Supercharge your marketing with customer communities

Customer communities aren’t for every brand. Yet, facilitating communities with your customers could supercharge your marketing. This is, in essence, what Sanjay d’Humières explained to us in this interview. Sanjay is the founder of RTCX (Real-Time Community Experience), a consultancy supporting businesses with their community marketing. He reminded us, lest we forget, we should always work with our customers to drive a successful marketing strategy. In doing so, Sanjay rightly reminds us, like Jonah Berger (Contagious), that social media makes up only a small portion of word of mouth.

Supercharge Your Marketing With Customer Communities

Customer communities
“Brands fear unhappy customers,” Sanjay d’Humières tells us, and they are wrong. I asked Midjourney to show me a crowd of smiling customers raising their hands, but it seems that for AI, customers are necessarily grumpy. Yet it is possible to bring a community of customers together and turn it into something positive.

Brands Must Focus Their Attention on Their Loyal Consumers

Like it or not, the process of creating a new marketing strategy necessarily involves customers, Sanjay reminds us. Often, we interview them, which is a very important part of the process of creating new offers and new services.

Marketing communities
Marketing to customer communities means bringing together engaged consumers around a brand or product, Sanjay d’Humières explains. Sanjay is the founder of RTCX, a “startup specialising in stakeholder listening dedicated to companies and communities”.

“Brands shouldn’t make assumptions on behalf of their customers, they should value their opinion, then make strategic decisions based on hard facts. That’s how a significant ROI for the brand is obtained,” explains Sanjay d’Humières.

Involving consumers in the marketing process

“Consumers must be involved in the whole marketing process,” says Sanjay.

Seeking your customers’ opinions allows them to take ownership of the brand

It is crucial to establish contact between customers and the human beings behind the logos. This is how customers take ownership of the discussion. Often, they do express pride in having contributed to the creation of a product or service.

Smiling faces
With a little time and effort – as we spent with Midjourney – you’ll manage to make your customers smile too. So work with your customer communities and thank them for their commitment to your brand!

“Involving customers in our marketing approach is the basis of our discipline, but a lot of brands are afraid of hearing what they have to say,” Sanjay points out.

However, unhappy customers also have important opinions that must be taken into account.

Customer feedback is often focusing on heated discussions on social networks. They only represent 20% of the iceberg, though.

Eighty per cent of customer reviews remain hidden. These people would like to give their opinion but do not know how to do it.

Social media does not represent the entirety of word of mouth

“Many companies rely solely on semantic analysis of social interactions and forget that there are many people who don’t know how to use social networks,” Sanjay points out.

Marketers thus form an idea from what a minority of customers have written or said. It is crucial marketers did away with this approach.

If you don’t communicate properly with your customers, they then vent their anger on social networks, sometimes for no valid reason.

[Jonah Berger, like Sanjay, is convinced that word of mouth doesn’t stop with social media and he gives evidence of that in his book].

How to build Customer communities

“Step one is to define what you want to do with this community,” says Sanjay.

The methodology for creating an online community is to recruit people through social networks, using specific keywords related to your brand and service.

Then, the facilitation of this community can be performed in Facebook groups, closed or open depending on the needs. This makes it possible to collect and analyse comments and quotes.

For face-to-face communities and clubs, recruitment is also carried out on social networks, and then brands can gather the participants and explain what they are trying to achieve.

Subsequently, participants make observations, negative, positive or neutral. Proposals are built. Lastly, the brand will decide whether to implement the suggestions from its customers.

If a brand does not implement suggestions from its customers, it should explain why

If it does implement a customer’s suggestion, it must give a deadline and communicate with the participants afterwards. This is how a brand can create a bond with its customers.

Is working with customer communities risky?

“Companies that do without these communities will miss out on vibrant and valuable consumer insights,” insists Sanjay.

Consumers are becoming increasingly demanding of the brands they trust.

Disregarding customer communities is a strategic pitfall

There is more and more talk about purpose and sustainability. Consumers are aware of this and all stakeholders need to be involved in the brand’s marketing process.

Does community marketing pay off?

Developing brand awareness and images can be very expensive and time-consuming. Communities allow you to develop your reputation at a lower cost.

A pool of ambassadors will speak positively about your brand without you having to invest huge marketing budgets

Word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing. This also makes it possible to onboard new members.

Committed participants who enjoy coming to co-creation workshops will spread the word to others. This will allow new participants to join in.

Why aren’t more companies developing customer communities?

The main reason is that instant ROI doesn’t exist with word-of-mouth marketing.

What really matters is the quality of exchanges and insights.

Do less, but do better

“Covid has made things happen,” Sanjay says. 2023 has a lot of surprises in store for us with regard to marketing and mass markets.

The energy crisis and inflation will also have an impact on the way consumers buy, and the way they express themselves. We need to capture all this.

Marketers must understand that they need to do perhaps a little less but to do it better.

Yann Gourvennec
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