What is community marketing + why it's a good fit for CBD | Cannabis brands
In the world we live today, traditional marketing is getting more and more expensive to, while customers trust brands increasingly less. This is why many CBD | cannabis businesses are turning towards a different way of reaching out to, and engaging with their audience; community marketing.
The last year has been a tough one for the vast majority of CBD | cannabis businesses. It has not only changed the way we live, but for many it has also changed the way they think about the world, their values and priorities, and in many ways the way in which they buy things.
Consumers have become weary and sceptical of traditional marketing and advertising. In addition, there is a distinct move away from consumerism and many people are changing their buying behaviours to match a new-found appreciation for connection and authenticity when spending their hard-earned money. And they are expecting brands to share those values too.
This is why community marketing works – it puts them first by engaging through non-intrusive conversation, engaging and cultivating the natural communities that form around their products or services.
What is community marketing?
Community marketing is a brand growth and marketing strategy that centres around bringing people together in an engaging and non-intrusive way over a topic that is aligned with, or directly related to your brand. In other words, the point of community marketing is to put the community first – it’s all about them, and not really about you.
The big difference between traditional marketing (where the message is geared to get new customers and selling your stuff) and community marketing is that, with the latter everything you do is solely focused connecting and engaging with people in such a way that it builds a long-term, authentic and trusting relationship with them. It’s about conversations. About making people feel recognised, heard and important. It’s about making people feel like they are part of a community.
What this ultimately does for your business is that community marketing helps:
- You connect with existing as well as new customers
- Them connect with each other
- Build and solidify loyalty
- Improve conversions, product adoption and customer satisfaction.
What is a Community?
For a community to really thrive – whether it s a tribal community in the jungles of South America, or an online community you build around your brand – they must have three components: people, care, and a sense of belonging. This means that when you begin building your brand community, you not only need to understand these three components, but also the things that fuel them.
That’s why you should always remember that real people will be reading the content you are creating. And also remember that your average consumer is probably not as clued up about CBD, cannabis and your products as you are. So make sure you don’t lose them half-way through. Don’t be afraid of including some analogies and funny anecdotes to keep them interested and engaged, and avoid being too technical and nerdy (I know, I know. It’s difficult sometimes!). Stay away from the jargon, and keep your tone conversational, using the same words and phrases your audience does.
Key Community Component #1: A group of people…
This might be a bit obvious, but to build a community, you need a group of people. But, not any old group of people. You need them to have a common interest, one that will bring them together bind them together, and keep them together. For your CBD | cannabis business this might mean a shared interest in the benefits of CBD for a particular condition, or how hemp can support sustainability in construction. What ever it is, make sure it is in-line with what you do as well as your brand values.
Key Community Component #2: Who cares about each other…
The second part of the equation is that this group of people also need to care about each other in order to form a community. The good thing is that when people come together over common interests, they also tend to care more about each other because they share something in common with each other. This means that when you start building a community around your CBD | cannabis brand, focus your messaging on one or two primary themes or interests. This will help to further a sense of care and understanding in your community…
Key Community Component #3: And feel they belong together.
…which will also create a sense of belonging – the final component of a successful community. That is why, when building your community, keep in mind that you will need to provide them with the type of regularly cadenced, ongoing informational and educational content that inspires people to interact with each other over their common interests.
The Psychology Behind the Human Need for Community
As social animals, we are hardwired to want to belong. In fact, it’s an evolutionary directive that’s helped our species survive the eons. For instance, unlike most wild animals, us humans don’t have fur to keep us warm. We’re not great at hunting alone. And when it comes to defending ourselves against predators, we kinda suck, especially at night considering our poor night vision. But coming together in groups have helped us stay warm, fed and safe despite not being particularly well suited for rough living.
In fact, there is a growing body of evolutionary and social psychology that investigates how deep our need for connection goes. And what’s interesting is that according to Dr. Matthew D. Lieberman, (Ph.D. and Neuroscience Lab Director at UCLA) people’s brains are rewarded most when connecting meaningfully with others. In other words, we get more of a “high” when we feel like we belong that what we do when we feel powerful, or rich or even well-liked.
To illustrate this, all you need to do is think back to a time when you felt a real sense of belonging. I’m sure there was a sense of exhilaration – maybe even euphoria. And scientists are now finding that our need for belonging is so intrinsic, that our brains literally start deteriorating when we experience ongoing isolation. So much so, that chronic social isolation can lead to a decrease in the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that’s responsible for learning and memory.
So, what this means for you is that there is so much more to driving business growth and customer engagement than likes and conversions. And what community marketing does, is bridge the gape between driving your business success, and the people who are driving it. When you build a real community of people around your brand and your business, those community members are much more likely to buy your product or service if it comes with a strong sense of connection, support, and service.
Misconceptions About Community Marketing
Although community marketing is a powerful strategy for growing your brand and business, there are unfortunately several myths that seem to have almost taken on a life of their own. Without dispelling these, you may feel like you’re running into brick walls, undermining your efforts and causing you to waste your resources, or loose money.
Myth #1: Size Not Only Matters, It’s Everything
This is probably the most pervasive, and also the most damaging of all the myths surrounding community marketing. However, the idea that bigger is better is simply wrong. In fact, if you are going to emphasise growth over engagement, you are going to fail. The reason for this is that the bedrock members of your community is going to start feeling like their voices aren’t being heard in all the noise. And losing those people that helped get your community off the ground is often the first step to becoming irrelevant.
A great way to illustrate this point is when you compare major influencers with micro-influencers. The latter is often much more successful in marketing a product to their smaller, but engaged following, than big name influencers who leave their community members feeling drowned out.
Myth #2: You Can’t Create a Community
If you’ve ever heard of community marketing before, you’ve probably heard that you can’t create one, they have to spring up and grow organically. Fortunately, this is nothing more than a pleasant fiction. The fact is that it is very much possible to create your own online community. All you need is a good idea, a good strategy and persistence.
Myth #3: One Niche/One Community
Another common misconception about community marketing is that if there is already an established online community related to a certain niche | topic | product | service, then there’s not enough room for another. This is nonsense. The internet is an enormous place, and there is more than enough room for everyone. Your success or failure will have far more to do with the quality of the community you foster, than how many other ones there are.
Myth #4: Community Members Exist to be Sold To
The whole point of community marketing is that the focus should be on the community members. Not you, your brand or your products. Your community members are people – not consumer drones whose brand loyalty can be taken for granted. They belong to your “tribe” because they want to have fun, engage with like-minded people and share their thoughts and ideas with others. And so should you.
Myth #5: There’s No Real Benefit to Community Marketing
So, if you shouldn’t sell to your community, what is the point? The things is, community marketing isn’t all about winning new business – it’s also about retaining the business you already have. And in this respect, community platforms are not just great for your community member, but they’re also a great way to nurture brand loyalty, repeat business, identify customer needs, and even help with things like new product development.
Take Home Message
Building an online community that’s exclusive to your brand and comfortably far away from all the noise of public social media won’t happen overnight, but it’s definitely an investment worth making. In our industry, your CBD | cannabis business can simply no longer hope to compete only on things like price and product selection. Instead, you also need to start building a community of “tribe members” that in itself becomes a unique value proposition that more people will be drawn to. What’s more, because they are your community, you have the freedom to share the type of information they find helpful and do so on your terms.
You’ll find that it is much easier to speak to, and create interesting, relevant and helpful content for, say, Serious Susan or Go-get-them George, than it is for a vague idea of who you think your customers are. It also forces you to get much more up close and personal and address their priorities instead of your own. This will help you build a bond, create brand loyalty and instill a sense of trust with the real customers that your buyer personas represents.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lieze Boshoff (B.Psych, M.Sc (HCN)) is the founder of LBC3 Marketing + LBC3 Academy a leading Cannabis Marketing agency + training academy for the CBD | Cannabis Industry. Additional work experience includes working as an account manager and then a corporate training and development manager in London, and a university lecturer + researcher in Germany and The Netherlands.
Her areas of expertise encompass all aspects of Cannabis Marketing, including Content Creation, Copywriting, Email Marketing, and Lead Generation. As a specialist in her field, she helps small to medium sized CBD | Cannabis businesses with her work as Cannabis Marketing professional, educator and mentor.