The Strategic Value of Community
For all the discussion about the idea of community, there’s very little focus on the strategic value it brings to an organization and how to make that happen.
This is a serious issue.
Genuinely participating in a community involves more effort than most people think. Here are just a few:
- Taking the time to get to know the other people in that community–to understand their priorities and needs.
- Communicating on an on-going basis to stay involved and connected.
- Actively identifying who else you can connect other community members with in order to support them.
- Constantly looking for other individuals and organizations whose involvement would strengthen the community and serve the entire membership.
- Participating in events by community members.
With that much effort, you need to be clear on why you’re doing it and the difference it makes.
I Can Do This Better on My Own
How often have you said, “I might as well just do it myself?”
There’s a reflex that many of us have (I know I have it) to just step in and take control of a problem when things aren’t going the way they’re supposed to.
Sometimes we are the best person to handle a situation, but probably less often than we think.
The challenge with communities — all kinds of communities — is that their value isn’t fully based on efficiency. Communities may not give you speed, but they give you depth and strength and the mutual support to withstand some of the most difficult circumstances you face.
If your goal is to build a company that lasts, then understanding how “community” fits into the plan is important — it’s essential.
As Rhapsody Strategies began to grow, we found that people we had never met before started to connect with us.
Honestly, at first, we thought that this was a result of our marketing. It wasn’t. Well, not exactly. Let me explain.
The #Meant4More community isn’t just clients, though they’re certainly part of it. The community includes suppliers, other business owners, young entrepreneurs, seasoned leaders, up-and-comers, association leaders, competitors, neighbours, colleagues, and a host of others.
As we started to unpack the “Why” of Rhapsody — to explain who we are and what we’re about — we found that people were connecting with something other than our products and services. There was a sense of shared mission, a desire to grow, and a willingness to share.
It wasn’t our community
As we began to see this more clearly, we realized that this wasn’t simply a market, it was a community. It was a group of people who felt connected by a shared set of desires and goals. We started to refer to it as the #Meant4More community.
We also realized that it wasn’t our community. We didn’t own it. We weren’t in charge. There was no clear centre and no clear edges. It was just there and we had to decide what to do with it.
One Key Role
As the #Meant4More community continued to grow, we landed on what now seems like the most obvious action possible — though it took us some time to figure out what to do.
Our single role was to serve them.
As people began to connect with this group, we served them. We invited them to our events and attend theirs. We held special networking evenings that were entirely focused on them. If you come to one of these events, you’ll find that our team is not busy pitching you on our products and services. Instead, our focus is on who you want to meet. The community has grown large enough that the person you want to meet will either be at the event or we’ll be able to connect you quickly.
The Strategic Value is Clear
Achieving the strategic value of community requires relinquishing control and choosing instead to serve. When we started to recognize that we were in a community, it changed how we behaved.
It was in that service of that community that the strategic value began to emerge.
- New relationships have formed
- New business opportunities have emerged
- Better supply arrangements have been created
- Existing relationships have grown deeper
- New ways of thinking have been formulated
- Friendships have formed
As the community continues to grow, our commitment is to continue to serve it.
We don’t honestly know where it will lead. But the depth of commitment that we have seen from the rest of the community compel us to keep going. And with each step we take, the value becomes stronger — both to us and to everyone else in the community.