As many of you know, I’ve promised to share with Smart Hustle readers some of my knowledge gleaned from years of working in the arts. I started out last month with this conversation with creative development advisor, Marc Zegans. He and I talked about how having a distinctive personality, something that has helped many artists become successful, can also help people to further their careers in business. But this is not the only lesson from the creative world about which I’ve written. Building a community or developing a natural audience, also known as creating a devoted customer base, is equally as important.
Let’s have a look at some of the key ingredients to building a community around your business.
Finding Your Tribe
Do you know who your people are? You know, the folks who are just aching for what you have to provide to them; the ones who, when they get to your website will say to themselves, thank goodness, I’ve been looking for you. Yeah, them.
This is your ideal community. These are the people who speak your language, who’ve been waiting for you to come along. You may already know them, or you may be about to discover one another, but rest assured, they are the ones with whom you will have the best and most fruitful interactions.
Many people think that branding is all about finding the best words and images to describe yourself; you know, picking the right font, the perfect colors, the most accurate turn of a phrase. Yes, all of these are important to telling your story in the most succinct manner that captures the essence of you and your product or services. But equally as important is your focus on solving problems.
When you build your communications, think about how you are addressing the needs of your community. Think about what you can do for them, what you can give that will help them out. When you lead with this mindset, you automatically make yourself useful and attractive. Then, your interaction becomes less about convincing people how wonderful you are, and more about making yourself invaluable to them.
This is key. You’ll want to open the doors to a lot of different types of communication with the people in your community. Live interaction is always best, of course. If you have the opportunity to meet up for coffee or drinks either one on one or in a group setting, you’ll be in a great position to have a real conversation and build an actual relationship with potential business partners. But there are other ways to keep the channels of communication open.
Email and social media are all great, but again, you have to encourage back and forth dialogue, and not just be endlessly promoting yourself. If you want to show people that you are interested in their needs and concerns, ask questions. Solicit feedback on new products. Offer free short consultations to find out how you can help others, as well as field basic questions about your services. Engage in online chats and offer comments on other people’s posts.
If you were at a party, and you were getting to know new people, you’d tell them about yourself, but you’d also ask about them, right? It’s the same thing when building a community around your business. You need to get to know the folks whom you wish to serve, as much as you want them to get to know you. Have some fun while you’re at it!
People are pretty savvy these days. They know when they’re being told the truth and when they’re being hustled (in a bad way). Also, with open source technology available, there are very few secrets left. Be honest and open about what you are trying to accomplish, what you are selling, and what you are giving away.
No one wants to feel like they’ve been slimed. Be up front with everyone in your circle. This means vendors, business partners, and potential customers. In an era where privacy is becoming more and more of a fantasy, it’s best to be transparent about your motivations and methods from the start.
Sometimes, it feels like everything has already been done, and there’s nothing new left to invent or sell. Then someone comes along, colors way out of the lines, and disrupts an entire industry.
At this point, there’s no idea too crazy to at least consider. Obviously, you need to do your research and adequately evaluate the feasibility of bringing your ideas to fruition, but don’t make the mistake of dismissing an idea out of hand merely for being too wacky.
Most importantly, allow your own individual flavor to come through in everything you do. At the end of the day, your personal uniqueness is the thing that will differentiate you from everyone else in the marketplace. There may be ten other people offering the same service you do, but no one else does it exactly like you. In the end, this may be your biggest asset. Successful artists know this, and that’s why they aren’t afraid to be as way out as they can be. Take another note from the art world, and let your freak flag fly. How else are potential members of your community going to find you?