Tag Archives: Mark Schaefer

How Community is Reshaping the Marketing Landscape

How Community is Reshaping the Marketing Landscape

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

According to bestselling author and marketing expert Mark Schaefer, the next—and last—great marketing strategy is community. When I read his latest book, Belonging to the Brand, I was intrigued by the subtitle, Why Community is the Last Great Marketing Strategy. Is it really the last? Having read Schaefer’s past books, I put faith in his words, but it’s up to you to decide.

First, let’s look at the definition of community, as it applies to marketing and business. The community includes customers aligned with the company, its brand promise and what it stands for. Schaefer writes in his introduction, “Helping a person belong to something represents the ultimate marketing achievement. If a customer opts into an engaging, supportive and relevant brand community, we no longer need to lure them into our orbit with ads and SEO, right? What we used to consider marketing is essentially over.”

Schaefer is saying that once the customer is part of the community, the need to engage with intrusive advertising and marketing messages is no longer needed. You will want to find meaningful ways to connect with customers other than traditional advertising and marketing programs, and these can include positive customer experiences, quality dependable products and services, the contribution the brand or company makes to making the world a better place and more.

In my book, The Amazement Revolution, one of the seven strategies covered was community. Harley Davidson was failing and rallied its community of customers to make suggestions that would get them to come back and buy its motorcycles. The company listened, the customers noticed and Harley regained its popularity and iconic status.

Lush, a cosmetics retailer with more than 950 stores worldwide, chose to make its products cruelty-free, which means no animals are harmed in manufacturing the products. They knew this would appeal to a segment of customers who are against animal testing practices. Those customers show intense loyalty toward Lush.

Apple created different communities of customers who voluntarily offer suggestions and answers to other customers in need of help and support. These communities are in addition to Apple’s regular customer support options.

These companies (and many others) have created communities of customers willing to evangelize their brands. They enjoy and love the companies so much that they provide some of the most powerful marketing techniques ever in the form of positive reviews and referrals, also known as word-of-mouth marketing.

Early in Schaefer’s book, he shares ten (10) reasons businesses can’t ignore the power of creating a community. I’ll share three of them with some of my commentary on each one:

  1. Brand Differentiation: Beyond price and product, which are often similar to the competition’s, the community can create an emotional connection. People like to belong to something. When they love a company and its products and find others who think and feel the way they do, they naturally gravitate toward the community. Once people join, they are participating at a higher level of brand engagement and their connection to the business is deepened by this connection.
  2. Market Relevance: How do you stay relevant? Listen to your customers. The community gives you the forum to listen and engage with your customers. The conversations you monitor or participate in will fuel you with ideas to make you even more relevant to your customers. Just remember, no matter how powerful the ideas and information you learn from listening are, they won’t mean anything unless you take action.
  3. Brand Loyalty: Loyalty is an emotional connection. Creating a community is a powerful way to drive loyalty. Schaefer shares some stats that make the case. Sixty-six percent of brand community members say they are loyal to the brand. Twenty-seven percent of customers say belonging to a brand influences their decision to do business with the brand. And, 66% of companies claim their community has impact on customer retention.

As powerful as creating a community is, don’t be lured into thinking you have a captive audience to which you can sell. That’s abusing the privilege and could be an insult to your customers. While members of your community may be more engaged and buy more, they don’t want to be sold. Use the community to offer early access to products and updates, ask for opinions and feedback, help in testing products and more. You want to give them a reason to meet and something to talk about.

So, is creating your company’s community your next big marketing strategy? If you haven’t already created one, it’s a concept worthy of serious consideration.

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com

Image Credit: Pixabay, Shep Hyken

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Branding versus Bonding

The Importance of Community in Marketing

Exclusive Interview with Mark Schaefer

Mark W SchaeferConventional marketing wisdom says that communities are a great way to connect with your target audience in an engaging and meaningful way. Typical justifications for building communities include:

  • Creating an opportunity for your brand to stand out from the competition
  • Providing a platform for customers to interact and collaborate with you and each other
  • Monitoring and responding to customer feedback quickly
  • Helping build trust and loyalty with your customers
  • Driving organic growth and engagement

But successful communities go beyond company-outwards branding and instead create customer-inwards bonding.

I had the opportunity recently to interview Mark Schaefer, a globally-acclaimed author, keynote speaker, and marketing consultant. He is a faculty member of Rutgers University and one of the top business bloggers and podcasters in the world. Mark is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, Chief Executive Officer of B Squared Media and on the advisory board of several startups. He has been a contributor to Harvard Business Review and Entrepreneur magazine.

His latest book is Belonging to the Brand: Why Community is the Last Great Marketing Strategy and explores how companies can make more effective use of communities in their marketing activities.

Below is the text of my interview with Mark and a preview of the kinds of insights you’ll find in Belonging to the Brand presented in a Q&A format:

1. Marketers are trained to reach the right audience with the right message to be successful. How is community different from audience?

From a brand marketing perspective, an audience — a group who opts-in to your content — is very important because they’ve allowed themselves to be connected to your message. However, an even more powerful opportunity exists if you can turn that audience into a community.

There are three distinguishing features of a community:

  1. There is communion. People know each other. They may become friends, collaborate, and help each other. This is important because that emotional benefit transfers to the brand!
  2. Purpose. People need a reason to gather. They want to grow something, change something, build something. How does this purpose intersect with the purpose of the brand? That’s when the magic starts to happen.
  3. Adaptability. The priorities of a community will change over time as the world changes. A community cannot be rigid in its structure or it will become irrelevant.

2. Why should marketers invest in learning how to build and connect with communities?

I have been in marketing nearly four decades and I can say with some authority that our job is harder than ever! Many traditional channels just don’t work any more. We are in a streaming media society now and most people sim0lt block us out.

Community provides a new way to connect in a meaningful way with customers. In fact, it might be the only type of marketing people won’t block. It’s the only kind of marketing people actually need because community is essential to our psychological health, especially now.

So, I think it makes sense for businesses to at least consider community since that may have no other choice.

3. Why do people join communities?

Psychological studies show that community is not just a nice-to-have. It is essential for our social well-being. Studies show that we are even physically better off when we have meaningful relationships in a community. So this is a deep-seated need in us from the beginning of time and it will always be there.

4. How can we be more connected than ever before, but also more alone?

I think social media gives us the impression that we are just a click away from a relationship but we’re not. Much of this time online is empty social calories. There is definitely a positive role social media can play in connecting people and building relationships, but it is also a powerful source of disconnection, depression, and isolation. Much of this problem was amplified by the pandemic, but the global mental health crisis has really been creeping up on us since the 1960s.

5. Are there secrets to intentionally building a community?

Belonging to the Brand - Mark SchaeferMy book provides a framework for building a community. Some of the essential steps include:

  1. Assessing the culture — Community is a business strategy, not just a marketing strategy. Is the organization behind the idea?
  2. Establishing purpose — is there a meaningful reason to gather?
  3. Building a tribe — Where are the important early members?
  4. Leadership — Nurturing a community is much different than what we are accustomed to in a traditional marketing role.
  5. Building — Building a community is constant hard work
  6. Measurement — This is difficult in a community but my book provides a path forward

6. What should marketers be most careful of when using community as a marketing strategy?

Most communities fail because they are designed to sell stuff! Obviously, we do need to sell stuff, but that’s not a reason to gather. If you provide great value to your customers, they will naturally be attracted to your products and services.

7. Should everyone be equal for a community to be successful?

I’m not sure if people are ever equal in every way. We all have our own unique talents. In a community, leaders will naturally emerge. A big part of community management is recognizing emerging leaders and bestowing them with status.

8. Where should companies build a community?

There is no cookie-cutter answer to that. But it helps if the community is part of a person’s natural daily organic experience. For example, if your customers like Facebook and visit there every day, it would be easy for them to find your community there. Try not to build your community in a place that requires new skills or an extra click.

9. Who in the marketing department should own community strategy?

I’m not sure that is important as long as it IS the marketing department. It’s unbelievable to me that 70% of existing brand communities do NOT report to marketing. This is frankly hard to understand. A community is the front line of your business — the most important customer connection. How can that no be part of marketing?

10. What does community success look like?

In the long term, there has to be a financial benefit, but in the short-term, engagement is probably the most important metric. For example, Sephora is a global cosmetics retailer with hundreds of brick-and-mortar locations. However, 80 percent of their revenue comes from their online community.

Their most important metric? Engagement. If people are talking about the company’s content and activities, it is a sign that are staying relevant and moving in a way that will lead to more brand advocacy and sales.

In the context of social media, I’m not a big fan of engagement as a metric, but in community, it is probably the most important leading indicator of financial success.


Thank you for the great conversation Mark!

I hope everyone has enjoyed this peek into the mind of the man behind the inspiring new title Belonging to the Brand!

Image credits: BusinessesGrow.com (Mark W Schaefer)

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