5 Benefits of Building an Online Community

online community mapRemember yesterday’s post about the worst marketing email ever? The marketer who framed his pitch in terms of what he’d get (a great vacation) and offered his customers a measly $25 gift card in return for their referrals?

What if he’d built a community instead? According to Marketing Sherpa (7/2/09), creating a place where your customers can interact with each other (as well as with you) can have unexpected benefits.

Benefit #1: Better Customer Support

Depending on your business, you can offer additional documentation, a Q&A forum, or tips on how to use your product. Imagine a design studio that explained ways to save money on logo design costs, or a videographer who offered a checklist of the top ten questions you should ask before you hire her (or anyone else).

Benefit #2: Advance Community Input on New Products

The ability to ask community members to review early-stage new products, essentially building your own set of beta testers. You can match features with needs, and steer clear of offerings that nobody wants.

Benefit #3: Encourage Contributions

Allowing members to share how they use your product. Let members post their own questions (and answer them). You can also step in and offer helpful advice (skip the sales pitch, just solve problems).

Benefit #4: Look Good to Search Engines

Regular updates boost your site’s search engine ranking, and generate keyword-rich content.

Benefit #5: Fill the Sales Pipeline

The interaction allows prospects to learn more about your company and your products in a friendly environment. This will boost trust, increase your credibility, and generate leads.

Build the relationship first, then you can ask for the sale.