Here is a fact you probably did not know about the changing business environment. Currently, businesses place value addition to customers ahead of selling. For example, have you ever noticed that some businesses continue to keep in touch and add more value to you after purchasing from them? Businesses have been doing this a lot, especially in the past decade.
Value addition is not only reserved for after-sale. Businesses are becoming creative with how they look to add value to their customers. One such creative way is using online communities. Many businesses are now ready to provide you with the platform to collaborate, learn, and share information and knowledge. Because in this digital age, information is power.
Brands are also building communities to move their customer support from the large social networks to more personalized niche spaces. As a business that wants to remain competitive, developing a niche community may also help you connect with customers and build long-term relationships. Here is a guide on how to get there.
What are Online Communities?
An online community is a group of internet users who form a community based on a shared interest. They help amplify conversations to a bigger audience globally.
Businesses are taking advantage of this trend to set up branded online communities. That is according to a survey by Forrester that found that 60% of businesses currently have a branded online community, while 15% of those without were planning to start one soon.
The branded online community brings together members around a central, shared business-based experience or purpose for expansive online collaboration and growth. And like Soho House, some of these branded communities are paid private members clubs only.
So, why do entrepreneurs prefer such paid branded online communities?
Drive Product Innovation
Branded online communities are more than a marketing or PR exercise. You can use these communities as a business strategy to help you gain a competitive advantage through innovation. The members of these communities are focused on exploring value-adding solutions.
Therefore, they can be a source of rich customer-centered solutions for your business. Because the community you build consists of the people who use the products and services you offer. Thus, they are best suited to point out areas that need improvement.
In 2016, DEWALT claimed that it had saved up to $1 million in R&D costs through its DEWALT Insights Forum. The company further claimed that it had saved about $6 million in R&D costs since it first started the group. The group offered the firm honest feedback on their products that triggered major product innovations.
Improving Customer Retention and Engagement
There are personal reasons why people prefer visiting a medical therapist instead of a support group. One of them is that whatever they say in a therapist's office is confidential and not subject to judgment. Also, the fact that you are sure that someone is listening to what you say and is ready to act on it puts the therapist ahead of the support group.
Customers feel the same way in a branded online community. Like in the case of DEWALT, customers are confident that the brand listens to the suggestion they have to offer and are ready to implement them. Therefore, they are likely to stick around and be loyal to the brand and the community.
In addition, customers feel more assured of better customer response from their brand in a community. In certain cases, they are likely to receive better responses to their queries from other members, especially on how to use or service a product.
A Chance to Know Your Customers
There is a common saying among gamblers and politicians, "put your money where your mouth is." There is no better way to know your customers than in an online community. Remember, there are many online communities and social media groups that a person would rather have joined, but they chose your paid branded group.
It means that the person has a genuine interest in what your group offers. Therefore, such are the customers your business should look to understand. Their patterns, complaints, reviews, and suggestions are probably shared by a bigger consumer group. And this may help you offer better services to all your clients.
Minimize Support Costs
One of the primary objectives of a business is to increase revenue while decreasing costs. Branded online communities can help you achieve this objective. A study by the University of Michigan found that customers spent 19% more after becoming members of a brand's online community.
Another study by Harvard Business Review found that 78% of customers are likely to purchase from the first business that quickly and accurately responds to their inquiries. On the other hand, 53% of customers are likely to abandon their online purchases if they encounter an unresponsive business in their buying process.
All these statistics point in one direction. Customers prefer to work with businesses that keep them engaged and address their concerns promptly. By building an online community, you can therefore serve customers more efficiently, and this may increase your customer retention rate, as well as your overall revenue and profit.
Improve Your Brand’s Impression
We live in an information age. Your online community can be a vital source of information for your prospective customers.
You can design it to be a place customers visit when they want to learn about your product or services. It is an opportunity for you to create a better impression of your brand. For example, providing quick and accurate responses to your customer queries is a plus for your brand.
Also, customers want to see their complaints and suggestions about your products or services taken into consideration immediately.
How to Launch Your Branded Online Community with Circle
You can be the next entrepreneur to enjoy the benefits of having a branded online community. Circle.so is one of the best online tools to create and run your own online branded community. The tool takes the best part of social media groups and online forums and integrates them into a private platform for exclusive members.
An online community created with Circle can be accessed using a browser or through Circle's iOS application. There are other benefits of using Circle to create your online community, such as:
The ability to view statistics, including how members are interacting with your content
You can stream live sessions in the community
You can group community conversations by topic
You can customize your community space to match your website or brand
Here are steps to follow when building your paid online community
1. Build a Membership Community Landing Page
Begin by developing a public landing on your website. The page displays the plan options for your clients to sign up.
2. Set Up a Membership Plan
You will need to define the target members of your online community. As we mentioned, most branded online communities are presented as private membership clubs. Therefore, these groups prefer to use a paid platform where they can charge members a subscription fee.
Therefore, when creating such a paid branded online community, you have to give a member an option on payment plans. For example, the plan could include a free subscription (limited), one-time payment, multiple payment, or recurring payment.
3. Set Up Circle SSO
You will need to first log in to your Circle account and navigate to the setting icon on the top right. Then, click "Single-Sign-On" and toggle on "Enable SSO."
4. Invite Members to Join
The easiest way to invite members into your online community is by using Circle's invitation links. Login to your admin account and navigate to the "members" icon on the top right corner.
Then click on the invitation links tab on the left side menu and fill out the Name, Spaces, and Space groups fields according to your preferences. Use this Circle. so documentation as a guide. Later, click the create button, and a link URL will be created that can be copied and pasted on any page.
You can also use Zapier to automate your invitations. Here is a guide from Circle on how to do this.
5. Launch, Promote and Track
Your community cannot exist without members. Therefore, you need to launch and promote it to your target audience. Ensure you send emails to your mailing list to invite them to join the group. You can start by offering discounts or free membership for early adopters.
Create Your Community on Circle.so Today
It’s time to create your online community and enjoy the benefits we’ve discussed. The best thing about using Circle.so to create your branded online community is that they have documentation to help you whenever you are stuck. It's time to create your online community now.