Building Communities in a Turbulent Landscape

The world has collectively shifted because of the pandemic and the understanding for community has changed dramatically. Here's how businesses can build communities in today's landscape.

Building Communities in a Turbulent Landscape

The world has collectively shifted because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the understanding for community as we know it has changed dramatically. Gone are the days where communities revolve only around religious groups, labor organizations and non-profits.

Today's communities are organized around businesses and brands, with members who support one another, organize events, create content, and play an important role in businesses.

Today's communities are an international network of minds and talents that offer tremendous opportunities to businesses all over the world.

With that in mind, Potato Productions hosted a networking session on the topic of “Building Communities in a Turbulent Landscape”.

We had the pleasure of hosting Vanessa Yeo Barger, Vice-President of Brand from Love, Bonito and Kartik Khare, Global Vice-President of Product Strategy & Innovation of Tupperware to shed light on what sits at the heart of building and expanding communities.

How does your business benefit from a community?

Content, events, online advocacy and marketing, technology production, customer support, and education are all examples of how communities generate tangible value for businesses.

If a company can shift its focus from simply delivering a product to creating a community, it will be able to gain extraordinary competitive advantages and develop a superior business model. In fact, strong communities contribute to the ideal business model's success.

As a result, there are very real network effects: as participation grows, the community becomes smarter, faster to respond, more globally available, and generates more value.

The intangible value that members derive from the experience, however, is what makes these environments truly "sticky."

Humans are fundamentally social creatures. We yearn for a sense of belonging, mission, and meaning.

Making progress toward a common goal is the most motivating force a professional can experience. These advantages are delivered by communities, which foster a sense of shared accountability and a set of values while preserving individual autonomy.

Here's the 4 key themes of building a successful community that the participants derived during the breakout sessions.

1. Community building is a long term game

It goes without saying that good relationships do not happen overnight. You cannot expect an immediate return of investment when you are building a community.

As it is with all relationships, building a successful community takes genuinity, effort and commitment. The ROI of a strong community isn’t something logical that you can put a price tag on.

Love, Bonito experienced firsthand the bond they developed with their community during the pandemic. Their customers gave words of encouragement and continued supporting them. And while most brick and mortar were forced to shift their businesses online, the company successfully opened their fourth outlet amid the height of the pandemic last year.

“Being able to connect with your customer and community is very important. You cannot expect your customers to know your brand just because of your brand.” shared Vanessa.

2. Understand the needs of your community and what matters to them

You need to be clear about the community you are trying to build. Think about what your brand represents and which persons would be ideal members of this community.

Your community must be able to answer the question “Why are we coming together?”

Nothing beats keeping close with the community you are serving. And that’s the main reason why Love, Bonito works very closely with their women community to better understand their customers’ wants and needs.

Tupperware had to pivot to digital methods overnight from their wildly successful Tupperware Parties. This shift was an uphill battle for Tupperware who largely adopted a B2B2C model.

Kartik shared that they needed to make value consumption simple and accessible to their community. Prospective and current members must be able to easily see what they are getting in terms of support, events, and resources. This value is not hidden or buried; rather, it is well-organized and easily accessible.

“It’s progression over perfection. Start small, try and fail, and try again.” says Kartik.

He advises on an outside-in approach where you take heed on what your community needs and then come up with solutions progressively.

3. Choosing the right partners is an important aspect of community engagement

Strategic partnerships are critical to the success of your company's goals and initiatives. It has the potential to focus the community's attention on a specific problem, forge alliances between companies that might not normally collaborate, and to keep the community's approach to issues consistent.

Most importantly, partners can advocate for your business goals while bringing their own contacts, skills, talents, and assets to the table, allowing your organization to broaden its impact while reaching new audiences.

You definitely want to find a partner(s) whose interest in and operandi modus are well aligned with yours.

Photo courtesy of Love, Bonito

Love, Bonito, literally took it to the streets to find a partner when planning for the launch of their fourth outlet. And that was how they partnered up with Uncle Chieng's Ice Cream Cart for publicity. Vanessa shared that the move not only drew attention to their new outlet, it also helped boost Uncle Chieng’s sales amid the drop in customers during the pandemic.

As you are looking for potential partners, at the very first instance consider the following:

  • Are they well aligned with your company mission and/or services?
  • What audience(s) could be reached by collaborating with the organization?

It is critical to understand how to form effective partnerships. Partnerships take time and effort to establish, but when done correctly, they can help your company achieve its goals more effectively and with fewer resources.

4. Using Technology to Optimise Community Engagement

Traditionally, there was little to no overlap between purchasing a product online and taking a trip to a mall to shop in-person (offline). These two activities typically involved distinct customer experiences and interactions.

Online-to-offline e-commerce was the key to growth for many retailers in 2020. The pandemic drove more consumers online, but for those who still craved in-store experiences, retailers needed to fine-tune their online-to-offline (O2O) strategy in order to welcome online shoppers.

Both Vanessa and Kartik shared that their companies used this opportunity to treat physical and online channels as two complementary channels instead of competitors. The purpose of O2O then became creating awareness for products and services online, and then having customers visit the store to make a purchase.

“Offline is not just your physical store. It’s the physical experience you can create and layer upon your digital execution.” says Vanessa.

While the O2O model largely applies to retailers, the concept could be applied to many other businesses too.

Take for example a couple months back when we were sharing Playlogue's advice on getting crowdfunding support from the community. The team hosted a live playthrough session to keep the hype up with their backers prior to the actual launch of their product.

To sum it all up.

We are still in the early stages of fully realizing the potential of well-planned, productive communities. Communities, when done well and intentionally woven into the fabric of the business, can provide a sustainable competitive advantage and drive brand awareness, value production, and thus overall commercial valuation.

“Pre-Covid communities have been very localised. It’s time to take a look at how one can connect with global communities even if your business is not ready to take on a global position just yet.” says Vanessa.

The future of business will be more open, connected, and engaging, and communities will change the way we interact with brands, products, and other people.

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