In my previous blog I shared the statics indicating your customers are spending most of their time on mobile devices and they are 3x more likely to buy or commit financially to your organization when they use you mobile app. Psychologically however, I think the most powerful statistic from the previous blog is that according to Gallup, 67% of US adults have more confidence in YOU, the small business compared to 21% who trust a large corporation. This is the Kryptonite of the Amazons and Facebooks of the world. Well, sort of, you will not take them down but if you cultivate your community of customers, you will take enough of them away from the big corporations and keep them for a long period of time. Intuitively or quantitatively, SMB owners understand this point. According to a 2019 survey conducted by Broadly, 60% of SMBs state that customer loyalty is their number one asset. The key to success is to cultivate and convert your community. Large corporations do it, you, the SMB owner will have to do it as well but with less funding and smaller teams, in other words, you will have to do it smarter.
Before you start cultivating your community of customers, you should be clear what type of community you want to grow: social community (enable customers to interact to provide a social island around the product or services offered), advocate community (enable loyal customers to promote your brand), support community (enable customers to support each other around the product or services offered leading to better experience and innovative solutions) or advisory community (enable customers to have a say in your roadmap and plans). Each of these community types will have different outcome expectations and they will require a different communications strategy, different user participation, different tools, different expectations. In other words, if you want to be effective and successful without significant time wasted, you need to be purposeful about the community building process. You might be able to stumble into one model or the other however, that approach is risk and costly.
Once you decide what you expect from your community, the hard part starts. The three rules to observe: 1) Consistent contributions (like in your business, half the battle is showing up every day), 2) Interesting engagement (predictability is good but it should be complemented with interesting twists that keep the community curios about what comes next) and 3) Timely moderation (do not late good conversations flame out and bad conversations flare up). There are of course many other strategies and tactics to get your community to thrive, for example, you should identify and promote champions and unique stories, you should ask questions relevant to the community and encourage debate.
Last but not at all least, we should talk about the communication channels you can or should use to facilitate the community engagement. To be clear, our goals is not to directly acquire users, we are focused on making the ones we have more loyal, more engaged. We might grow the community organically through referrals but we are not trying to get as many people as possible to hear us. For that later purpose we have SEO strategies for our webpages and posting on social networks in the hope we would be noticed. I am making the case for the great match there is between a mobile app and a community. It goes both ways. A mobile app delivers a captive, willingly captive audience to whom you can message purposefully and contextually through posts and notifications. In the other direction, a community makes the mobile app more effective as it increases use. It is a virtuous cycle that reinforces the core of the business.
This is the part you work so hard for and this is the opportunity that will set your business apart for the short and long term. That said, communities are delicate, fragile constructs. It is hard to gain trust but very easy to lose it and people are very good at sniffing out obvious ulterior motives. Of course, they understand that you will benefit from all the work you put in but pushing monetization to soon or too aggressively and you will face mass desertion. I know community owners who treat their community with big fluffy white gloves, and you should to.
Depending on the type of community (one of the 4 mentioned) you nurtured, the approach to conversion will differ. The key enabler of a smart conversion process is the data. The more data you have on your community, the more granular that data is, the more effective you will be in identifying the best conversion options and in tailoring and delivering your message to the right customer at the right time. An interesting statistic shows that 95% of sales will not happen at the first touch point with the customer. For your offering, your message and your customer’s commitment to a purchase or a donation to align, you must consistently engage with the customer. The community provides the attention to your message, you mobile app the delivery mechanism and the mobile app analytics provide the intelligence needed for an effective message.
Yes, we are of a “Mobile First” mindset and yes, we freely admit that it takes a bit of incentivizing to get your customers to get on the mobile train however, we genuinely believe, and the data supports this view that whether you are an SMB or a nonprofit, a mobile app is the best platform for your community and the community is the best way to increase the Lifetime Value of your customers.
The Club vs the Public Forum
If we are to draw analogies, I would say a mobile app is similar to a club whereas a webpage, an interest group or a social network are public forums. In the former, there is a small entry barrier, a membership induction called downloading the app. Once you are in however, you are less likely to leave, more likely to listen and get involved, more likely to invite friends. The public forums are easy to join but just as easy to leave, noisy and distractive. Each tool is best suited for a specific aspect of you market engagement. The mobile app helps you cultivate and convert your customer base while the other is a place to unfurl the banner of your business and attract new potential members to your club.
Tell me what topics you are interested in. We learn a lot alongside our community. firstname.lastname@example.org