#138: Why Community Strategies Are Critical To Brands
This episode of the Ecommerce Coffee Break Podcast features a conversation with Tarek Mehio of peerboard.com. We discuss why community strategies are important for brands.
On the Show Today You’ll Learn:
- How a community can benefit your brand
- How should a merchant approach community building
- When to invite customers into the community
- How do you get your community off the ground
- And more
Links & Resources
Shopify App Store: https://apps.shopify.com/peerboard
Peerboard community: https://community.peerboard.com/
About Our Podcast Guests: Tarek Mehio
Tarek Mehio is Head of Customer Success and Business Development at peerboard.com, he comes from a finance and relationship management background and since joining PeerBoard he has been focused on showing the value of building strong customer relationships through community to their clients.
PeerBoard’s Shopify integration allows you to engage your customers, add social touchpoints in the buyer journey, and ultimately help you boost the customer lifetime value by increasing the retention rate
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Claus Lauter: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the E-Commerce Coffee Break podcast. Today we want to talk about community building and what that has to do with Shopify stores. Now, a lot of Shopify stores have super fans, have brand ambassador doors, have a growing community. , Of customers returning customers, and the best way to get them together to grow your brand, to grow your business is to build up a community.
Now, in the past, this was relatively difficult, but there is a solution out now that will help with that. For that reason, I have Tarek Mehio with me on the show today. He is working for peer board.com. He's the head of Customer Success and Business Development at Peer [00:02:00] Board. He comes from a finance and relationship management background and since joining Peer Board, he has been focusing on showing the value of building strong customer relationships through community to their clients.
So let's say hello to, , Tarek. How are you today?
Tarek Mehio: Doing great class. Thanks for the intro and thanks for having. Tell me a little bit of
Claus Lauter: the, , benefits and of the power of having a community for your brand, for your business.
Tarek Mehio: There's a broad spectrum of benefits, generally speaking.
If we're talking about online communities, , one of the things that is super important for online businesses is to be able to build a stronger and more organic relationship with their customers. For many years now, , the norm has been this one too.
Communications approach when it comes to customers, you know, so we're either pushing out advertisements via social media, or we're publishing blog content, or we're sending out newsletters. And that's a sort of unidirectional approach , for engaging in customers, with customers. That strategy, while it's good and it's definitely foundational, I don't think it flies anymore because.
Modern customers, modern, tech users, online shoppers, et [00:03:00] cetera, et cetera, are much more demanding of the brands that they engage with. The primary value, , if you look at it from that lens, is that, People have a much better opportunity to engage with the brands that they buy from, that they use.
, and those brands have a much better opportunity to now, , showcase their understanding of their customer and really communicate with them in a meaningful and organic context. ,
Claus Lauter: a lot of brands are building today on the promise of sustainability of going green on all of this, and obviously the customers have sort of the same mindset.
, should be easy to build up a community there. So what should be the thought process for merchants on how to approach the idea of building a brand new community?
Tarek Mehio: You make an excellent point. , so this description about this, , sustainability consciousness, right? That's one aspect of your customer, right?
Let's call it one characteristic of your client persona, that may be true for your brand or it may not be true for your brand. , I'm guessing if, you're selling, , gaskets for repairing muscle cars, Maybe [00:04:00] sustainability isn't the of the utmost concern to your customer. so I think the key point here is, , really diving into community from a marketing research perspective.
So really building up that I c p, , ideal customer persona or ideal client persona. And really understanding what's important to them. and I think this is probably easiest for, brands that are sort of lifestyle oriented. , I think the lifestyle brands have pretty clear understanding of what it is that their customers like to do with their products.
And so it's easy for them to sort of shape entire communities , around that thing that, you know. So for example, if it's a company like. Can we use company names here or are we , supposed to be brand neutral? If it's a company like North Face for example, , they're very familiar with their customer.
They know exactly what it is those customers are, are trying to do on the weekend, right? They're trying to get outdoors, they're trying to hike, they're trying to climb mountains. and so building a community, Climbing becomes a no-brainer for that kind of a brand. that's not to say that other brands can't do it as well, , it just needs to be a little bit more, well thought out, well targeted and, and you really need to understand what's important to your customers.[00:05:00]
I can give you an example, , of a company that's not a lifestyle company that has done something similar. , and this is a, a company that produces supplements that are, that are c p d Paste. , they're actually one of our customers, , Canec. And I really, really was impressed by their marketing strategy , when we first spoke to them as a customer, they had already.
Understood that their products, were useful for, pain reduction or helping for sleep or, beauty and, and cosmetics and things of that nature. But , they focused in on one element, that they knew was sort of tangential to their brand offering , to their product offering.
, they focused on this idea of helping people improve their sleep and showcasing the benefits of good sleep. And those two things, they may seem , like a cognitive dissonance at the first glance you think, okay, I have a CBD cosmetics company and a CBD supplements company.
What does that have to do with sleep? But they, it showcased a very strong understanding of their client persona. And so they built this entire community around how to improve sleep, the benefits of good. , on health, on [00:06:00] productivity, on whatever. , and they really, their heels in and, and built that community , using this system.
within a few weeks their community is so much more lively than I would've ever anticipated. It just shows you what a good, , focused strategy can produce.
Claus Lauter: firstname.lastname@example.org. You have a huge experience with building communities. When is the right moment within the customer journey or within reaching out to customers to invite them into a community?
Tarek Mehio: The journey starts before you've identified somebody as a customer. You should view the community as a catchall, , a net that's there to welcome any potential customers as they become. Aware of the product that they're trying to go after the touchpoint in the, customer journey would actually be before they're even considered a potential customer.
, you focus , on , the community itself, the purpose of the community, whether that's , to support a certain lifestyle or to help people exchange information about a particular, , profession. If you're selling, a business optimization tool, that could be something that you do.
or it could just be a product review community. You [00:07:00] focus on creating the community and you should start with the assumption that anybody could land , on this community page. , and then you have to have, , a strategy in place for understanding who in that community is, potentially a qualified customer, and then getting them into the right, networks within your community or within the right discussions within your community.
It's far beyond you've identified any, specific customer and say, Hey, I'm gonna have a, a community flow for this particular individual. , you should focus on the community first , and basically design it so that it's able to attract customers that suit your icp.
Claus Lauter: I think the most difficult part of building a community is to get it started. . . My question here is, once you have done the setup, the technical part, which we'll dive in a second, and now you going to go and want to kickstart your community, what's the best way to do that?
Tarek Mehio: What I mentioned before is probably the key component.
The key component is, is really clearly defining and doing your research, understanding what's important to your ideal customer, , [00:08:00] and focusing in on, That's sort of core purpose for the community that makes it a valuable thing for this potential customer of yours. , and then once you've done that, once you've defined that purpose, you can then say, all right, well I need to pull in some initial discussions.
, and you're gonna have to build traction, , by force, by brute force initially. So you're gonna have to actively invite people, , you're gonna have to actively seed discussions, and you're gonna have to actively invite your community members to. Contribute to the discussions to perhaps produce their own content and perhaps, , invite people that are, , of a like mind.
Because generally speaking, , your network of people, if you can identify somebody who's in your I C P, it's likely that they have, similar, , people in their network so that that would also be a good fit for your brand. Step one probably would be to define the strategy. Define what it is that the purpose of the community is going to be.
, step two is identify a small group of people that you think you can engage early on, , and invite them in a very conscientious way and explain to [00:09:00] them in a, partnership discussion about what you expect from them to do in your community. Also empower them to invite new members.
And then the third is, I think you'd have to design some sort of a reward mechanism. , you have to make the community valuable for more than just being the community. , if you really wanted to take off, , and grow, , quickly. , now there's different ways of doing that. There's, you know, creating exclusive areas.
There's a, providing perks , to your community members that are contributing in a way that you find helpful. For your community. , but generally speaking, you have to make this sense of value available to the community members. And then frankly, you're gonna have to repeat , these three steps over and over again.
So you're gonna have to constantly tweak strategy and the purpose, , because as you go through this process and as you go through many iterations, Of this process, you're gonna fine tune your understanding of what's important to your community members. What's important to your I C P? , you have to be observant of what's happening inside of your community.
What are the discussions that are, , receiving traction? What are the discussions that my community members are bringing to the table and that's [00:10:00] not being seated by my marketing team? Those things are clues , to what's important to your customers. , so you have to iterate that process several.
The more you iterate, the more you get better at it, the less input that you'll need later down the line. But in the first, you know, definitely in the first, let's say six months to a year of, of having your customer community, it's, it's gonna require some very conscious and purposeful effort.[00:11:00]
Claus Lauter: Okay. Would you recommend to have a dedicated person in the organization taking care about this? And who would that be?
Tarek Mehio: The typical answer would probably be, , a community manager. For example, in the case of our product community on pure boy.com, it's actually just everybody on the team.
, checks in participates, contributes to the community. Different communities have different cultures. But yes, definitely it's advisable to have somebody who owns the community project. , it should probably be somebody with a community building or community management experience, but this also falls kind of under the umbrella of multiple different, , stakeholders within an organization.
, community can fall under the marketing umbrella for client acquisition For generating content, it can also fall under the sort of sales and customer service umbrella. , recognizing opportunities for upsells and making sure that no customers is struggling with the product. , it can also be a support umbrella.
So for product communities , like ours, , that's [00:12:00] definitely something that's important. Focusing on support questions and making sure questions are getting answered. It really depends on the type of the community, but, , the short answer is definitely it's worth having somebody who owns the community space and is responsible , for keeping it in good shape.
No, makes perfect
Claus Lauter: sense. Now I understand Pi Bot has developed an integration for Shopify. Tell me a little bit more about .
Tarek Mehio: We have a Shopify plugin. We are probably the only one that natively embeds into your Shopify store. , so essentially the Shopify plugin is, it's exactly the same as our standalone community building platform.
, the difference being is that it exists as a Shopify app. It takes around three. , to launch and then it connects, , very natively with your, Shopify store. So that means that, , anybody has a username on your Shopify that can log into your Shopify store, , can also log into the community if that's something that you want.
, or if you prefer to have this be some sort of a special members, , community, you can also separate the login from your Shopify store and only give access to certain members inside of your, inside of your. . It allows you to build the [00:13:00] community right there natively on your Shopify store.
, and there's a lot of cool stuff that you can do with it, which is, not least of which is being able , to extract parts of the community, like, for example, comment threads and place them on product pages and have those comment threads linked back to the community. , when somebody's visiting a product page, they can also see if there's a discussion happening underneath one of your products.
, and then they could probably choose to join the discussion and then it can become a lead acquisition channel for you. So yeah, there's a lot of cool stuff that you can do with the app. Uh,,
Claus Lauter: That sounds great that the product page becomes part of a community, , feature and just becomes more interactive.
So I like this feature and there's more benefits to it. , one that I can think out off my head, and maybe you can add some more, would be SEO o for generating more content. , give me some examples. What else? Beside of directly working with the customer, a community will help you in your marketing.
Tarek Mehio: There's a couple of areas where I think the community really helps. , and I mean, they're all , kind of customer oriented, , but the direction of information is, what changes. , so for example, for supporting your customers, a community is really great because [00:14:00] you can have this ever-growing, , evergreen, , content engine where common customer questions, Accumulate on their own and you can answer them through the community.
And then anybody that has a similar question in the future will see the answers already available. So if they had doubts about your product or if they had questions about using your product, , they're already able to access these answers, which means that they're immediately able to be more satisfied with your product.
Right now, if we reverse the flow of information, if you as a team start recognizing that there are several questions happening about the particular product, or several questions, , about a specific use case for a product. This becomes kind of a clue. To the product teams to say, Hey, , maybe we need to do some optimizations here.
Maybe we need to provide better information on how to use this product, or maybe we need to change our product offering. for example, if you're reselling some other brands, products, You might want , to consider changing suppliers , for something , that's receiving better engagement or receiving better reviews elsewhere.
, so you can use [00:15:00] your information, , the community as a source of information about what's important to your customers and what's helping your customers and what's probably taking customers away from you. Okay.
Claus Lauter: The peer integration obviously does integrate, or that's the question. Does it integrate with your Shopify theme with the look and.
Tarek Mehio: , but the theme is customizable. , so essentially you can launch the community and then after you've launched it, you can use our theme selector to sort of tweak the colors, tweak the fonts, add your logo, add any kind of images that you want to the community page. Essentially with the Shopify integration, the community will live inside of an eye frame that lives between , your Shopify store's header and footer.
So there'll be a. On the Shopify page for the community and, , everything from within the community, you'll control via , the, peer board
Claus Lauter: Okay. What kind of homework does a merchant do before they approach you, before they want to integrate a community in their store?
Tarek Mehio: , I'm not sure you really need a lot of homework.
It's a pretty simple application to install, it literally takes around three minutes. I think the homework would rather. Better be spent on understanding their customers and deriving a, solid purpose for their community. The tech side [00:16:00] of it is, not the difficult bit because everything's kind of taken care of.
The more important focus should be, Hey, what do I plan to do with this community? What do I want? What value do I want to give to my customers via the community? And what do I as a merchant expect to gain from the community as well? And then, you know, sort of focus , on building out the structure and seating the right types of content and inviting the right kinds of members.
So that's where the homework, I feel should be. That being said, , we offer, support on, regular weekdays via chat, via email. , so if anybody has any issues with installing the application, , we're more than happy. Okay.
Claus Lauter: Tell me a little bit more about the pricing. , how much does it cost to use peer world?
Tarek Mehio: The most basic version, , or the starter plan starts at $29. And the most advanced versions, , which come with all the features that we have to offer, , it's $299 per month. , and we offer an annual discount as well.
Claus Lauter: Okay, cool. Where can people find out more about pi?
Tarek Mehio: , if you go to www.peerboard.com, you can find out more about the product and you can actually also participate in our own online community.
We have a email@example.com. I'm in there all the time. My [00:17:00] colleagues are in there all the time. We have around, you know, four or 5,000, thousand other people that are in there all the time, and we're always helping each other out. So,
Claus Lauter: Cool. I will put the links in the show notes and you just one click away.
Teric, thanks so much for giving us an insight on how community building for Shopify merchants can work and should work. I think it's a very important aspect nowadays, , for every brand to build up their community, to basically own the community and talking about owned marketing. And that becomes more and more important in times of raising, , costs, , for marketing.
Thanks so much for your time and toxin.
Tarek Mehio: Thank you very much, boss. It was nice to meet you. Take care.
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