10 Online Community Building Tips From Small Business Pros Who Have Done It





Blending in-person and online networking and building active, engaged and loyal communities are key factors in today’s small business success.

We should have an online presence but we cannot hide behind our websites, blogs, or social media platforms. People want to know, like, and trust who they are considering or people with whom they’re already doing business. We need to put a real face with that image of what we promote online.

The ICON15 Small Business conference, hosted and presented by Infusionsoft.com, is one of the best conferences that Small Business influencers, leaders and owners attend each year. I was there again on behalf of Small Business Trends capturing some insights and interviews from keynotes and session speakers.

More than 3,000 media professionals, small business owners, keynotes, session speakers and attendees gathered for education, information, motivation and fun. It was a huge small business “pep rally.”

I interviewed some of the best of the best and one excerpt appears in the video at the end of this article.

From podcasting, sales, focus, branding and content marketing, to video, local marketing, professionalism and perseverance, these small business leaders shared their stories and bared their souls. They shared their experiences, hope, commitment and the ineffable joy for what they have built and are doing.





Community Building Tips

Clate Mask, CEO and Founder of Infusionsoft, @ClateMask

Mask (pictured above) shared some personal and candid changes he made personally this year to grow and calm his chaos.

“I did two things this past year with building my team and building myself that helped me calm my chaos and take some weight off my shoulders. It’s a continual investment in those areas.

“I promoted a team member and upgraded an existing position with a new team member that added more experience.  I also meet weekly with a coach, who helps me to see things differently. It’s vital that I can help leaders lead in a more powerful way.”

John Lee Dumas, EntrepreneurOnFire Podcast, @JohnLeeDumas

Dumas’s very enthusiastic approach on his award winning EntrepreneurnFire podcast translates to his interviews with some of today’s most inspiring Entrepreneurs 7-days a week.





“The biggest benefit of podcasting is its on demand feature. If you miss it, you can always go back to it and it will be there. I was no longer on somebody else’s schedule.”

Wes Schaeffer, The Sales Whisperer, @SalesWhisperer

Schaeffer, of TheSalesWhisperer.com, is all about inspiring sales professionals to be the best of the best, with sales ideas, automation sales tools, his Think Like a Man podcast, CD’s, books, keynotes and workshops.

“You want to enter the conversation going on in the mind of the prospect. Learn about them before so you give them information they are interested in.”

Community Building Tips



Greg Head, CMO Infusionsoft.com , @GregHeadAZ



The chief of marketing for Infusionsoft.com, Head (pictured above) leads a team of  successful and passionate sales and marketing professionals who help entrepreneurs build businesses, have a great life and “Focus to Grow.”

“The simple answer is by focusing on a smaller segment of customers you can serve well, narrowing what you offer, and having fewer tactics, ironically you can focus and grow the business better.”

Andrew Davis, BrandScaping.ca, @TPLDrew



Davis, of BrandScaping.ca, has wrangled for The Muppets and written for Charles Kuralt. He’s marketed for tiny startups and Fortune 500 brands. His new book “Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnerships,” puts his common sense approach to work for small business.

“Define your niche and focus on being something to somebody.”

Carey Ballard, Director of Content Marketing at Infusionsoft, @CareyBallard1



Carey heads up Infusionsoft’s content marketing initiatives via blogging, social media, video.



“Use content marketing to educate and brand yourself as resource and leader in your field or industry. You don’t have to be creating all your content. You can be a ‘content curator’ that brings great content to your community.” 

Rohit Bhargava, Influential Marketing Group, @RohitBhargava

Bhargava, of Influential Marketing Group, is a marketer, speaker, trend curator, author of five best-selling books including “Non-Obvious: Connecting Data to Action in a Data-Crazy World” and “Likeonomics.”

“One of the trend ideas that is gaining traction now is ‘glanceable content’. Putting content into a format where people can consume it quickly and capture attention and interest in a short span of time.”

Anita Campbell, Founder and CEO of Small Business Trends, @SmallBizTrends

Small Business Trends is an award-winning online publication for small business owners, entrepreneurs and is the premier source of information, breaking news and advice covering issues of key importance to small businesses.





“The number one thing for small business success is perseverance. People give up too soon before things start to take off. You have to stick with it, and find ways to motivate yourself. “

Carmen Sognonvi, Urban Martial Arts, @UMAMartialArts

Sognonvi combines old school marketing tactics like flyers and signage with new school digital marketing to build a local following in Brooklyn, New York.

“When you are a local brick and mortar business, it’s really important to have a good ground game. Flyers, signage and promotional booths at street fairs built our first 100 clients in the first 6 months.”

Community Building Tips

2015 Icon Small Business of the Year



Brian Young, Home Painters Toronto, @HomePaintersTO

The community vote this year for the 2015 Small Business ICON Grand Prize went to Brian Young from Home Painters Toronto.  Brian won a $10,000 prize and many more opportunities await Young to continue to grow his business.

He attributes his success to “having good role models and turning to them whenever I had a bad day. I used movies too and am especially a big Rocky fan. Whenever I watch it, I knew that no matter how bad things got, there’s always a way around it.”

Here’s an excerpt of my interview with Clate Mask:


Group of People Photo via Shutterstock

More in: 8 Comments ▼


Deborah Shane


Deborah Shane Deborah Shane has been recognized as a Top 100 Small Business Champion, Top Small Business Podcast, Top 50 SMB Influencer on Twitter 2015 (Dunn and Bradstreet), personal branding strategist and a social media specialist. Deborah's book "Career Transition: Make the Shift" is available through all major book sellers.

8 Reactions

  1. Aira Bongco

    Overall, it would help if you will act on your plans and not just plan things. Action is the only thing that leads to another and it is the only thing that gets someone closer to success.

  2. Agreed Aira. Nothing really can get done or move if we are not in an action mode. Thinking it, will not make anything happen, but it can set the stage. So, getting into action and planning the “do” unleashes the energy and momentum.

  3. Deborah,
    Thanks so much for including me in the piece! I really appreciate it.

    I wrote the book, Brandscaping, but I’m not the same guy as the one who build Brandscaping.ca (although he’s a great guy!)

    Just wanted to clarify. Thanks so much for using my quote.

    Have a great day!

    – Andrew

    • Andrew, your most welcome. Thanks for clarifying and we will edit that. Great to meet you and have a chance to experience your “personality and passion”.

  4. Jennifer Epstein

    Great post Deborah, thank you! Agree with all the advice given and for me, the underlying theme is truly understanding who your customers are. To do this, a solid strategic segmentation of your market can help a business know how to best engage their customers with the most relevant content (to entice them to join the community), which channels to promote the content through, who the most relevant influencers are, etc. By segmenting your market first and then prioritizing only the most attractive/lucrative customer groups (e.g., based on size, growth rates, competitive density, profitability, etc) you can really make an impact! For example, a business focusing on attracting ‘first-time young mothers’ will have a completely different community-building strategy than a business who’s focused on ‘affluent retired couples’… Segmentation allows you to select the target segment first, followed by the amazing suggestions you’ve discussed above.

  5. Jennifer, thank you. There are reasons and benefits for segmenting and sending a mass appeal message. I couldn’t agree more that segmenting can be very effective and yield amazing results. We definitely speak differently to generations and should approach our communications accordingly. Sometimes though there is a universal language, that every one understands and relates to. Thanks for your input.

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