Want to know the secret of success in retail in 2019?
Another day, another story about the death of the high street.
If you own a product-based business, it can feel like a really troubling time.
Established retailers are closing stores in the UK at a rate of 14 a day, which is a staggering number across the whole year.
However, the gloomy headlines only tell part of the story. At the same time that many people are disconnected from retailers that do not share their vision and purpose, there are a large number of smaller businesses who are flourishing because they are connecting with a community
Not sure how to connect to your community? Download my guide "40 questions to ask your community" here:
It’s all about community
What exactly do I mean by community?
Well, quite simply, your community is the group of people who surround you and who share common interests. In your business, your community are the people who you connect with, and who share a belief in your vision for your business, and the values that it is built on.
An interesting example of a large business who have actually been able to connect with their community is Superdrug. Superdrug have been targetting smaller communities within their customer base and connecting with them through initiatives such as a Vegan Superdrug pop-up or "Shades of Beauty" which campaigned to make skin and hair products for black and Asian women available and affordable.
All of this has combined to help Superdrug buck the current trend and post positive results in 2018.
And the great news is that as a small business, you are perfectly placed to create a community that you are connected with - simply because you yourself are the person talking to your customer most of the time.
Here are 4 reason why your community is your secret weapon
1. People buy from people
It's a cliche because it's true.
If you take the trouble to create a strong community around your brand, then they are much more likely to buy from you because you will have established the all important "know, like and trust" factor.
2. Your community will be your biggest fans
Not only will your community buy from you, they'll talk about you on Social Media, send you messages or photos of themselves with your products, and buy from you to give to their friends.
There's a theory that every business needs no more than 1000 true fans - and how better to find and cultivate these fans than by building a community where they can come together?
3. Genuine relationships are a competitive advantage
A new company enters your market. If you have a strong community around you then that in itself is a competitive advantage. Genuine relationships are not something that they could easily duplicate unlike other aspects of your business.
The stronger and more engaged your community, the more loyalty they will have to you and your brand.
4. You get a clear view into your customer’s thoughts
With a community around you, not only do you have a group of fans and repeat buyers, you also have your very own research facility.
Not sure what colour to make your collection next year? Ask your community.
Should you try a pop-up? What does your community think?
Being able to ask these questions of a group of your ideal customers is an amazing way to move your business forward by actually co-creating products and ideas with their help. This also makes it much more likely that they'll buy these products when they arrive.
5 ways to build a community
1. Find out where your ideal customers are
The first step towards building your community is finding out where your ideal customers spend time - whether that's online or offline. Join the Facebook groups that they are in, find the forums, read the blogs they do, follow their favourite Instagram accounts.
Not sure where they spend their time? Ask them what they read, where they spend time and who they follow.
2. Join in their conversations
Once you have found where your ideal customers are spending time, join in with their conversations. There is no quicker way to build genuine relationships than to take part in the discussions that they are having.
Over time, as you build up these relationships, these people may well want to follow you once they become aware that you share the same values and beliefs that you have.
3. Focus on serving not selling
If you approach your conversations purely on the basis on what you can sell them, then you will quickly lose their interest.
If you start with a focus on how your products solve their problems, and how you can support them too, then you are much more likely to be able to build genuine relationships. Focus on service, not sales, and watch how your engagement increases.
If you are someone who struggles with self-promotion, this approach can also feel a lot more comfortable and natural.
4. Be open
People respect honesty.
Of course, you do not have to share all the intimate details of your life with your community. There will be a lot that you choose to keep private.
However, being honest, human and real helps create genuine connections. Having a bad day? Why not say so? People are becoming increasingly jaded by the relentless perfection (and positivity!) portrayed on social media, and being honest and open helps build your community.
You never know when you being open and upfront about difficulties in your life will speak to someone who is going through the same thing and help them too.
If you want to see a great example of someone who does this really authentically, check out @kemitelford on Instagram. Her brand sells amazing skirts, but what really sets her apart is her devoted community who she talks to every day - discussing the good along with the bad.
5. Listen to what they say
How often do you ask for your community's input? As I mentioned above, it is a great gift to be able to talk to your community and get their ideas and opinions about your brand. So make sure you use it.
Asking questions is a great way to build engagement, as well as find out valuable information about who you are serving. Find out how they are feeling about key issues, what their problems are, or even their favourite kind of biscuit! Ask them their opinion on everything, from your colour choices, website layout, or what blog post you should write next.
Lacking in inspiration? Download the guide "40 questions to ask your community" here:
Ultimately, taking time to build your community will not only be good for your business, it will also be great for you - entrepreneurship can be lonely at times, and your community can help you through the hard times. And that alone will make your community your secret weapon.
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