4 Undeniable Truths We Learned from Building a Growing Community
Creating a community isn’t hard to do. As defined by Webster, a community is a unified body of individuals; and with social media these days, you can have a community set up online in a matter of seconds. What isn’t easy to do is grow your community. Growing a community takes time, energy, and dedication.
We, York Solutions, are an IT consulting firm and we started a community of IT professionals, called Think IT, back in 2009. There are many things we learned while building our community, but here are four undeniable truths we found in the process.
Successful communities are built upon having a deep rooted purpose; however, if you can also align your purpose with your business objectives, not only will your community thrive, your business should, too. When we first started our community, we, too, had a purpose and we promoted it as separate from our core business. In December, 2014, we stumbled upon Simon Sinek’s TED Talk on How Great Leaders Inspire Action in which he says “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”.
A light bulb went off after seeing that video, and we made the decision to re-brand York Solutions, including Think IT, to highlight why we do what we do. York Solutions’ purpose is to inspire professional growth and have a positive impact on the lives, careers, and the future development of the IT community. By creating a community of people who believe in your purpose and understand the connection to your business, over time you should see a correlation between your growing community and business growth. Since our re-branding initiative, our total revenue has grown by 35% and our community has grown by 83%.
No matter your membership goals, if you’re not continuously adding new members to your community it will ultimately start to fade and lose its luster. The lives and careers of your members are constantly changing and what was important to them the day they joined may not be as important to them once they’ve been a member for 6 months or a year. By dedicating effort to finding new members that believe and find value in your purpose you will outpace any attrition. However, finding new members isn’t as easy as it sounds and requires a significant investment in time and money. To start our community, we invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into staff, marketing, and programming with the philosophy of “if you build it, they will come” and each year we have increased our investment to continuously attract and retain our membership base.
The First Follower video below is another one that we love and even though it’s a video on leadership, we think it can also be applied to the concept of adding value.
Our community started small with just a connection made between two people on a golf course, which quickly turned into our monthly roundtable meetings, and as people saw that what we were doing added value to their careers, word of mouth created another member, and another, and another. Once we reached a critical mass, we added other programs for our members including our Mentorship program and our Link to Leadership training program. The more value we could provide our members, the more “followers” we began to see.
There is no shortage of fun in our office, our community, and our culture. Our “work hard, play hard” mentality shines through everything we do and I believe that fun factor is a huge reason members are attracted to our community. From our charity golf events, our sock club, to our office gatherings, we embrace our internal and external community members into our culture. Have you ever seen this much pink in your life?
Building a growing community is hard work and can be extremely rewarding when you see first-hand the impact it can have on your members and also your business. The four points listed above are not rocket science (which is why they’re undeniable truths, right?), and when customized to fit your specific needs that’s when the magic will happen. Whether you’re just brainstorming about creating a community or you already have a well-established community, these four points should help kick-start your growth.
Brandi Will joined York Solutions in 2003 and recently transitioned from Chief Marketing Officer to SVP, Program Development.
Kevin Bugielski is the Marketing Manager for Victory Lap, a purpose-driven startup changing the sales game. Avid Snapchatter, SoulCycle lover, newfound runner, but ultimately, a foodie.