Customers Want You To Build A Community Online
By: Ron Sathoff and Kevin Nunley
|Ron Sathoff is a noted speaker and manager of DrNunley's InternetWriters.com He provides copy-writing, marketing, Internet promotion, and help for business speakers. Reach him at email@example.com or 801-328-9006.
Kevin Nunley provides marketing advice, copywriting, and promotion packages. See his 10,000 free marketing ideas at DrNunley.com Reach Kevin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 801-328-9006.
Ever wonder why magazines and newspapers always feature letters to the editor? Have you noticed most radio stations air phone calls from listeners? And what about those person-on-the-street interviews that TV news programs like to feature?
These are the ways smart media organizations create the community their customers crave. Here's how it works.
People are social creatures. Few of us like being alone for long. We prefer to work and learn in groups. We like to know there are plenty of other people who are a lot like us, people who are doing the same things we are.
When companies create a community of like-minded customers for people to be a part of, lots of people respond. This can be particularly important if your goal is to keep new prospects interested and current customers coming back. Creating your own community is critically important during slow economic times when every customer counts.
Here are five cheap and easy ways you can create your own online community right away!
- Start your own discussion board. A
few years ago, you had to be a computer programmer
to do this, but today anyone can create their
own online discussion. The one we have
at InternetWriters comes free from bravenet.com.
You can personalize the look of your board
as well as put your logo at the top.
This makes the discussion look like a regular
part of your web site.
Expect the discussion to start off slow. Line up several experts to launch conversations and provide follow-up answers. These can be experts outside your company, but it is usually more reliable to have experts from inside your organization. Using your in-house experts can help emphasize how your staff has the ability and desire to solve problems for customers. If you want to create the image of expertise, your discussion board is a great way to do it.
- Create a simple question and answer page.
This can be even simpler than the discussion
board. When a customer calls or emails
you a question, include the question and
your answer on a web page. Success
won't depend on customers sending questions
frequently. The answer page on DrNunley.com
has been building slowly for years.
Today you can browse page after page for
answers to hundreds of questions.
Prospects and customers often ask similar questions. Your Q&A page not only gives people the answers they may be looking for, but it lets them know they aren't alone. Others have the same needs and questions they do.
- Schedule online events. These can be
online chats or streaming audio broadcasts.
There are a number of services that provide
free chat rooms. Live365.com will let
you do free audio streaming.
The event can be a guest expert answering questions, an interview with a popular author, or even a meeting of your distributors or franchisees. Be sure to announce your online event well ahead of time. Give it plenty of promotion. Mention it often in your newsletter, on your site, even in your advertising.
- Start an email discussion. Email is
by far the most popular feature of the Internet.
Some experts believe the big increase in
people using the Net has been caused by the
massive number of people who use email several
times each day.
You can harness the power of email to build your online community. An email discussion is simply a system that shares email messages between everyone in the group. Messages can flow freely or be edited, approved, or rejected by a moderator in your organization.
It only takes a few minutes to get your email discussion going. Yahoo Groups and Topica.com provide excellent and reliable free service.
- This final idea is extremely simple, but
very powerful. Post good comments from
customers. Customers often aren't sure
what kind of results to expect from your
product or service. Expectations of "good
results" can vary widely.
By posting customer success stories, you can help other customers understand what to expect and what is possible. This goes a long way toward building customer confidence and better understanding of your product or service.
Online community is becoming more and more important as the Web matures. People increasingly get online to check with a few communities they belong to. Make sure you have a community available for your customers and prospects.
© Copyright 2001, Ron Sathoff and Kevin Nunley
The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.