, newsletter or town hall video conference.
Time to decide
So, do you want customers? Of course you do, but that will not take you to the next level. With Acumenity, you can develop a community of customers and reach new heights.