Has your competition gotten a little too close for comfort recently?
If you're like most businesses, your competition has increased in the past few years. That could mean that more local organizations are gunning for your audience, or that your competition has gone from your backyard to global. The internet has made it so much easier for small companies, large corporations, and organizations from around the world to zero in on your customers.
Now that you're competing with startups and solopreneurs along with big businesses, you're probably looking for a way to differentiate your organization from the countless options on the web.
Or maybe you're lucky enough to have a very loyal brand following but you're worried they'll be distracted by something new and shiny. Worry no more. I'll tell you how companies are providing a way for customers to get even closer to businesses and rewarding them for their loyalty.
No matter if you're looking for a way to be different or you're trying to harness the brand interest you already have, launching an online community is a great way to offer something the competition isn't.
Why is building community the key to putting some daylight between you and your competition? Because online customer communities provide seven key benefits that will give you an advantage in the marketplace.
7 Reasons Your Competitors Will Hate Your Online Community
Reason #1) You're Giving Customers What They Long For
People want to do business with people they know, not inaccessible corporate enterprises. By creating an online community, you help customers and prospects get to know you better and connect with others that share a passion for your brand. As customers build a stronger connection with your organization, they'll be less and less likely to switch to your competitors.
Your customer community will also give people a behind-the-scenes view of your operation. When you advise visitors of new services or offerings on the horizon, they can share it with their tribe and be "in the know" before anyone else. Information is a very powerful commodity in our Internet-based society and the extra knowledge will make your members feel special.
Reason #2) You're Saving Money on R&D
Your online community is comprised of people who like your brand enough to follow it. This gives you direct access to your customers. No more costly research panels to decide what your customer wants. Want to know your customers' opinion? Ask them.
Reason #3) You Have Direct Access to Customer Ideas
Community-building strategies provide a direct customer communication line that is much easier to use than an 800 number. So in addition to being able to run your ideas by your online community members, your customers will be able to share their ideas for improvements in services and products with you. That's a more direct approach to collaboration that will give you a leg up on the competition.
Reason #4) You Command Your Customers' Attention
In your online community, the visitors are there to be with you and interact with your content. They're not getting distracted by Facebook ads in the side rail or another cat video (unless you're posting cat videos, of course). They're in your "home" and it's easier to have a conversation without distractions.
Reason #5) You Can Easily Measure What Members Respond To
While your fans are on your site and enjoying your content, you can easily measure what content they are engaging with and what features are the most popular. You can extrapolate larger findings, such as the most popular product lines to expand, out of how you see customers acting and interacting in your online community. Best of all, you don't have to pay a marketing agency extra to get the information.
Reason #6) You're Taking Customer Service Behind Closed Doors
Ever see a giant knockdown of your competitor on social media? Sure you have. Reviews and complaints are out there for all to see. While creating a private online community customer service feature won't keep people off social media with their complaints and needs, it will help mitigate the problem.
When you funnel customers through your community and ensure they get attention faster than they could on social media, that will be the route they take. Customers will be happier because you're meeting their needs and seeing to their concerns quickly. And, as a bonus, your sales and marketing teams won't have to worry about your competitor discovering a sales opportunity in someone's public complaint.
Reason #7) You're Building Loyalty Faster Than Your Competition
When you have a captive audience in your community, even if it's only for minutes a day, you're building a brand loyalty that is hard to compete with. An online community transports people to your world, giving them a chance to be a part of something larger than themselves and their town.
That's the same tactic that the most wildly successful brands around the world take. If you look at these radically popular brands, they not only provide a product but an entrance to a lifestyle. Compare Macs versus PCs. Think of Under Armour and the professional athletics it is associated with. Each of these brands has a powerful community of users behind it. Creating your own customer community can help foster that same passion and interest in your brand, making it larger than just the products or services you provide.
Takeaway: Competitive Advantages of Online Communities
Your community-building strategy's success is two-fold. You are providing your customers and potential customers with opportunities, content, and features they can't get elsewhere, while you're drawing them into your world. It becomes an exercise in creating a loyal following.
If your competition has an online community already, don't feel like you're too late to the game. Just as you try to build a loyal following, You can still build a loyal following using your private customer community even as your competition operates their own community. It's more of a challenge, however, so try to create a branded online community first to give your organization more time to build an enticing world for your customer and fan base.