April 24, 2017

7 Steps to Build a Solid Brand Community for Handmade Business


7 Steps to Build a Solid Brand Community

Today’s Maker marketplace is overflowing with raised voices, loud messages, and urgent calls to action. To ensure that your customers hear and respond to your unique voice, you need a solid community where your message can resonate loud and clear. That sounds simple enough, right? Well, it is. And it isn’t.

The concept of community is uncomplicated: carve out a little piece of heaven where you, your brand and your customers can connect without distraction. It is simple, but it requires multiple steps and Herculean patience to make it happen. This post contains a high level road map to propel you in the right direction. Here are seven steps you can take this week to start building a solid community around your brand.

How To Build a Solid Brand Community

1. Know Who Your Target Customer Is

Like most things in business, success depends on you knowing exactly who your target customer is. Like a sheep knows his shepherd, a person in search of a particular product or service will sift through mounds of muck to find what she’s looking for. You must be a like a light in the darkness for your target customer. Make it easy for her to spot you from miles away, and she will.

2. Choose the Best Location(s) for Your Brand Community

Once you attract your specific target market, you can create the virtual and/or physical spaces where they would like to participate with you and the rest of the community. If you sell products at the local farmer’s market each week, your community can meet with you there every week. If you offer online classes, your community can meet you inside the Facebook group where you host your classes. If your target customers like Instagram, your brand community can take shape there as you post new pictures of the products you make.

Start with one location, and then add more as you grow.

3. Initiate Positive and Relevant Engagement

Start conversations within the group around topics that resonate with your target audience. Whether it’s an Instagram post or a Periscope broadcast, if you consistently introduce concepts and ideas that matter to your customers, they will see that you care about them, and they will respond. As you do this repeatedly, over time, you will develop the kind of good will that organically improves sales. People will tell their friends about the positive experience they have with you and your offerings, and this will build on itself in magical ways that positively affect your bottom line and help your brand thrive.

4. Create Opportunities for People to Connect

Your brand community is a great place for relationships to develop among like-minded people. As you create opportunities for people to connect, you will find that some will truly enjoy each other’s company and wish to connect outside your community. This can create super opportunities for people to connect around your brand in satellite communities nationwide. Keep an eye out for developing friendships, and do what you can to help them flourish. Doing so will keep your brand top of mind and encourage people to do business with you consistently.

5. Minimize or Eliminate Negative Influences

Your brand community will take its cues from you. If you are positive and uplifting, they will be too. Having said that, where there are people, there are problems, and you must be ready to handle them quickly and effectively. It is imperative that you immediately snuff out negative influences that threaten to reflect poorly on you, the community, or your brand. This can mean banning people who introduce negative or prohibited topics of discussion, or cutting off discussions when they become emotionally taxing.

6. Schedule Events in Advance so People Know What to Expect

One way to attract people to a brand community on a consistent basis is to host regular events. For example, if you host a community inside a Facebook group, you might use Facebook Live every Tuesday at 12:30 to connect and engage. You could also host a daily Periscope broadcast or upload a new video to Youtube and engage with your community there. This type of regularity allows busy people to plan to calendar the dates and times they can connect personally with you and others in the community.

7. Make Changes as Needed to Accommodate Growth

As you and your business grow, you may find that the location where you host your brand community needs to change in order to accommodate the growth of your business and/or you personally. Sometimes, you may need to permanently close a community in order to maintain momentum and capitalize on technological advances. For three years, I maintained a thousands-strong community within a site built on the Ning platform. It was great while it lasted, but my business outgrew what was possible there so I shuttered it and built the community up in a different location inside a private members only Facebook group. You will find that you may need to make a similar move. You’ll know when it it’s time.

Questions: How do you build community around your brand? What tips and experiences can you share? I’d love to hear from you!

Handmade Jewelry Photo via Shutterstock

7 Comments ▼
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Donna Maria Coles Johnson


Donna Maria Coles Johnson Donna Maria is the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, a trade organization providing mentoring and coaching services, and affordable product liability insurance, to makers and creative entrepreneurs across North America. An award-winning small business advocate, Donna Maria has hosted the Indie Business Podcast since 2005. She blogs at Indie Business Blog.

7 Reactions

  1. Sounds good and easy enough. But if you only started your handmade bisiness it’s difficult to create, produce handmade goods, and organize brand community, hosting regular events and so on at the same time. I understand its necessity, but it takes a lot of time. Maybe it will be more efficient to start with non often posts and events in the small group to test the market?

    • Hi Alexis, thanks for your feedback. Yes, it is hard. Yes, it is necessary. Yes it takes time to market your business. It’s a great idea to start with small events inside a group, absolutely! That’s how I started, trying things out. I kept doing what works, and I stopped doing what didn’t work. I still do the same thing today. The most important thing is not to dwell on how hard it is or how much time it takes, and just acknowledge that it will draw community to your brand (and in turn, sales) and JUST DO IT!

  2. Yep, I agree…it is all worth it. As you get busier and can afford to do it, you can outsource a lot of stuff, but my two bits is to hang onto your being the face of the business, even if others help you!

    The hard part for me is to not beat myself up when something causes me to be a bit off in my social media game for a bit. We all keep learning thanks to great teachers like Donna Marie!

  3. That’s what I love about the community you have built. Always positive and helpful with a consistent schedule of events that are relative to your community.

  4. Aira Bongco

    It helps to do a little bit of market research and to be completely immersed in your industry so that you know what your target market needs.

  5. I think people in the creative realm of handmade need to embrace capitalism. If you want to make your hobby your living, that is the purest form of free market capitalism. Stop saying “ick” to marketing and marketing terms like Call To Action, Target Market, Conversion to Customer, etc.

    Businesses have developed and honed these skills because they bring in revenue (it’s not a dirty word). Learn to embrace capitalism, lest you be just another Starving artist.

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