Now, before you set out to read this feeling like you are about to run into the road and join the group of humans with pitchforks and torches,...
Have you noticed it? Everyone is talking about community. Growing communities... building communities... nurturing communities... managing communities... you know what I mean? You can’t turn around on the internet without stumbling over the next bit of advice about communities. Community is the new, big buzzword.
And I gotta say, that chaps me a little bit because “community” is something real. It’s something important. It cannot and should not be treated like the next sales hack or marketing tactic. Adopting a community mindset can be priceless and powerful for your business... but the reasons why you do it matter.
🔎 Related: Join the HubHeroes community
So, if you’re thinking about chasing the magic that comes with successfully building a community around your business, keep reading. That's why I’m going to dig deep into what it means to have a community mindset in your business, why it can completely shift your trajectory, and how to approach this particular “marketing tactic” with all the respect and care it deserves.
You may already have a community mindset and just not realize it
Maybe when you think of community, you think of your neighborhood — of kids playing in the park, neighbors talking to each other in their yards, people going on walks with their dogs. Or maybe you think of a group you volunteer with or get together with on a regular basis. Your book club is a community. Your church is a community. Your local food bank is a community... one that serves another community.
But you might not immediately think of community when you’re thinking about business. But if you've ever listened to the HubHeroes podcast, you know... you know I’m going to tell you that business is really all about the humans. And when you have a group of like-minded humans coming together to achieve a goal or around a shared purpose, you have the foundation for a community.
And when your company’s purpose is to do good things for the people you serve through your business... well, then you’re already cultivating a community mindset, even if you didn’t realize it.
Now, remember, what I don’t want you to think is, “Oh... this is just the latest marketing tactic. If we build a community, we’ll attract more customers and make more money.”
I’m not gonna lie.
That could happen... but if that’s why you build a community, it probably won’t.
So, instead of community-building, I want you to start thinking about a community mindset. And really hold onto that second word: "mindset."
The right mindset will help you build a community
A real community where people are connecting and sharing and lifting each other up, and it’s all happening around your product and your brand and what those things stand for.
But for that to happen, we need to start with that human element. More specifically, how you also show up as a human in your own potential community. Because, in order to attract other good humans, well, it all begins with you.`
Imagine, if you will, you invite a group of friends over to your house. What do you do?
You clean the house.
You make some snacks.
You put on some music.
You get the board games out.
You create an experience for the group, even if it’s just one or two friends. You spend the evening serving them through conversation, food, beverages, through listening. You want to show up as a good host. And what does a good host do?
They show up at their best, which is the root of a community mindset. Within your business, if you show up at your best for your prospects, your colleagues, for your employees, and look for ways to serve them better, then you’re already on your way.
Why do this? Why go to all the effort if not for profit?
Well, first, I’d say that all the most successful businesses got into business with a motive other than profit. Sure, one of the goals of starting a business is to make money.
But dollars to donuts, there’s another motive.
There’s a transformation that you want to help make in the lives of others.
When people feel cared for, they keep showing up
Community-minded businesses want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. And I’ll talk a little bit more about how that shows up a little further on. But first, think about that idea of showing up at your best to serve the people who are your clients, your customers, and your prospects.
There's no human alive who wouldn't say that's a thing they would love to have — to feel truly seen, heard, and understood through acts of service.
When people feel cared for, when they feel like you care for them — like you want to help them reach their goals — and you care about what the experience looks like as that happens, that has meaning.
More than that:
- People will come back for that feeling.
- People will tell their friends about that feeling you've created.
- People will eagerly connect with other people who have shared that feeling.
So, that’s advantage number one.
When you adopt a community mindset genuinely — that part is essential — you set into motion repeat business. You set into motion word-of-mouth marketing. You set into motion people getting together to bond over your product. And just that alone can shift the course of your business onto a sustainable track for more considerable success.
But let’s add a layer.
People want to be a part of something
When you have a community mindset, there should be a part of you (a big part of you) that has a mission, a vision for your company. An idea about how you will leave a positive mark on the world or even just a single person.
Once again, that has meaning and purpose above and beyond making a profit.
So the way you show up — the content you publish, how you talk about your product, how you talk to your audience — will all reflect your mission, vision, and values. And you’re going to start attracting the people who have shared values, who want to be a part of your mission.
When that happens, you don’t just have loyal fans. You have evangelists.
That’s advantage number two.
But wait, there’s more... and this ties back to the idea of showing up and being at your best. Part of having a community mindset is listening.
Become a transition specialist
When you adopt a community mindset, you put yourself in the position to have more conversations with your audience. And when you listen to what they have to say, you open yourself up to so many opportunities.
In fact, having a community mindset will turn you into a transition specialist.
But what the heck does that mean?
Well, it’s when you see what somebody needs, often that means they need to make a pivot of some kind ... and you become their guide through that pivot. That transition of where they are now vs. where they want to go.
As you become a community-focused business, you get really good at being the chameleon. You listen to what the community needs and you find a way to provide.
So, you see that your community needs deeper education to succeed. With a community mindset, you immediately look for ways to fulfill that need, even if it means doing something completely new and unfamiliar, like implementing monthly training events.
Or you see a need for more practical application.
So, you start developing tutorials. Or you hear your audience saying, “You publish a lot of good stuff, but I just don’t have time to read it all.” In response, you implement audio players that will read the articles to your audience so that they can actually listen and also do other things like drive or make dinner or whatever:
We did that here at HubHeroes to help our audience take more advantage of the resources we provide. Check out the example above!
Being community minded means you’re not on autopilot... at least not all the time.
- You deliberately pause.
- You listen.
- You observe.
And you find ways to show up in the way your audience needs you, which means your business is constantly growing, always adapting. And that’s the path to sustainable success.
That right there is advantage number three, my friends.
You don’t need more conversion points, you need more conversation points
That’s what a community mindset does.
Clearly, I can talk all day about why a community mindset can put your business on the path to more success, but not only that, to more satisfying success. Like monetary success, sure. But also that feeling of knowing you’re doing good things. That you’re doing right by your audience.
That you’re being a good human.
Now you might be thinking, “Sure, George. But what does this actually look like?”
I’m glad you asked. Because, boy, do I have examples.
The first example is a classic. Patagonia.
Patagonia has this mindset about the way they're going to impact the world. They shout their mission from the rooftops. And the people who believe in that mission, they join in. They come along for the ride. They’ve become a community built around the values of environmentalism, integrity, and activism. And one of the ways they show the community they belong to is by wearing the Patagonia brand.
My following example won’t come as a surprise because how can I not mention HubSpot. HubSpot, for sure, has a community mindset. And obviously, I’m part of the HubSpot community. But why?
Because in 2012, I heard the message, “Don't call me a customer. Call me human.”
Then the year after that, it was “one plus one equals three.”
So, their values are community-minded, and that resonates with me.
But HubSpot didn't stop there
They created the HubSpot Academy, which allows people to learn the skills they need to succeed as inbound marketers. And they didn’t limit it to existing customers. They made it available to anyone who had a need.
🔎 Related resources:
- The true power of HubSpot Academy (HubHeroes podcast)
- The ultimate HubSpot Academy certifications guide (by role + experience)
People could learn and get certifications and build their knowledge, their brand, their businesses through these educational resources. Just amazing. But also, they have community.hubspot.com:
It's a place where people can come together and they can talk about problems or hacks or tips or tricks... and HubSpot is always there, listening and paying attention. So, not only can people share their knowledge and benefit from the shared knowledge of others, they can also give HubSpot advice about what should be in the platform next.
They're creating a vehicle for conversation.
Most businesses think they need more conversion points to grow revenue. But HubSpot is creating more conversation points. Now that’s community-minded.
Another brand that is getting community right is Lifstarr ...
This company is building a task management app for solopreneurs because a solopreneur doesn't necessarily need something as robust as ClickUp or Teamwork, or Basecamp. They need something more nimble, more streamlined.
That's what Lifstarr is aiming to create.
But while developing the app, they've also given solopreneurs a place to come and gather. In their case, it's a Facebook group. Within that group, there are community spotlights where Lifstarr shows off the great work that individuals are doing. They also have a newsletter where they feature community members.
On top of that, they host an event every month where they talk about things like marketing, sales, finance... all the things solopreneurs routinely need a little more knowledge about.
They also have another event called a Problem Solvers. It’s very conversational. It’s all about humans helping humans, my favorite.
People talk about their biggest problems, and other members of the community weigh in to help. And Lifstarr is facilitating all this because they see a need. And they’re also listening because they know they’ll learn things to make their app better, to help them show up at their best.
All of these examples have this in common:
These community-minded companies have ears that listen, have hands that serve, and have hearts that care. That’s the core of a community mindset.
If it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth it
Becoming sincerely community-minded and building a community doesn’t happen overnight. There are plenty of mistakes and challenges you might encounter on the way.
Look at Lifestarr, which started with a Facebook Group. Sometimes, that’s a great first place for your community members to gather. But I always like to caution again setting up on what I call "rented land."
Facebook can be a good stepping stone, but it shouldn’t be your final destination. In part because it’s limiting. But also because it doesn’t give you a guaranteed way to stay in touch with your tribe. You will always be at the mercy of Facebook, which can change their product, policies, or even how often (or little) your members will see the group in their feed, no matter how interested they are in the content.
Although that may feel unfair, Facebook is a company, too, with its own goals and agendas. There will always be that risk, that "cost of doing business" when you build your community on their platform as a result.
So, plan to grow into a space that’s more community-focused, one that lets you build a list and that gives you more ways to give your people what they need. Early on, allow yourself to dream. Think about how you want things to work and what you want to offer. Think about how your audience wants things to work and what they want you to offer.
What will your community need? Not just today but down the line.
And then, look for a system that has the functionality to grow in all the ways you might need to grow.
Of course, you could build your own thing. If you have an unlimited budget, that might be the best route. But, if you in the more common situation of needing an unlimited budget, find a tool that's not a social media platform but is a community platform.
For instance, we recently started an alpha group for community.hubheroes.com and we chose Mighty Networks as our platform:
The platform itself is designed just for this explicit purpose — for organizations to build communities online, to their specifications, without having to invest the time, money, and likely third-party resources to design, build, and manage their own online community.
We love this type of option (of which Mighty Networks isn't the only one!), because it means our team gets to stay focused on the important aspects of building a community:
- Collecting and curating the tutorials, events, and exclusive engaging education the community needs.
- Innovating and creating new ways to bring the humans in our community together through gatherings, live recording sessions of the HubHeroes podcast, and more.
- Most importantly, listening to what our community members are saying, so we can continue to build and iterate HubHeroes into what it is they truly need.
If this is a route you're considering, take your time weighing your options. Again, Mighty Networks is the one we love, but there are many others out there that may be better suited to your needs and in-house skillsets. Research the available community platforms and choose the one that will let you grow in the way your community will want to grow.
Get clear on what will make your community great
Before you do that research, you need to figure out what it is you’re going to do to build a great community.
And that’s one of the challenges you’ll face. It’s a fun challenge, though. For us, we have three Cs that we want to be great at, and so we looked for a platform that would help us be great in those areas. (If you've taken a breeze through my ultimate insider's guide to HubSpot reporting, these may seem familiar! 😉)
We want to be a great Connector
So, we need to a platform where people can chat with each other. And we were aware of the different ways people in our group might meet — through an event, say — so we wanted to be able to set up subgroups for those circumstances.
We also wanted to be great Curators
Everyone is creating content these days. You know it. I know it.
My dog knows it.🐶
And it’s hard for people to find the really good stuff. That's why another thing we wanted to do was bring together the best stuff on topics important to our community. For example, what we want to be able to do is go look at all the agencies and all the information they’ve published and say, “Here are the top 12 pieces of content around HubSpot business units.”
That’s a beneficial service for our community members.
And, of course, we want to be great Creators
We needed a space that allowed us to do events, that allowed us to do courses, that allowed us to do independent tutorials that people could get into.
🔎 Related: Join the HubHeroes community
So one of the mistakes that companies make on the path to becoming community-minded is not thinking through what that really means in the context of their business, their mission, their values, and their audience. If you want to build a great community, that starts with a service-driven vision.
Only when you’ve defined that vision will you know what tools you need to invest in and what steps you need to take.
A “success recipe” that will serve any community
Now, before we wrap up, I want to give you a recipe for success that can apply to any community, no matter your vision. Most of the time, the advice you encounter around building a community can be summed up as:
“Show up, be yourself, and respond quickly.”
None of those points are wrong, per se, but they are also very basic. Like, these are table stakes, y'all. If you're not already showing up, being yourself, and responding quickly, you're not at the stage yet where you should be thinking about community. You've got to get these fundamentals nailed first.
For a thriving community, you’ve got to do more
First, I want to share a bit of background to help you understand how I arrived at what that “more” is...
For most of my young life, I was looking for a hand-up, not a handout. I have reached a level in my life where I can be the hand-up for many people. So, I want be that catalyst, whether it's from a stage, a virtual environment, or on my back porch around our fire.
I'm always looking for those ways that I can do that. But for me to get to that point, I had to do a lot of healing. I had to forgive myself. I had to forgive my past. There was some internal work that had to happen.
That word, HEAL, became key.
So, when I think about community …
- I think about the role it plays in healing.
- How we can help each other fix what’s broken.
- How we can help each other solve a problem.
How we can help each other fill a need.
And how do we do that?
H: Be the most human of humans
Beginning with the letter H, We show up as the most human of humans. No douchebags allowed. A healthy community helps. It uplifts. We don’t want people in our community spit in other people’s faces or push people down to feel better about themselves.
And we are absolutely not using out community as a means to an end.
We're not doing this to drive revenue. Revenue will show up, but we're not doing it for the revenue. We're showing up because we're trying to serve the other humans. Person to person. Human to human. Helper to helper.
E: Understanding starts with empathy
One of benefits of community is we help each other get unstuck. But to do that, we need empathy. That’s the letter E.
Understanding where people are at, understanding where people need to get to, and understanding the role that we can play to be that catalyst between where they're at and where they’re going. This goes back to being good curators and good creators. Those things start with understanding and understanding starts with empathy.
A: You be you (authenticity)
I know us marketers have come dangerously close to ruining the word "authenticity," (our letter A) but it still reigns supreme as such a critical component of what we're talking about here.
Whether you’re joining a community or running a community, whether you’re writing a blog or talking to customers, you need to show up as you. I don't need you to be George B. Thomas. And your community members don’t need you to be someone else, either. You just need to be you. The crux of that is that you be the best you that you can be.
And the way you do that is through daily improvements. Don’t worry about where your friend is, where your colleague is, or where the competition is at.
No... worry about where you’re at today versus where you were at yesterday and where you will be tomorrow. If you’re one percent better today and one percent better again tomorrow, then you’re doing what you need to do.
L: You’ll reap what you sow (love)
And finally, the last part of the recipe is totally rooted on the fact that I'm a recovering youth pastor. The letter L is love.
If love is what you sow, then that is what you'll reap.
If focus on the human aspect, on being empathetic, on being your best authentic self, and on loving everybody and loving the process... that’s going to result in a strong community... one that can H.E.A.L what your members need healed.
Just two more things before you go...
OK, I know that if you've made it this far, your brain is likely overflowing with new ideas about how to be more community-minded. You've also probably got your gears crankin' away on what that could like for your company... but I’m not done!
The fruits of being community-minded are more than worthwhile. This mindset shift will grow your revenues, yes. But it will do more than that. It will help you and your employees take deep pride and satisfaction in the work you do.
It will give you the reward of knowing you’re taking part in making someone’s life better, and in turn, they’ll improve the lives of the people around them. This ripple can spread through your city, your state, your nation, and the whole world.
It's powerful, powerful stuff.
But it doesn’t happen overnight
Underneath your community mindset must be a rock-solid foundation of patience. You also need to let go of your expectations. Yes, you need a vision for what being community-minded looks like for you. But you also need to remember you’ll be listening to what your community needs.
That means you will not always be at the wheel, driving the direction of what your community will become. Yes, you'll have the overarching mission and vision, but the members of your community will tell you how your community truly needs to evolve.
You’re going to become a transition specialist.
You’re going to pivot when a pivot is needed.
To do those things well, you need to set your expectations aside because they may not serve you. They might keep you from the path you’re really meant to be on. They might keep you from showing up at your best.
So, I started this with a caution against becoming community-minded because it’s the latest marketing and sales strategy/tactic/hack you heard some guru say from the stage. If that’s your reason, then just... don't.
Just stop it!
But if you want to develop and implement a community mindset in your business because you fundamentally care about the problems that people have — and your product, service, or personality can solve those problems (and you can help some of your fellow humans reach their goals and fulfill their potential!) — then make this shift.
Because the world needs more happy, humble, helpful humans like you.
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