As an outdoor brand — whether you’re a boat builder, line of fishing apparel or kayak company — you need to sell more than just the products you produce. In fact, you’re promoting the outdoor lifestyle and how your customers perceive themselves participating in it just as much as your actual product line.
The vast majority of enthusiasts aren’t only seeking out products that look great, function well and feel good — they’re also looking to align themselves with brands that make them feel a part of something bigger. Part of a community of like-minded individuals.
As owners and marketers of brands in the outdoor space, pushing your products through marketing campaigns isn’t enough. In truth, your job just isn’t quite that easy…because you need to be building and fostering a community around your brand. One that attracts the right customers and keeps them engaged in the lifestyle that supports your business.
Typically when we think of marketing and community in the same train of thought, social media immediately comes to mind. However, your website provides a number of community-building opportunities if you leverage it properly. Here are our tips for building and fostering a community through your website.
Tip #1: Tell the Unique Story Behind Your Brand
For the same reasons your business and its products were created in the first place, enthusiasts are drawn to brands that align with their own vision of the ideal lifestyle and how they fit into it.
Sharing your brand’s journey through the pages of your website can not only attract enthusiasts but also stand to foster a sense of relation. In other words, we feel better about companies that share our same values, have similar interests and write background stories we can relate to.
Keep in mind that while the telling of your story is mostly a one-way conversation, you shouldn’t underestimate the power it can have on your customers and prospects. By being open and sharing your history, visions and tales from the field, you have the opportunity to bond with your readers.
Tip #2: Share Bios & Stories of Owners, Pros and Ambassadors Aligned with Your Brand
Create a sense of alumni with enthusiasts who frequent your website by sharing profiles and content related to your team, sponsored professionals and brand ambassadors. This can be done effectively through either written story or video. Or better yet, a combination of both.
We, as outdoor enthusiasts, don’t always come clean and share that we look up to this guide, or that pro, or this business owner, but we all have our heroes. And like other sports or pursuits, we gravitate to the same brands and products that are behind the guys and gals we look up to. Unlike most other sports, in the outdoor industry we often have the opportunity to use the exact same gear and share the same fields of play.
Consider creating an “owners” section in your website, parallel with that of your pros and ambassadors, to showcase their stories. This can be a very powerful nod to the “average Joe” and sends a message of inclusiveness to your customer base.
Tip #3: Share Owner-Specific Events and Content
Through the events and blog section of your website (you have those right?), be sure to share content that is intended for current owners of your products. Not only will you make existing product owners feel a part of something bigger, but you’ll have a direct communication link to let them know of your latest product releases, your next on-water demo or owner’s events.
At the same time, you’ll be letting prospects know that if they were a part of your community they’d also have these events, promos and content to look forward to.
All the while, you’ll be adding relevant, on-topic information to your website (on a regular basis) that can be beneficial to attracting site visitors via organic SEO.
Tip #4: Consider Adding an Owners’ or Public Forum to Your Site
Forums are still alive and well on the web. Maybe not as popular as they once were due to social media participation but still an incredibly viable means of connecting customers.
Consider adding either an owners-only or a public forum to your website that revolves around the lifestyle you promote and your products. Forums are a great place for on-topic conversations to take place, for customers to share their tips and experiences and for your staff to routinely interact with your customer base.
One caveat to creating and running a forum that we should bring up is the need for moderation. You’ll need a system and plan in place to police your forum and ensure that users are staying on-topic and keeping it clean (non-abusive). But this shouldn’t deter you as the benefits can far outshine this rare drawback.
Tip #5: Create and Maintain a Robust Blog
Probably the most common thing we’re asked to assist with regarding websites is, “How can we rank better at Google?” And although this isn’t a piece about SEO (but this piece is), let us say that adding fresh, relevant content to your website on a regular basis is mission critical to search engine success.
To that end, maintaining a robust blog section in your website provides you with the opportunity to attract, engage and educate your audience. It also provides you with consistent content to share via other channels like social media. I truly can’t say enough about the importance of a content strategy for your website and the power of your blog.
When you pair the ability to let website visitors comment on articles and engage in kind debate and conversation on your subject matter, you open the doors for fostering and building your community base. Your blog can very easily become a two-way conversation where your site users provide much of the content at no charge to you!
Tip #6: Maintain a Well-Provisioned Ecommerce Store
The first thing you’re probably thinking is, “How can my online store foster a community?” I get that. But if building and fostering a community is partly about creating a sense of belonging, then how can’t wearing the “brand uniform” help further that image?
Indeed, we wear the clothing and apparel of the products and brands we love. And the better looking the products and the more there is to choose from, the more we buy.
Of course your website is one of the most logical places to sell your clothing and accessories (even if you’re not an apparel company). There are a number of great commerce suites out there including WooCommerce for WordPress and Shopify (two of my favs).
Tip #7: Create and Maintain an Email Campaign Strategy
Creating and launching an email campaign is a must-have for any business. You just have to have it.
Visitors to your website should be able to provide you with the very basics of contact information (at least an email address) in order to opt-in and receive regular emails from your company.
Those emails can contain anything from your latest blog article teasers, to promos/specials, upcoming events, latest products and so on. Your creative team’s imagination of how email can be leveraged is your only limitation.
The emails that end up in your customers’ inboxes are a constant reminder that your brand is not only alive and well, but that you’re “thinking” about your contacts — your community.
The tools for incorporating email campaigns are quite cost-effective (check out MailChimp if you haven’t yet) and creating a strategy and email templates are not cost prohibitive nor complex at an entry level. The results can be outstanding.
Those are our 7 tips for building and fostering a community through your brand’s website. I’d love to hear your feedback and if you have any questions, hit us up!