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Thinking Long-Term: How To Turn Your Customers Into Community Members

As the ever-growing and competitive world of ecommerce continues to thrive, business owners looking to position their brand for long-term growth are now required to think outside of the box.

Gone are the days when simply having a social media presence and impeccable customer service offering alone will make the cut. Businesses need to convert customers into members of their online communities to build customer loyalty

How do we do this? This value-packed article will step you through some useful tips for how to connect with your customers to ensure those clicks or visits convert to community members. 

POST-PURCHASE EMAIL FLOWS

Our data reveals that in today’s landscape, around 91% of consumers say they’re more likely to shop with brands that provide personalised offers and recommendations. Not mass-market ads or cookie-cutter marketing. This means knowing your customer is more crucial than ever; what they like, dislike and who they are. This allows you to provide tailored products, services and discounts based on their previous interactions. 

An effective way of reaching these customers is through purchase flow emails. According to Megaphone CEO Lauren Oakes, Megaphone’s clients saw, on average, a 20% increase in repeat purchases from automated post-purchase email flows and cross-selling strategies. These automated emails are touchpoints that follow the customer through the purchase lifecycle (at purchase, and after purchase to re-engage), and ensure your brand not only maintains the customer’s interest but also sees them return on an ongoing basis, building brand loyalty.

KNOW YOUR NICHE

What’s the key to creating content and developing copy that resonates with your audience? Simple: finding out who your audience is, how they speak, what appeals to them, and understanding their pain points and desires. 

By researching your consumers, you’ll discover all about their habits, wants, and pain points – and this data will then pave the way for your marketing approach, dictating how to best engage with your target audience. 

Make no mistake; social media is a powerful tool for consumer research.

Whether you’re selling a product or a service, it’s important to encourage feedback – the most valuable learnings come from listening to your customers and audience

This constant feedback loop will help you stay in sync with your customers, turning once-off shoppers into community members by remaining engaged with – and addressing – their needs. By knowing your niche inside and out, you’ll stay relevant and relatable. 

INCREDIBLE SERVICE

In the era of Google and Facebook reviews, providing incredible customer service should be front and centre of any sales and marketing strategy. This includes responding to messages on social media platforms, emails, and yep, even over the phone. Consistent positive customer service is imperative to ensure your consumers return to your store or website. 

Your customer service is paramount – your response to any concern or question often determines whether the customer will return to your brand (per Patrick Cuttica, Director of Product Marketing at Sprout Social). Responding to customer emails and social media messages in a friendly and timely manner is a must. This also means replying to the hairy questions or comments, whether it be in a comment on a post or in a direct message. It is vital to show you care about your customers and protect your brand reputation when resolving issues. 

BUILD AND MAINTAIN AUTHENTICITY

Online Shopping

With most customers highly engaged with brands, particularly on social media, modern consumers can see through messaging that isn’t authentic. It’s increasingly important to make sure your content and email marketing align with your organisational values and not just your sales objectives. Now read that last sentence again to let it sink in.

It’s more important than ever to work out your brand’s tone of voice. Ask yourself:  what positive values or points of difference do we want to highlight in our messaging? These are the key points you should be coming back to in your content and emails, to maintain a consistent and genuine voice. The more authentic a brand is, the better the brand loyalty will be.

ACTIONS

Outside of emails with your new and long-term customers, understanding your customers, providing great customer service across all platforms and building and maintaining authenticity, what other steps can your brand take today to ensure customers become community members? Here are 3 steps to lay solid foundations for your brand’s online communities: 

1. SET UP ONLINE COMMUNITIES

Building a community online can help your customers feel included, simultaneously providing you with more opportunities to engage with them

By creating an exclusive space for people to talk, and continually feeding it to new people (e.g. mentioning it on your social media regularly), the community will naturally develop over time.

When considering creating a community, it’s important to research which platforms are best suited to your customers. Examples of online communities include Facebook groups for fans, VIP groups for people who’ve purchased your products, or paywall member sites (e.g. Patreon) with exclusive perks.

So, what should you consider when creating your online community?

  • The size and demographics of your customer database and what platforms would best suit your brand.
  • Whether you should focus the group around a single product or a special interest shared by your consumers.
  • When you’ll launch the online community – and if you should consider a trial launch with founders/employees/affiliated brands to build the community and establish page moderators.
  • Who can manage the online community – do you have someone internal or if you will need to outsource responsibilities? Moderators or admins need to screen new members, create discussion threads and topics and monitor spam posts.
  • A plan for growing your online community. This might include sending customers prompts to join the group in marketing emails or social media promotions. 

2. ESTABLISH AN AMBASSADOR NETWORK

Ambassador

Ambassador programs enable you to promote your business on a wider scale. This involves partnering with affiliates or influencers who can cross-promote your brand. And the proof is in the data – more than 70% of people trust social networks when making purchasing decisions (per The Digital Marketing Institute). This is why ambassador programs and outreach is vital for customer engagement.

When establishing an ambassador network it’s important to: 

  • Consider your target audience, what you’re wanting to promote, and which spokespeople (or partner brands) align with your goals.
  • Decide how you’ll reach out to people. Is it through email or by hosting an invitation-only event with top customers, brands, influencers, or industry experts?

3. CONNECT AND ENGAGE WITH YOUR COMMUNITY

The glue that holds your community together is regular interaction with your audience. An excellent way to engage with your community is through regular content or by sharing client or staff stories. Show real people. Show real experiences. This makes the engagement more personal and reinforces your brand message, while also promoting what your brand has to offer!

When planning regular engagement and content you should:

  • Map out a pipeline of stories, case studies and important events that can be shared on social media, blogs and online communities.
  • Plan and schedule content in advance to allow you to be on top of posts 
  • Adjust content and videos for use across Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok and Instagram to save time.
  • Consider hiring a marketing agency to manage your social media strategy and content.

Want to grow your customer list, your community, and ultimately your business? Let’s chat. 

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