The advantages of starting up a branded community are fairly apparent at this point. Your business can benefit from increased loyalty, more satisfied and engaged customers, and a place to direct targeted marketing efforts.

That’s wonderful, but how do you create a branded community that works? The following examples come from very successful branded communities, and they serve to illustrate a few best practices:

  • Don’t promote a product – promote a lifestyle (Harley Owner’s Group)
  • Take a look at any group of Harley Davidson riders and you’ll see why selling a lifestyle can be very lucrative. Not only does it create and proliferate excitement for your product, but it can really crank up the ancillary sales. Harley isn’t just a motorcycle company any more; they’re licensing everything from socks to pickup trucks.
  • Ask for input – and use it! (My Starbucks Idea)
  • Hundreds of great ideas have come out of Starbucks Coffee’s branded community. Almost 200,000 members have given insight about the customer experience and suggested all sorts of great improvements. Guess what? Starbucks listens to them, and around 300 of these ideas have been implemented to great effect in their stores.
  • Expand beyond the product and focus on the customer (Being Girl)
  • Being Girl is Proctor & Gamble’s branded community for young women. Sure, they could stick to product-relevant topics like shampoo and deodorant, but what teenage girl wants to read about that all day? Instead, the forum covers topics that their demographic will gladly talk about for hours (such as dating and eating disorders.) This extremely popular community has been going strong for over fifteen years…making it older than many of the users who frequent it!
  • Give Year-Round Access to a Seasonal Brand (H&R Community)
  • Tax time comes but once a year for many people, which makes tax preparation a very seasonal business. H&R Block fought back against their waning and waxing consumer relevance by creating a branded community where users can go to discuss tax issues or experiences throughout the year. The result? The company reaped a 15% increase in business.

About the author Eric Hays: Based in Chicago, Eric Hays is a technology entrepreneur currently focused on building branded niche communities in Sports via SportsFYLE, LLC. They have a current test community launched at the time this article was written found at: http://www.HockeyFYLE.com

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