This article was written by Katie Moody, she's an illustrator and artist who owns a small shop over on Etsy - be sure to check her amazing artwork over on her Etsy store here.
Beyond Business Fundamentals
If you’re thinking about business, you’re probably thinking about finances, promotion, marketing and cash flow. While these are all important aspects of running a small business, I’d argue that the most important aspect of all wouldn’t be the first thing that comes to mind.
With the general emphasis being on profit and economy, community is often pushed to the bottom of the list, with competition pushing its way to the forefront of small business owner’s minds. I think we should change that, and here’s why.
Community keeps you going. It’s often said that being a business owner can be a lonely thing to do. It involves a lot of hours and a lot of sacrifice, and not always one that friends and family understand. By creating our own community of other business owners and customers, we have access to our own personal cheerleaders!
Creating Opportunities for Connection
When we share our content, whether that’s online in an Instagram post, giving a product away to a friend, writing a blog post or pinning a flyer to the local shop noticeboard, we’re opening ourselves up for connection. By putting ourselves out there, we are inviting people in, and taking the steps to grow our community further. Sometimes you’ll get an instant connection, and sometimes you’ll feel like it’s fruitless, but you’ll certainly be doing more than by not sharing at all! By putting yourself out there, you may get someone contacting you months down the line because they’ve saved your details to come back to when the time for them is right (but that’s another topic in itself!)
By crafting a community, you’ll need to establish relationships - this is not a one way street! Get involved in local markets, join facebook groups and cheer on other business owners. In return, you’ll make connections and join multiple communities - yours and theirs.
By chatting to other business owners, be it during weekly twitter chats, commenting on facebook group threads or heading to a networking evening, you’ll start sharing and hearing stories. In turn, you’ll learn vital business lessons and insider knowledge. Need a recommendation of a new printer? Ask those in your community and you’ll save time on hours of research and get a personal recommendation from someone who’s used the service. Have an awesome time hack that you really want to share? Tell your community and share the love! You’ll make less mistakes in the long run because the pool of knowledge in your community is so much larger than your own. That can only be a good thing!
Keep it Human - Connecting with your Customers
Now I’ve spoken about the benefits from a group of your community being like-minded business owners, a larger group will be your customers. We all know customer service is a huge element of running a successful online business. Connect with your customers online, give something back in your newsletter and thank them for each and every order. You’ll make it clear to them that their order is important to you and they’ll feel happier knowing they’re supporting an independent creative. They’ll also be more likely to recommend you to a friend, share their experience online and tag you in a photo on social media. They will hit that follow button and your community will grow in an organic, natural way, resulting in greater connection and engagement.
One of the biggest positives to community is feedback. Ask questions on instagram stories, in a tweet, facebook post or email. You’ll receive instant feedback from your target audience - what better focus group than those who are already interested in your products! They are your audience and involving them in the process will keep them invested in your brand. Not sure on what colourway to go for on a new products? Post that poll and your audience will let you know. Your community will help with the big questions so you don’t have to guess and invest on something that may or may not be their cup of tea!
Building Communities really are a win-win
To recap, communities really are essential for small businesses. They’ll provide lessons and share their knowledge, you’ll get feedback from your audience and make the whole process of running a small business way less lonely and a lot more fun. Engagement is essential and connection is what keeps us going! It’s really hard now to not focus on numbers. We often chase those likes and follower count, but what’s the point if the high numbers just aren’t invested in you? The community is more important. They are the ones who will cheer you on, understand if you need a break and still be here when you come back and give you praise on that new product launch. Community is essential in the long run - for your sanity, enjoyment and longevity of your business.