Running your business is hard. There are never enough resources to do everything you want to do. Technology never seems to deliver on its promises and is harder to work with than expected. Time seems to accelerate, never pausing for you to catch up on your to-do list.
So when you find a vendor/product/service that helps put a dent in the hard stuff, you latch on and go with it. It helps you grow.
There are several times in my career I’ve found a vendor/product/service that makes my business better, delivers on the big promise they made, and actually puts time back into my calendar.
All those experiences have one thing in common – a community of like-minded customers and employees. A community where everyone supported each other, increasing the value of the relationships and products, and made the flywheel of value spin faster and faster.
If you want to accelerate your business, building a community is difficult but invaluable. Three organizations in my past and present stand out: Great Plains Software (acquired by Microsoft in the early 2000s), the Duct Tape Marketing consultant network, and HubSpot – the latter two being organizations we’re still actively part of. All three offer an example for businesses that want to accelerate their growth.
Maybe they stand out because they were all started with very clear purposes – Simon Sinek’s “why” was crystal clear – but it’s more than that. The “why” is critical, but what you do with it is even more important.
If the “why” helps you do business with people who believe what you believe, you attract like-minded customers. But similar people don’t organically form a community. All three of those companies took an intentional approach to creating that community.
Great Plains Software
Great Plains Software started with their partner/dealer network and in-the-field staff who built the relationship face to face, then held conferences at their home office in Fargo, ND that were somewhat legendary to those who attended (Stampede), eventually, extending the outreach to customers. The community grew in both size and trust, which accelerated the company’s success and the success of everyone in the community. I was both an employee and a partner of Great Plains.
Duct Tape Marketing
Duct Tape Marketing is an uncommon community of marketing consultants and agencies. Marketing services aren’t geographically bound – I can have a client anywhere in the world (if I’m willing to live with time zone challenges). It’s a very competitive business, but through engagement, involvement, and clear purpose, John Jantsch and his team put together a network of people who genuinely support each other – helping Duct Tape’s and the consultants’ businesses grow through success in helping clients. Leading Results has been a member of Duct Tape Marketing for over nine years.
HubSpot is one of the most unique companies I’ve ever worked with. We started working with them in 2012 when they had just a few hundred employees and (maybe) a couple thousand customers. You could feel the passion for changing the way marketing was done – and it came from the company, the partners, and the customers. The focus on “stop interrupting, start helping” rang true for this group.
For our team, the technology promise of HubSpot was big – we didn’t want to be a marketing technology integrator that spent too much time and clients’ budgets on making the tech stuff work. We wanted to be a marketing firm and practice our craft without tech getting in the way. During the six years we’ve worked with HubSpot, they’ve delivered on that promise of making the technology an enabler instead of a barrier.
Today, we have one product for a client’s website, social media, blogging, ad management, SEO, reporting, forms, landing pages, strategy planning, and a lot more – and our clients can work with the same platform and data to manage sales and customer service. So, we get to deliver on our promise of being an integral part of their organization.
But again, it’s more than a great product. The HubSpot agency community leans more toward being supportive versus competitive – helping with “how do you …” questions. Customers also enthusiastically support each other at big conferences (like Inbound) and in smaller HUGs (HubSpot user groups).
And HubSpot hasn’t stopped at just building out the product; each year sees new thought leadership at both the tactical and how-to-do-things-better-in-marketing levels as well as sharing ideas on where the marketing world (customer buying journey) is going. At this year’s INBOUND conference, I heard a lot about social advertising and the shift from a marketing funnel to a marketing flywheel where the customer experience is the most important thing.
So, if your goal is growth through flywheel acceleration, look to community. Find vendors and partners with a strong, cooperative community, and create a cooperative, helpful community of your customers, vendors, and partners. The world can be a nasty, competitive place – we can all use more folks on our side.