Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Transform your business into a community

This post is from "Cindy's Blog" written by Cindy Bates, VP from Microsoft’s SMB&D Team. Please click below to see the link to her blog. MCC is a Silver partner of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce.


Building a strong customer community is a topic I plan to devote more time to on this blog, in part because I really believe it’s a way for small businesses to foster affinity among their customer base and grow their business.

One small business that has been particularly effective at building a customer community is located in my neck of the woods. Seattle-based evo sprang from humble beginnings, when founder Bryce Phillips started the company in his Seattle apartment in 2001. A lot has changed since then. evo now serves as a ski, skate and snowboard shop, clothing store, art gallery and a community gathering place.

Over the past 10 years or so, Bryce has focused on creating a retail experience that brings together all of the things evo customers love, including cultural events and non-profit efforts, into one physical space. In so doing, he’s created more than a loyal customer base - but an actual community of brand loyalists.

The community aspect is inherent in how evo has built its business. Its online presence mirrors its physical Seattle space, with photos and witty bios of evo employees. The company blog communicates personality and reaches beyond the company’s local geographic area through generous giveaways, attention-grabbing videos and all kinds of news related to an active lifestyle. What’s more, customers who order products from evo are often treated to personal thank you notes with their purchase.

Want to find inject community-building strategies into your customer relationships? Here are a few more examples of what evo has done that you spark ideas for your own business:
Clarity in mission. evo’s owners know exactly what they want the company to be about and who they want to reach. Their corporate mission is to promote collaboration between culture and sport. Since there’s no waffling on why evo exists, they can more effectively target their intended audience with events and efforts that really speak to individuals interested in culture and sport, including skateboard and snowboard mentorships for kids. For some basics on developing a corporate mission statement, check out this Entrepreneur article.
A willingness to think beyond product transactions. Movie premieres and art showings might not sell ski gear today, but they do succeed in creating a great impression and certainly contribute toward positive word-of-mouth. Try holding a company brainstorm and see what ideas you and your employees can drum up to think beyond the cash register. Businesses with physical storefronts should certainly consider on-site events, while companies that only have online presences can explore community-oriented options including tweet-ups, online forums and live streaming of speakers or events.
Contagious passion. evo’s employees clearly have a passion for the urban, action sports lifestyle. Getting into their customers’ brains is easy since they already are their ideal customer. When bringing new members onto your team, ask yourself, “Can I envision this person demonstrating enthusiasm for our product/service and their role within the company?” Of course not all businesses center on hobbies or products that intrinsically get people excited, but even when it comes to the worlds of plumbing and insurance, leading companies will exude a passion for excellence in whatever they do or sell and passion begins with employees. Figure out what you need to do to kindle or rekindle enthusiasm among your employees, even if it means injecting more humor into your company’s culture, supporting continuing education or learning opportunities, or even hosting more office parties and friendly competitions.

Are there any companies you admire or do business with because of the community they’ve created? If so, I’d love to hear about them and why you think they’re succeeding in building community.

Cindy's Blog

3 comments:

  1. I found this blog rather interesting. The details and precise suggestions are precisely what I was hoping to find.

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