4 Steps to Creating a Loyal Brand Community

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This article is taken from the Build Your Queue podcast below, Season 2 Episode 15 with Shannon Stephenson, CEO of Cempa Community Care.

You want a huge, loyal following for your brand. But where do you start?

Your brand needs to be based on a message the community you serve can rally behind. So to create a brand identity that resonates with people, you need to first ask yourself:

  • How do you find your cause and frame it into a brand message?
  • What are ways you can share your branding?
  • How can you build a community around your message?
  • What roles can advertising and sponsorships play in building your following?

We’ll help you answer these questions, and give tips on how to deliver your brand’s message to the people you serve, so you can consistently grow a loyal community. Keep reading, or listen to the full audio in the player above.

1. How do you find your cause and reframe it into a brand message?

Your brand needs to have a cause, or mission, that people can rally behind, but discovering what that cause is will be challenging. Instead of figuring it out on your own, listen to the people around you first.

The best causes will consist of shared values that bring people together.

Talk to the people you serve.

Go directly to your staff, customers, and community to ask what matters most to them. Use surveys or brief meetings over coffee to figure out what they currently think of your business and what they could see you doing in the future. You need to understand what’s important to them first, then figure out how those values fit into what you’re currently doing.

The image people have of you may not fit into what you're currently doing, which is why finding that disconnect is important.

For example, Cempa’s staff and community saw them as champions for health, so they rebranded to Cempa, which means "Champion."

Take the current values your team and community have and see what needs to change or improve about your brand identity to meet those expectations. The more you hear a certain value repeated, the more you know it’s one you need to prioritize (while those that are only mentioned one or twice should be filtered out).

But only ask for feedback if you’re going to listen, or people will be disappointed when you don’t follow through on a value they all consistently pushed for.

Condense your community's values into a one-liner.

Once you have a set of community values you know you can rally people behind, you need to condense them into a repeatable message that showcases your business’s cause.

This message needs to be a short and simple one-liner, so you can capture people’s attention and keep it.

The best one-liners:

  • Put your customers first (as well as define who they are)
  • Use simple and clear words (nothing is vague)
  • Tell the story of a problem you’re trying to solve

People don’t buy “what” you do, they buy “why” you do it. And reframing your company message into one sentence will make explaining that “why” much simpler and clearer for both your audience and your team.

Related: [Podcast] 3 Steps to Tell Your Compelling Company Story

2. What are ways you can share your new message?

Saying you believe in a cause is one thing, but people care about action. Here's how you can demonstrate that you believe in your cause.

Start by updating the messaging on your website and marketing materials, and train staff to communicate with customers in a way that reflects your cause.

You’ll also want to get out into the community and champion causes that show you’re staying true to your message. You can do this by partnering with businesses who also support your cause, or by hosting events intended to educate customers, like:

  • A dental practice could provide free hygiene lessons or tools
  • A fitness studio could offer healthy foods or recipes after a presentation on eating well after workouts
  • A hardware store could handout free guides on how to properly clean and care for equipment

Your ultimate goal is to prove you're going to walk the walk and talk the talk.

But remember, you don’t want to overwhelm yourself with too many events as you’re building your brand. There’s no need to hold fifty new ones if you only have the bandwidth for one. Recognize your strengths and be intentional about bringing them out in your chosen events.

If you create great experiences, particularly around your cause, the people you serve will share your message. Now you suddenly have a much larger team of people sharing your message than just your staff.

Reviews and testimonials are essential for building trust, and can show you how you can improve. So always be sure to ask your customers for reviews either directly after you provide your service or a few weeks after they’ve had time to enjoy your product.

Related: How to Get More 5-Star Online Reviews

3. How can you build a community around that message?

You have to meet people where they already are to draw them to your message.

Collaborate with partners who reflect your message, and take notes on what works for them. Just be sure to follow through on any commitments you make, or you’ll end up looking disingenuous. You can build relationships with potential partners by supporting the local events they’re already hosting.

You can also build a community around your brand by turning inward and hiring staff that reflect the population you serve. For example, Lululemon specifically hires staff who love working out so they can better help customers find the right gear.

Take notes on the success of your events, and pay attention to which ones draw the biggest audience or quality engagement. From there you can find patterns on what speaks to the most people and make adjustments accordingly.

Being consistent across your message, customer experience, and the events you host inevitably will be what keeps people trusting your brand. So have a training programs and guides that teach your staff:

  • Consistent answers to common customer questions
  • Consistent information on your products and services (so staff can share it efficiently)
  • Consistent protocols for how to handle common problems

You don’t want one customer saying they had a great experience that met your brand’s standards, while another customer says they had a completely different and negative experience. Mistakes are inevitable, and you're going to do better when you own up to them.

Related: 12 Text Message Templates for Responding to Negative Reviews

4. What roles can advertising and sponsorships play in building your following?

You want your brand to be recognizable from everything to your emails and social media posts, to your billboards and swag. But you can’t do that if your team doesn’t have design guidelines to keep them consistent.

Just like with customer service, consistency in design is key to having your brand be recognizable. This includes not only the font and colors in your marketing materials, but also the images you include.

For example, having a familiar face can be just as important as any other design element (think of Flo from Progressice or Gary Vaynerchuk from VaynerMedia). Decide what face, image, or logo will call out to your specific audience, and make sure it appears throughout your marketing.

You can achieve design consistency by actively sticking to your design templates and making sure your entire team knows they exist and can access them.

Your brand identity shouldn’t become a game of telephone where things slowly change over time. Holding quarterly meetings where you check in on new marketing materials can help you ensure you’re not straying away from the original brand standard as the company grows.

Draw inspiration from other successful brands.

Your branding strategy doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Take a look at what other successful local businesses are doing to generate a following, and take notes.

Your brand identity should be inspired by the professionals in your community who are doing the work you want to do, so you have a model for the actionable steps you can take toward success.

Related: [Podcast] 4 Steps to Creating Your Own Professional Community