Community is Everything
We launch a product and we hear crickets.
We are positive we have the right product for the right audience.
Hell, we even used lean startup method and validated just about every facet of the business, but still no takers.
Or at least not enough to have a viable business.
So what is the missing piece of the puzzle?
Unfortunately,'community' is not just a good reaction to a Facebook A/B Split test and it is not 500 people that sign-up to your list pre-launch. It is much more than that.
Now here is the thing.
You can't build community at the end.
Because you risk running out of cash!
I came upon this realisation as we have been building out our last product.
We have been building out a chatbot that is both your personal trainer and nutritionist in your pocket. It is a product that is complimented by real life physical nutrition products.
Everybody loves it and it has been well received, but we have to sell a lot of f@#king protein to pay wages and keep the lights on and herein lies the problem.
Now lucky for us we have found a partner that can help us with distribution.
Distribution is your get out of jail free card. Perhaps your only saving grace.
But lets assume we didn't get that lifeline.
What can you do to side-step this trap?
YOU NEED TO BUILD A COMMUNITY AROUND YOUR PRODUCT.
AND THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT.
Create a steady stream of valuable content.
Share your learning as you tinker away. Chances are you will be doing a lot of industry specific research, as you plan - share it.
You are the novice that becomes the expert.
Allow someone else to become an expert by simply following your journey and skipping all of your hard work and you will have a brand ambassador.
Community likes to get behind a hero, to join a journey...Sharing your wins and losses, gives people an entry point into your world, it make's what you are doing real - and
People ultimately connect with authenticity.
Valuable content is sharing something that will genuinely help your audience.
Sharing sub-standard content will immediately be noticed for what they are...'fillers'.
Consistency is key.
Some people say sharing content everyday is the way to go. I would argue that is exceptionally hard to do well.
Publishing great content that is on brand, even if it partly curated everyday takes a lot of work. It certainly can be done if this is all you are working on but perhaps look at a few times a week if it means compromising on quality or if this is just your side hustle.
Even once a week with consistency can work well, is still 99% ahead of the crowd.
The main thing is consistency, so rain, hail, or shine....Monday, Wednesday, and Friday -write that post, go live, or share those designs.
Take note on which days work best for you, be smart about it, and let the data guide your decisions. We always send out a newsletter on a Monday morning for example, because that is the day most people open it for us...simple.
Trust will also be built in the consistency.
You promised the newsletter every Monday, I expect to receive it every Monday. Also - feel free to apologise if you don't meet the expectations you set for yourself or the standard you planned to uphold with your community - we are all human after all and you will still receive brownie points for being transparent and having an open line of communication.
Identify the leaders of your industry and interview them
This does two things, puts you on their radar (which could be good from an advisory or possible investment perspective) and simultaneously gives you content from the thought leaders in your industry. This is also tremendously beneficial because thought leaders also generally have a large following, a following that hopefully they will share your content to.
My friend and colleague from Startup Grind - Jan Smejkal worked tirelessly for months to land Gary Vaynerchuck for a fireside chat in Hong Kong, even flew to New York to meet with his team, the result - not only did he get him onstage, sell out the event, provide incredible content and build his own personal brand in the process by hosting him, but Gary Vee is now also sharing the interview on his own personal podcast to millions!
So if you take away one thing truly valuable let this be it. Entrepreneurs tend to love to share their story and to give back, and this ticks both of those boxes.
If you don't have much of an audience to offer the guest you will have to look at the motivations that may get them to move - there usually is a win-win if you can be clever about it, and if nothing comes to mind keep them on your wish list as you build up your audience and come back when your offer is more substantial. In fact, don't be afraid to still reach out with that as your pitch. "Hey Gary, massive fan - I am working hard on putting together a major audience for you and will be back soon!"
The win-win after all has to allow them to feel like they will also get value for their time, and the higher the level of entrepreneur the more they will value it.
Host Live Events
There is a direct correlation between the people that attend your events and their loyalty with your product.
Think about it for a second, the commitment it takes for someone to give up an evening after work and to drive down to your event. Possibly even pay for a ticket. These are your people - appreciate every single one of them. Make them welcome and understand their reasons for attending and try your best to deliver on those needs, whether that is content or connections.
If you are just starting out, in-person events are perfect if your product has a local component, otherwise, look at webinar or online events using facebook LIVE or software like crowdcast.
Events are the perfect way to mobilise your community, to meet your users, to get their feedback and to also let your community network with one another, sharing experiences and possibly forging friendships all around the commonality of your product or service.
Start a Facebook Group
Broadcast your communications and spark conversations. Similar to live events, allow you community to gather around your product, your content, and to connect with each other. The brilliant part about Facebook groups is the fact that unlike physical events that are limited by users proximity to your event and their location, Facebook groups can easily accommodate members and fans from around the world, to help build your brand globally.
These can be people that can influence your sales ie. social influencers and captains of industry, but they can also be members of the group or community. Be mindful that influencers can be both good and bad in terms of community. Influencers are the people that attend the events, give you the one star or the five stars on meetup, share your tweet, and whatever else to fly the flag for your brand. If nothing is more important than word of mouth for your product, you need to quickly realise that these people are not numbers helping the likes on Facebook accumulate - they are truly invaluable to your brand and should be treated accordingly. Empower these brand ambassadors, give them early access to products and events, let them moderate your group, or give them a shout out at your event.
Ensure that the people that give up their time to like you posts, that share your content, and literally bring paying customers to you are well taken care of.
Include your community in Product Development
Keep in mind your community is also your most powerful sounding board...The ultimate way to launch a killer product.
It doesn't have to only be about sending out surveys and making decisions on the results.
Test things - price points, marketing messages, and the design of your site and products.
If you don't get any bites...assume that's to a 'no', and go back to the drawing board.
When your community loves what you do, they will engage, and if they participate they will start to take ownership of your product, and champion it's success, after all, they were instrumental in bringing it to market, and it is at this stage that you release your beta product. There is no better time!
So in coming full circle, you went from hearing crickets to world domination!
Well at a minimum, there are a number of people that love what you do and you are in a much better position to succeed.
Best of luck.
I could write a book on this subject, but in the spirit of community.
What has proven valuable to you in being part of a startup community or in building your own community?
Join the conversation on the Startup Melbourne Facebook Group or comment below.