What is a company without their community, their village?
You guessed it. They aren’t much.
Your business centers around your community and the connection you have with the members of that community.
You don’t sell products and services. You make connections. Connecting with your community is what you do.
Think of your community as your brand village, a supportive, interactive group that you’re connected to. You make the choice as to who is part of your community, but typically, these include your customers, collaborators, employees, and sometimes investors.
To fully understand the concept of your brand village, let’s look to insight from author and marketing genius, Seth Godin, in his best-selling book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us. In the book, Godin refers to members of your village as members of a Tribe.
From the book:
“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”
Notice the word connection repeated in the quote. That’s because connection fosters community and is the vital part of a village. It’s what holds the community together.
Strengthening these connections matters because this is the main point of engagement with your audience.
This is how you share news, encourage action, let village members know they are important to your company.
Let’s look at a few examples of companies that use creative ideas to foster a sense of community and build a connected village.
One of the most outstanding examples of village building is Harley Davidson. They make it clear that when you buy one of their motorcycles, you aren’t just making a purchase. It’s way more than a purchase, it’s a way of life, a culture, a camaraderie between each Harley owner.
And they foster this community by connecting with their community and presenting ways for community members to connect with each other (at events and online).
When you purchase a Harley, you’re part of something much bigger than just a bike owner, you’re part of their tribe.
Starbucks embarked on village building by creating an online portal for its 150,000+ members to submit ideas. We’ve all heard of the suggestion box idea before. But Starbucks went beyond that; this portal allowed members to submit ideas and Starbucks listened to the ideas and implemented them. They took action on many of the suggestions.
The result? Community members feel they are a part of something they contribute to. The My Starbucks Idea has been hailed as a brilliant and innovative initiative. It has propelled its brand and solidified their standing amongst their devoted community. Initiatives like this build trust and keep customers engaged, connected, and heard.
So how do you build and nurture a village that helps sustain your business?
First, assess what you already have in place. Do you have any village building initiatives and strategies? Who’s in your village? How do you reach them, and when? What’s the purpose of your village? Is your village vibrant and growing?
To build a company village that yields results, you need to be clear on:
- Who are the members of your village?
- How do you stay connected with the different members? Will this be via online portals, in-person meetups or events, or something else entirely? You’ll need to consider what would work for village members and what would encourage them most to be interactive (with your company and even with each other, where possible).
- Do you have multiple hubs within the village? For most companies, this means having several smaller hubs as part of one larger village. For example, a means for customers to engage, a separate hub for employees, and so on.
When we look at companies and organizations who’ve successfully implemented and maintained thriving communities, we can see the rewards are evident.
It’s not enough to center your business around selling products and services. To sustain and grow, you must connect. The most effective way to connect is to build and sustain your village. Your village is the heart and home of what you do and who you serve.