Communities of purpose was the theme of this year’s Xerocon London and underpinned the marketing breakout session. Gayle Fisher, Partner Campaign Manager, explained how community building can be your most powerful marketing strategy to set your firm apart.
Communities share a common interest and the strongest, most successful communities are when members are willing to help each other to thrive.
So – why is community building important for your firm? Forming a community doesn’t happen overnight – it demands time and effort. But building a community is rewarding for your firm, because it’ll help to:
- establish trust and credibility, and improve customer loyalty
- create brand advocates who will refer you and rave about your services
- develop strong relationships to receive feedback on how to improve your services
- connect members so they can learn from and inspire each other
You don’t have to be a big, global company to have a community. If you’ve got a successful brand and happy clients, it’s your job to build one. But how exactly do you begin to build your community?
Introducing the Inside-Out Marketing Plan
To consider how you can build your community, use this model to connect with different members.
- You. Before you consider forming a community, you need to live and breathe your brand. A brand is a creative extension of a mission statement. Ask yourself “what does your practice represent that makes you different and would your clients and staff be able to answer this?”
- Your happiest clients. 80% of client referrals come from word of mouth, yet it’s one of the most underutilised marketing channels. Have you asked your clients to leave a review or testimonial, or considered implementing a referral scheme
- Your local community. Do small businesses in your area know about your practice? Leverage your Xero advisor directory listing to get seen by more businesses in your area and show potential customers that you know about their industry.
- Your professional community. Attending industry events, such as Xerocon, is an invaluable tool to network with like-minded professionals. It can also be useful to connect with other firms, not just geographically close to you, but those you aspire to. You can also learn from other accountancy practices by reading the The Pacesetter book series, where practices around the globe are using Xero to build stronger client relationships.
- Your owned marketing channels. These are all touch points that you control where customers interact with your brand. From your online presence, such as your website and social media to your physical presence, including your office space and you and your team. Make sure they all tell the same story and represent your brand. Explore some of our accounting and bookkeeping guides that focus on marketing your practice.
- Your expertise. You’re all experts in your field, so tell your clients how you can help. Hold events or webinars for your existing and prospective clients using our event toolkit – and be sure to ask your Xero account manager how they can help.
The key for sustaining a prosperous community? Keep up the momentum and don’t stop providing value. Provide helpful resources. Answer questions in a timely fashion. Delight your community members and involve your leaders in conversations.
Orange isn’t a colour, it’s a state of mind
To shed light on the importance of an online community, Xero’s Community Manager Catherine Walker, aka Orange Girl or ^OG – a founding member of Xero – shares her advice.
GF: What is the essence of being a community manager?
OG: I keep an eye on all the places people are talking about Xero online, from social media, accounting networks, blogs, forums, groups, review sites. Sometimes I’m asked specific product questions but the majority of time i’m having a general chit chat.
Being online means its more challenging to make a meaningful connection, but hanging out where our community is and being involved in conversations helps to strengthen relationships when my team can’t be there in person.
GF: What advice can you give to help partners to develop their community?
OG: You can’t force or manufacture a community – it takes time and dedication, plus you must have a genuine interest”.
Don’t underestimate the big part that trust, consistency and follow through plays when it comes to building a loyal following. Even if you don’t know the answer, say that, but be sure to set expectations and follow up.
You also can’t be too quick to take a question or statement at face value. There’s a touch of magic to read between the lines in a lot of cases to figure out what is actually being said. You need to learn what questions to ask to tease out how you can help.
And always give a human response so your clients feel supported and not alone. When I’m helping on a case, whether it be a partner or customer, it’s just me and them. They have my full attention and I put my face and my name to it.
GF: After 10 years of being a Community Manager, why do you still enjoy this role?
OG: Communities have similar traits, but they have their own personalities and are essentially living organisms. One community is not the same as another. It’s only by living in it that you find out what works.
So you must engage with your community, take on their feedback and be humbled by it. Your clients are at the heart of everything you do. And the best part, you can build live-long deep friendships!
Build your community one person at a time
Community building may feel a little daunting but start by inviting one person at a time and eventually it will grow naturally. To get started straight away, why not
- Ask your happiest clients to recommend your services? This could be via a Google review, a testimonial for your website or even just through business networking events.