Building community is the best way to market your brand and make it feel authentic.
Most creatives that I work with tell me that marketing feels cheesy, sleazy, they’re introverted and putting themselves out there is just really awkward. However, when you're wanting to build a business and make money with your creativity, a big part of that is going to be sales. It’s really hard to sell when no one knows what you have to offer.
There is a way to do it in a way that feels authentic to you. And that's why I love building creative small businesses based in community. I've used this method to help creatives build six and seven figure businesses because if you could get a community of people rallied around your brand, the possibilities are endless.
An awesome place to start is building community on Instagram. That is such a great place to get started because so many people are already hanging out there. Start bringing people into your world. So many creatives hold back on sharing because they think that they have to have it all together, or they need to have all the answers in order to get started and that simply is not true. People want to rally around real humans, people want to rally around brands that resonate with them, and root for you. They want to be a part of your journey. The sooner you can start sharing authentically about where you're at and where you want to go and bringing people on the ride with you, the better.
A case study of this was a restaurant I was the Creative Director and Partner of. Before we opened the doors to the restaurant I brought people on the journey with us - warts and all! And it was cool because people genuinely felt that they were building the restaurant alongside of us (which they were). We got input from social voting on different decor, artists to work with, organizations to support, to talking about menu items, it also allowed us to start to cultivate our email list. It built such a strong community around that brand that is still growing. On the first day of business, I only invited people from our email list and filled up the restaurant. The ‘insiders’ who helped cultivate the restaurant. It was a way to say thank you to the people who supported our journey of opening. That was over eight years ago and people still talk about it today.
That brings me to my next point. You need to be consistent to build community. I know firsthand that creatives can hold themselves back from sharing consistently with excuses from not having time to create content, feeling like what you’re doing isn’t interesting, or not wanting to share before things are ‘perfect’. If that is you, here’s a workaround to help build that consistency so you can start building your community. Record a time-lapse video then put a voiceover of what their work day looks like and share that. It might feel mundane to you, but your world is interesting to someone else. We can be our biggest critic and talk ourselves out of doing what we truly want to do. But once you build some community around you (and when I mean community, it doesn't have to be hundreds, thousands, or millions of people) you will start feeling more confident in what you’re building. That's how I got started 14 years ago. That's how I built my business today and how I've built my career. It started with a small community that really believed in me.
The next part is building that engagement. It could be as simple as writing back to someone when they comment on a post. I’m surprised when I see bigger brands not using this engagement tactic; for one thing, they have a team that could be doing this, but this tactic is something that creatives starting out can leverage and use to their advantage. When you’re starting, you can build real relationships with people. And don't underestimate how even 10 people can launch your business.
Okay, now switching to building community offline, as this is the next step. There are three really great ways to do this.
Step one, collect emails
I wish I had done this sooner in my career. I would give this advice and I did it for brands that I was working on, but I didn't do it for myself. And it's absolutely the next step of building your business. You have to be able to directly contact people who want to hear from you and need to make it easier for them to do so. I am working on a brand right now where we are developing a new product and website. Part of the go to market strategy is building and leveraging emails in order to get the word out for this creative small business.
Step two, build text list
This is something I started for my business about two years ago and absolutely has been a game changer for how I'm able to communicate with people and build relationships. Being able to text your community, either a helpful reminder, creative inspiration (or whatever it looks like for your brand) is an impactful method to cultivate relationships.
Step three, host events
Another game changer is hosting events to start building community. It’s also a great idea when you're starting out with your business to test different ideas. I actually gave this advice today with a creative who's building a small business and they're seeing what product or service they want to provide. You could host a book club, a meetup, or teach a class.
To make this process (way) easier Norby has an integrated platform for collecting emails, text messages, and hosting events. Usually, that is at least three different platforms but Norby brings them all together in one easy-to-use place. Check out Norby to get started and build that community for your brand!