Usually when you market a product or service, you want the sales process to go as smoothly as possible. You want to address objections quickly and paint a beautiful picture of what the world can look like for the customer if they decide to buy.
Marketing community is a little different.
Part of what you're selling when you market community is the commitment of the community members who will join. So the customer is both the buyer AND the product you're selling.
This changes things.
You don't want everyone to join your community.
You have to make it clear in your marketing (even more than usual) who your community is for and who should not join. The more you let in people who don't align with your values or who don't share common goals, the less good the product you're selling is. Letting in people who aren't a good fit for your community is the same as introducing little bugs to code on your website every time you ship an update. Eventually if you don't address the problems, it'll make the whole thing collapse.
Friction during the sign up process is good.
If you don't want everyone to join, that means you have to make it a little harder to become a member so that those who join are ready and sure about their decision.
There's no better way of explaining why this is important than this Peter Block quote.
"... an invitation at its best must contain a hurdle or demand if accepted. This is not to be inhospitable, but to make even the act of invitation an example of the interdependence we want to experience. So, the invitation is a request not only to show up but to engage. It declares, 'We want you to come, but if you do, something will be required from you.' Too many leadership initiatives or programs are begun with a sales and marketing mindset: How do we seduce people to sign up and feel good about doing things they may not want to do? Real change, however, is a self-inflicted wound." — Peter Block in Community: The Structure of Belonging
You want people to feel ownership of the community you're building and the way to do that is to make it clear that what is expected of them is not just their money, but their commitment.
A note that this doesn't mean making people jump through unnecessary hoops. The process should also be helping them discern whether the community is for them. It's important that it's thoughtful, good friction and not frustrating extra steps.
So how do you add good friction?
First ask yourself some questions about who your members are:
- What makes someone ready to join your community at a particular time?
- What problems are they facing?
- How can they help others grow?
- How can others help them?
- Who is one person you can think of who would be ready for your community right now
- What is it about them?
Once you have an idea of what ready means for your community, how will you know if someone is ready? Below are some ways you can use friction in the marketing process in order to find your people.
- Be clear about your values on your landing page. This acts as a filter for values-aligned potential members.
- State what is expected of them if they join. Be clear about what the commitment of joining your community looks like.
- Have an application process.
- Schedule a short call to get to know everyone who is interested in joining.
It may feel scary to put up barriers to your community. Especially if you're just starting out and looking for your first members, it might feel like you should take who you can get.
But embracing a slower way of building your community pays off. It is a way to ultimately build a community full of people who are invested and committed to each other.
I follow this process in the way I market my own course and community. You can see the landing page here as an example. And if the community sounds like it's a good fit for you, I hope you'll consider scheduling a call to join.