Did you know that 85% of small businesses agree that word-of-mouth marketing brings them the most new customers? Despite this, most marketing advice for independent business owners centers on social media instead of the power of community-led growth.
On this episode, Matt Gartland joins us to discuss the future of growth for your independent business. As an entrepreneur with 10-plus years of experience and four company exits, he specializes in online companies that operate in a combination of the media, education, tech, and e-commerce markets. Today, Matt serves as the CEO of Smart Passive Income Media.
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The future of online independent businesses growth
As a society, we’re entering a new season of online small businesses. While social media marketing has driven many small businesses to chase after mass markets, Matt believes that the focus of independent businesses will switch back to experiences and action over large-scale consumption. He encourages business owners to ask: How can you offer smaller, more intimate experiences to clients? What services can you offer that make a big impact on your business?
Part of this shift is a result of the pandemic when businesses were forced to take their offerings online, whereas now in a post-pandemic season, consumers crave connection over anything else. Entrepreneurs must consider how to connect with their local communities, from hosting bespoke events to attending networking meetups.
This shift will require independent business owners to listen to what their customers want, ask them the right questions, and take in their feedback.
Why independent business owners need a trusted circle
Entrepreneurs often work alone, but that can be detrimental to morale and creativity. This is why it’s so important to surround yourself with a trusted circle of friends. The many benefits of having a trusted circle include:
- Getting immediate feedback on your work, which is especially helpful before making big business moves
- Keeping you grounded and humble by aligning with community needs
- Learning from the best. There’s always someone smarter and more experienced than you who can help you
Being intentional about your community helps foster community over competition. Everyone learns and grows together, which has an amazing impact on your business.
How do you build community? The truth is by being honest and intentional. Fifty percent of small businesses don’t last five years, which is why it’s important to have a trusted circle that you can be honest with about the struggles you’re facing.
Building community with your clients
One central component in the future of online small businesses is having great relationships with your clients. You have to be extremely intentional about building community with online clients so you can continuously adapt to your ideal client’s needs.
Building community with your clients is not a marketing play. It can look like offering them private community groups where they can connect, peek behind the scenes of your business, and engage in conversation with you and other members.
There’s a huge difference between an audience and a community, which is why your community strategy needs to go beyond your social media platform.
What makes a good community strategy
What makes a good community:
- Creating a safe space where people can share their struggles
- Community facilitators who practice humility and share their own struggles too
- Building a legacy where the community could live on without you
Your community can begin with only one person. In fact, the concept of community-led growth is when you start small, with one person or a small group, and use what you learn to build bigger communities and grow your business.
The most common misstep in community-led growth (and what to do instead)
The number one mistake in community-led growth is taking your eye off your values after onboarding. It’s easy to focus on the client acquisition and onboarding process and then move on to the next client. However, it’s crucial to maintain a connection with clients after onboarding, check in with them, and see how you can continue to serve them.
The best way to benefit from word-of-mouth marketing is to turn your current clients into evangelists who will tell their circles about your business. In order to make that happen, you have to nurture the clients you already have instead of putting all of your energy into acquiring new ones.
It’s smarter to invest in clients you already have in a tailored way at the same time you invest in getting new ones—especially if you offer repeat services. For example, investing in a referral program that will encourage your current clients to share about your business with their friends is a better use of funds than investing in paid ads that will draw in new prospects.
The biggest differentiator between the businesses that succeed and the ones that fail
Matt believes that resiliency and the ability to adapt will determine which businesses succeed and which ones don’t. It’s crucial to learn from mistakes, move forward, and be okay with the fact that you are always learning as you go.
Important sections of the conversation:
- [1:58] The future of small online businesses
- [8:17] The benefits of having a trusted circle
- [15:12] Building community with your customers
- [21:34] What is community-led growth
- [26:11] The most common misstep in community-led growth
- [32:00] The power of referral programs
- [42:18] The biggest differentiator in businesses that succeed and the ones that fail