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Vibrant Community

Creating a Vibrant Community Around Your Company by Robert Skrob

I’ve asked Robert Skrob to write another guest blog for my site.  Robert is also the author of “Retention Point, which I highly recommend.  He previously shared the topic of “The New Customers Experience” on my blog.  Today, he is sharing the topic of “Creating a Vibrant Community Around Your Company”. Read closely – Robert is truly an expert.

Creating a Vibrant Community Around Your Company

What if you had 45 percent of the available customers within your market?

The mutual fund company, The Vanguard Group, does just that. More than 45 percent of the money flowing into mutual funds today goes into a Vanguard managed fund.

You’d think they wouldn’t need to do much for their customers. Since they specialize in index traded, set-it-and-forget-it type investment vehicles, you’d think they wouldn’t need to communicate with their members. In fact, the opposite is true. The Vanguard Group has one of the most vibrant customer tribes in the investment world, and it’s a large part of their success.

The term “Boglehead” may not mean much to you, but I’ve been a Boglehead since 1991. Actually, we weren’t called Bogleheads then; instead, we were known as “Vanguard Diehards.”

While I pursued my master’s degree in accountancy from Florida State University, I wrote a paper about index fund investing. Mind you, this was during the big recession of 1990-1992. Through my research, I discovered that fewer than 30 percent of the professionally managed mutual fund companies beat the S&P 500 index in any one year. And a much smaller percentage could beat the index over a period of five or 10 years.

I figured if full-time professionals couldn’t consistently beat the S&P 500 index, why should I believe I could pick stocks any better working part-time? I became a believer in index fund investing and have stuck with it ever since. Of the index funds, The Vanguard Group is consistently the least expensive, so I’ve been squirreling away my savings there ever since.

Jack Bogle, the founder of The Vanguard Group, passed away in January 2019 at the age of 89 years old.

As the founder and while CEO of Vanguard, Jack was an avid promoter of index fund investing. He was an outspoken critic of high-fee mutual funds and “financial buccaneers offering a panoply of silly investment strategies that people may not understand.”

Jack Bogle created thousands of fans. One of them started a membership site called Bogleheads.org. It’s grown to have an annual meeting with appearances by The Vanguard Group executives, a field trip to Vanguard headquarters, and featured speakers from the world of personal finance.

You may have different opinions with regard to investing. You may be a financial advisor who offers investment vehicles that directly conflict with what’s published on Bogleheads.org. However, see Bogleheads.org is an excellent case study on how you can create a vibrant community around your company, no matter what you offer.

Within the “Start here” menu, Bogleheads.org outlines the investment philosophy first promoted by Jack Bogle during the 1980s.  This gets new members caught up on the values of the Boglehead community. In a word, it indoctrinates them. This is a critical piece that’s missing from most information marketing businesses.

Bogleheads.org gives its members valuable information (ROI), a connection to a community of like-minded people, an opportunity to contribute by posting content, recognition for being helpful to other members, and an opportunity to be part of something greater than themselves.

Even though the site has a dated design and the founder of the philosophy has passed away there are still thousands of active users every day.

Plus, for Vanguard, it insulates its members against all the conflicting investment offers within the marketplace. The community helps customers believe the single best investment option is low expense mutual funds. The same low-cost mutual funds Vanguard happens to specialize in delivering.

What if you had a community indoctrinating new customers into believing the products and services you offer are indeed the best solutions to your customers’ problems? Perhaps like Vanguard, you could own 45% or more of your market?

It all starts with your core values. BNI’s core values are Givers Gain®, Building Relationships, Lifelong Learning, Traditions + Innovation, Positive Attitude, Accountability, and Recognition. When BNI members experience the power these values have within their business life they become excited members for life.

What are the core values of your company?

For The Vanguard Group, Jack Bogle had to convince investors that index funds were the smarter way to invest. What must your customers believe and how should they behave to get the most value from what you deliver?

This may be an “advanced” marketing skill. But when it’s complete, it can give you a fast-growing world-wide business that leaves competitors scrambling for second place.

Robert Skrob is the #1 expert in membership and customer retention and the author of the book, Retention Point The Single Biggest Secret to Membership and Subscription Growth. He has helped hundreds of membership programs launch and then grow from start-ups to become some of the largest membership and subscription companies in the world.

We vs. Me

While it may not single-handedly solve all the economic problems facing the world today, a new model of community and networking may well be the key to pulling the global economy out of the effects of the long-term global recession.

Networking has always been a powerful strategy to get business by giving business and connecting with others. Community and networking will be a particularly potent formula for success and prosperity over the coming decades.

Michael R. Drew, publishing expert and friend of mine whom I’ve known for 13 years who has helped me achieve bestseller status five times over, has some interesting ideas about the importance of building relationships to succeed in business.

Michael and his coauthor, Roy H. Williams have a very interesting theory in their new book Pendulum [www.penduluminaction.com/bni]. After reading the book, it confirmed in my mind why business networking is positioned to grow massively over the next three decades.

As Michael and Roy explain, societal values follow a cyclical pattern that shifts every 40 years from a “Me” based society, which values feeling and looking good now, instant gratification and cares little for long-term consequences to a “We” based society, which values community and working together for the good of the whole. Roy and Michael have 3,000 years of data to back up this theory.

The rumblings of this transition from “Me” values to “We” values have been evident over the past decade. Once successful business models that embraced exceptionalism and fierce competition are failing and going the way of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. These cycles influence the effectiveness of networking, too. In a “We” cycle, the strength of an individual contributes to the strength of the whole. For example, when established professionals partner with newer, “junior” professionals, both of the partners and the consumers each benefit from the relationship—win, win, win. Knowledge and wisdom are shared, and then blended with new ideas and innovation. This increases the value the end user receives from the relationship.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, traditional marketing strategies focus on hype, promises of bigger, better and more and ‘guarantee’ dramatic results with minimum input. Consumers today are tired of these messages, and instead they are drawn to messages of authenticity, transparency and lasting relationships. They want to work with companies and people who deliver on their promises and actually care about those they are doing business with.

What does this mean for you as a member of a networking group? While business schools and economic experts will speculate and deliberate about the causes of the current economic downturn, knowing the current trend of society’s values can help you succeed by doing what you’re already doing–building relationships through networking. The philosophy of Givers Gain® matches the current values of a “We” cycle in society today.

Good networking groups are all about building relationships and working together as a community to help others reach their goals. What goes around comes around in a very real sense. Business networking is an ideal place to capture the power of this concept to help you reach your own goals by helping others reach their own.

Word-of-mouth will heft a heavier punch in the coming years as well. Your customers will listen more attentively to the recommendations of those they know, like and trust. In today’s global market, a word of recommendation can reach others across the globe. So can a heated complaint. Consumers want to see that you walk the walk more than they want to listen to you talk the talk.

Faceless corporations and big businesses are struggling. For many, they’ve lost the personal connection with their audience or customers. As an entrepreneur, there is no need for you to fall by the wayside with failing businesses. By working together in this “We” cycle, you can help build each other up through relationships and referrals, increasing the success and profitability of businesses in your community. These small actions will be far-reaching and may do more to turn this recession around than many other larger-scale efforts

By participating in networking and working to give back to business owners and community, you will be doing your part to create a stronger economy worldwide—and a stronger global economy makes a better world for everyone.

I’ve read Pendulum and I was so impressed with it that I wrote an endorsement for it. This book is a must-read for anyone in a networking organization. I feel so strongly about this that I’ve arranged with Michael for all readers of my blog to get a free copy of the book. [www.penduluminaction.com/bni] All Michael asks is that you cover shipping and handling costs (shipments outside the US are more).

Get your free copy of Michael and Roy’s book today. Read it. Then use the insights they share to keep building relationships in your market, because Givers Gain®—especially in the current “We” cycle. As you give to other businesses through networking, they will give back to you, too—and that is how we all can take part in pulling the economy out of a recession.

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