Niche brands have an unfair advantage in building community. Unlike large companies with many stakeholders, a focused entrepreneur has a leg up in building community by virtue of their common bond around a narrow topic.
A mass manufacturer will need to appeal to many different types of customers with varied interests, where a niche company can focus on doing the one thing it excels in.
Here are five ways your brand can leverage this strength to build a massive community.
One of the biggest mistakes new entrepreneurs make is to adopt a corporate personality that’s cold or detached. The ability to infuse your brand with personality is one of the ways you can attract clients and customers who will not only support your business but also become brand evangelists.
Take Wrecords by Monkey. The artist behind the brand, who goes by the childhood nickname of Monkey, has fused his interests in skater culture and industrial environments into an eponymous line of vinyl jewelry. While you might expect these niche interests to limit the company’s growth, it’s had the opposite effect. A favorite of music companies like Warner Brothers, Sony and Universal, Monkey’s fans have supported a successful private labeling business in addition to their retail operation.
As you’re interacting with your community, think of ways to let your brand’s personality shine through. Think about your brand message and what you have to offer. Infuse meaning into everything from the images you use on your website to the narrative you share on your about page.
Your community can only grow if they feel welcomed and supported by your business. Former bartender and founder of Shag Brooklyn Samantha Bard knows this better than most. Her business is part sex shop, part gallery. Drawing from her experience behind the bar, Bard invites people not just to browse her merchandise but also to strike up a conversation. They might chat about relationships, intimacy or even what they are for lunch.
Whether you’re mixing a drink or selling sex toys, your brand can build community by building an environment that’s friendly, non-judgmental and trustworthy. Especially on social media, where it’s easy to jump into a conversation with what feels like a witty joke, it’s important to avoid using language that might make people feel unwelcome or excluded.
3. Uncompromising standards
By setting high standards, your business can attract a community of like-minded aficionados. At least that’s what Matt Nelson, founder of Mellow Pages, learned. Like a high-end consignment store for books, Mellow Pages won’t accept your summer reads.
While it might be tempting to try to create something for everyone, your business can set the tone for your community, offering a refuge and gathering point for customers united by common interests.
4. Sensory experience
Once you enter the chocolate factory Fine & Raw, you may never leave. Chef Daniel Sklaar has set up the factory so that you can see how the chocolate is being made, as you sit down to sip a shake or eat a chocolate. You’re surrounded with the scent of chocolate and can see the products being made.
Even a small business marketing itself online can engage the senses by invoking texture or selecting images that create an immersive experience.
When you think community, it’s easy to think first of consumers you’d like to draw into your brand. But as Matt Dilling, the founder of Nite Brite Neon Studio, demonstrates, you can grow by treating your business as a think tank. Some of Dilling’s most lauded projects have come about because of design challenges presented by clients, including an “impossible” black neon installation.
In other words, other business owners and clients can become collaborators, who push you to create high-level work, take on new challenges and champion your business along the way. The unique projects born from this strategy attract yet more clients, building your community brick by brick.
Clearly, your business shouldn’t rush to incorporate all of these elements tomorrow. Instead, select the one that feels most aligned with your strengths and the needs of your customer base and take one step toward amplifying it.