When you think of Harley Davidson, you likely think of an iconic motorcycle manufacturer. However, if you were to travel back to the start of the 1980s, you would find Harley Davidson on the brink of closing its doors.
What changed? The company became committed to engaging the community. It aligned itself with a group of passionate motorcyclists who shared similar activities, lifestyles, and ethos. This is just one example that underscores the importance of community engagement and customer-centric marketing approaches.
Why Community Engagement Is so Important
When customers feel connected to a brand, they are willing to stay loyal even if competitors offer a similar service for a reduced price. Community engagement is more than just a one-off thing. It is more than just a marketing effort to pander to a community in a way that can seem gimmicky or even offensive.
For community engagement programs to produce the desired results, they must be presented as a high-level strategy to align with and support core business objectives. It requires developing a community, truly getting to know them, and understanding what motivates them to buy a product or service.
A good place to start to gather information on your target community is by looking at tools like Google Analytics and reports on Facebook Insights. Another way to become familiar with the target community is to actively follow topics, blogs, and social media that your target community is interested in.
See Your Customers as Unique Individuals
It can be counterproductive to see the community you wish to engage with as a collective instead of a group of individuals. Communities are made up of people with unique needs, interests, and personalities. Community engagement programs are successful if they focus on helping customers meet their needs instead of driving sales or generating leads. Engaged communities are built not because of a brand’s reputation but because the brand understands how the customer lives and what the customer needs. As a result, they are willing to offer their customers something that reaches them where they live.
Many people are interested in brands because it connects them with other people who have similar interests. For example, people may opt to purchase a more expensive computer because other people use the same computer in their field of work. Thus, it becomes a talking point and allows the user to connect with other users on a social level.
You may even be the one who built the community that you are now engaging with. You may be the one managing the community. However, your organization needs to realize that the community truly belongs to the customer. Authentic customer engagement requires you to understand your customers’ mentality, communication style, and desires to build a multifaceted relationship.
An Engaged Community Will Advocate for You
An engaged community becomes de facto ambassadors or advocates for the product or service they use. How many times have you heard people rant and rave about a particular type of laptop, tablet, or cell phone? They don’t get paid to promote the product. They do it because they feel loyal to the product and connected to the community. They want others to feel that same sense of connection.
Charitable giving and donating are other excellent ways to engage the community. For example, many companies have fleet vehicles or older vehicles that are nearing the end of their use. They could try to sell the vehicles, or they could work with programs like Kidney Foundation pick up and donate these vehicles to a charity, which helps the community.
Donating vehicles that will be used to help those struggling financially to get transportation is a great way to build a sense of connection to the community. The donator feels like they are doing something that is for the greater good. The community sees the donating company as more than just a company. They are viewed as part of the community.
The strongest community engagement happens on the individual level. Of course, thought leaders and influencers play a big role in affecting the thoughts and desires of communities. However, strong community engagement by organizations means creating an environment where everyone can feel connected to the product and play a valuable role.
Community engagement is powerful if approached correctly and with the right tools for success. Community engagement can create tangible returns. When you engage the community, the financial benefits will follow.