The Need for Community
We survive and thrive in relationships. We are social beings and cannot be successful or happy alone. Ever since we lived in caves our social environment largely determines our fate.
As technological advances allowed us to increase our mobility, we were able to leave our communities and travel the world. We eventually became a mobile society, choosing where to live and work, and choosing whom to live with, rather than limiting ourselves to the locations and people we inherited and grew up with. Fewer and fewer people choose to live and work in the communities in which they grew up.
“Birds of a Feather Flock Together”
In today’s world, given that most of us have an unmet need for community, one of the greatest services we can offer the clients and prospects
in our niche is simply to get them together.
Think about it. A niche is a group of people that share common situations, needs, and goals. When these people get together, they immediately feel
a common bond; they understand each other and can easily provide mutual support.
Any niche would be attracted to, and benefit from, participating in a niche community:
- Fortune 500 CEO’s
- Morbidly Obese Women
- Real Estate Investors
- Singles Over 50
- Tai Chi Practitioners
- Small Business Owners
- Unemployed/Laid Off Tech Workers
- Ph.D. Candidates Working On Their Dissertation
- Stay-At-Home Dads
- Women in Transition
- New Moms
You get the idea… any niche you can think of for your practice is a candidate for a niche community.
My Story: From Therapist to Singles Guru of Silicon Valley
In 1997 when I transitioned from therapy to coaching and wanted to be THE Relationship Coach for my community, I started a weekly “Friday
Night Social” singles gathering. After a one month pilot program and some market research, I designed a community for the singles in my
area unlike any other setting available, that would meet their need to meet other singles in a safe, fun, supportive setting, and would further my mission to provide relationship education and support for my community.
Our Friday Night Social continued for 8 years and was a vibrant singles community that supported the practices of the four
coaches who collaborated to make it happen. It was a lot of fun, and the time and effort needed to make it happen was minimal. We featured a guest speaker each week, a local professional who was usually a good referral source as well.
We became well-known in our community and had a loyal following of singles who sometimes continued to attend with their partners when no
longer single! With the goodwill and contacts we have developed over the years, word of mouth referrals from singles and professionals brought a significant number of new participants and prospects for our services each week. We did a minimal amount of external marketing.
After the first year of working every Friday night, I needed to be home with my family and handed the operation over to my business partner, Marvin
Cohen, who was attracted to my venture in the first few months, and the business continued to thrive independent of its founder until Marvin decided he wanted to transition his practice to therapy and discontinued the community after 8 years.
How a Niche Community Can Benefit Your Practice
- External marketing- attracts people you don’t know, who don’t yet know you
- Internal marketing- helps build your relationship with your prospects so they hire you
- Stimulate word of mouth- participants tell their friends more readily about a community resource than a private service
- Build strategic alliances- invite other professionals to participate and cross-refer
- Increased visibility- become the “go-to” resource associated with your niche
- Low cost marketing- a viable service that can pay for itself and even generate profit
- Increased credibility- success of niche community reflects upon your abilities as a service professional
- Increased effectiveness of service delivery system- more people are exposed to more choices of how to engage you and benefit from your services
- Increased traffic- free or low-cost gatherings attract more people and create more prospects
- Attracts partners/collaborators- other like-minded professionals recognize the value and want to participate
- Transforms a “practice” into a “business”- you have a community presence and multiple revenue streams and do more than simply work with your clients on an hourly basis
Types of Niche Communities
1. In-person: draw from your local community and meet in person. Best if you deliver your services in person.
2. Virtual: Meet online and/or by telephone and draw from anywhere in the world. Best to combine e-mail distribution list with regular conference calls.
3. Open membership: Anyone can join
4. Restricted Membership: Members are screened and must meet certain criterion
5. Free or Fee: Members can join for free or must pay. Often guests can attend on a trial basis and must pay to continue.
Tips for a Successful Niche Community
A. Define your niche and do your market research to identify what they want/need
B. Provide more value than expected
C. Be continuously creative and keep it fun and interesting
D. Take responsibility for the leadership and outcome. Most communities fail due to lack of leadership
E. Involve participants- form committees, ask for volunteers to greet, host, set-up, break-down, etc
F. Don’t do it alone- form a partnership, collaborate with other like-minded professionals, outsource administrative functions to free you to work on your business and serve your clients
G. Form strategic alliances- network with similar and complementary professionals and organizations
H. Create an organized system and plan events well ahead of time
I. Be responsive to participant issues and requests
J. Use a website, newsletter, schedule of future programs/events, e-mail distribution list, and conference calls to communicate with participants
and prospects and keep them engaged
K. Use registration process, even for free events, that allows you to capture contact information to add to database
L. Use short feedback forms to solicit input about events, with “Please contact me about” with your calls to action at the bottom
M. Create safety by having and enforcing rules: (e.g. sign at door of our Friday Night Social- “We reserve the right to refuse admission to anyone that does not meet our minimum standards of appearance, behavior, and sobriety”)