Brands, Baking & The Flour: How to Build Community
Finding your flavour and that magic mix
“Community is the flour”
What a great line that sums up our last chat on the value and role community has in the future of business and healthcare.
Of course, one thing led to another and now I’ve found myself knee-deep in baking analogies. (Ok, maybe it’s because I’m in lockdown and my house copes by cooking).
So, I’m going to break down the “how” using cake cooking (yum)!
Building Brand & Business With Community is Like Baking…
How to make sure you get a good recipe… and result
They come in a million forms and we all have our favourites. But no matter how you cut it, it's pretty darn hard to make a cake without flour.
It’s possible (pavlova anyone), or you can make other desserts. But a cake has a few key tried & tested principles that make it what it is and can be helpful to follow. The same goes for a business or community.
But before we begin throwing things together, there's one very important question we need to ask…
Why are you baking in the first place❓
Is it for fun? Do you just want to eat cake? Is it a hobby? Make money? Build a business? Support, or add, to a preexisting one?
All great reasons. But it’s essential to nail down your true motive/s and start with the end in mind to ensure you approach it in a way that fulfils your “why”.
The other important thing to ask, is it’s not just for you, are you actually creating something others want? Why? And how, do you know this?
The whys are what lead the way.
🎂 Every business, cake, and community, has its own unique flavour & value
But to find it, we need to take into account a few things…
Get clear on who you're cooking for
Who. Are. You. Serving?
This is the most important part of the whole process.
“Who” defines the “What”, “When”, “Where” and “How”
A service mindset is the only way to win with community. False motives may work in the interim, but people have a great sense for these things will quickly smell when something is rotten.
It’s a long-term investment. And just like creating quality content. It’s not about you. It’s about them.
Go deep defining likes, dislikes, and dietaries
If you don’t know what who you’re cooking for likes (or their dietary requirements) how on earth are you going to successfully cater for them?
The solution - Find out everything you can about them, and better yet, ask them what they like or want. Not to say this should determine everything. But if you promise a cake, and overlook that they don’t eat gluten, you’re setting yourself, and them, up for disappointment.
What are you trying to create?
Once you’re clear on the “why” and the “who”, then you can create the “what”. Nail down your purpose & the value you are creating. Or, the “pain point” you are solving for.
Who is it for? Who is it not for?
These questions can help you figure out what type of recipe to pick and what to make.
Pick some key flavours to build around
Every recipe has a base. Usually, 3-5 essential ingredients, without which it just wouldn’t be the same. Is it flour? 95% dark chocolate? Special chilli powder? Sugar substitute?
Set some key pillars in the form of a mission, purpose, values or content. You can’t put in everything, and you can change as you go, but if you don’t have at least some key ingredients sorted, you’ll be in trouble.
Learn from those who’ve done it before
Ratios. Oven temperatures. Good ingredients to use.
These have been tried and tested by many before you and can easily find good examples plastered across the internet, in books or in practice. Whatever you’re making, it has almost certainly been thought of before, so go out and find a good base you can tweak or a recipe to follow.
Shortcuts and pre-prepared kits can be great, just be sure you know what you want the outcome to be. If you don’t want to be…well… just another cake from a box… you might have to try something else
Find the right ingredients
As long as the cake is decently presented, it will, at first, be appealing. But it’s when you take a look at the inside and what’s gone into the batter that you can see the differences and divide the masses.
If it's about just getting the job done, a $4 coles choc mud cake might do the trick. But if you’re looking to win with quality, or stand out to a specific crowd, you’ll have to put in a little more effort.
A $4 coles choc mud cake works for general appeal … but it excludes subgroups like vegans, coeliacs, those who dislike chocolate and the health-conscious.
By trying to be for everybody… you often end up being for nobody.
Go deep on the details of your “who” to figure out what could be a great mix for them.
Less is more
It’s tempting to want to make the biggest, best, most intricate masterpiece you can imagine. But this takes time, resources, and practice. Not to mention, we all know what we set out to make, isn’t always what we end up with.
As Masterchef has taught us, often, simplicity is the key to success. And big things are the result of years of building on a good foundation.
It’s easier to add ingredients later than take them out. And nailing just one thing that people actually want is far better than overshooting and creating something complicated no one enjoys.
Measurements & consistency matters…
If you left out the sugar or the cake is undercooked… On the first bite... you’ll know.
So to ensure that first, and following bites are a good experience, you need to nail those measurements. This can translate to the right mix and ratio of content, and regularity of engagement and activities. Does your community like written content or audio? Events? How much of each should you do?
It takes experimenting to get it right and it’s different for every community.
But you can avoid a lot of false starts and get a good starting point by properly mapping out that who.
Also - get feedback and use it to make future versions better.
Communicate instructions … And value… Clearly
Is there anything worse than a long, complicated recipe? Or starting to make something only to realise you don’t have all the ingredients?
Or, you think you’ve picked something “healthy” only to find you’ve been duped by false marketing and it contains your sugar intake for the week.
Clarity and concision carry great power
Clearly communicate your purpose, how to participate, cook and/or consume, and put up front what people are actually getting.
Expectation Setting: Don’t overpromise or pretend to be something you’re not
If you promise “the best cake ever” you better be ready to back that up.
It’s a BIG claim, and the reason our trust has been eroded by many brands and businesses - false promises with little follow-through.
Too often people promise the world, use pretty icing to lure you in, then fall short. First impressions matter - but if you don’t deliver on your promises, you may as well not bother. Better to under-promise and over-deliver, than the opposite.
Trust is the most valuable thing you can have… So don’t lose it.
Make it easy
Right now we all have 100s of things demanding our attention. And on-demand and all in one trends are on the rise with no end in sight. Convenience is king - hence why meal kits and pre-prepared food are having a moment.
The easier it is, the more something will appeal and stick (provided you’re filling a need). So find ways to decrease any/all friction. Go where people are. And make it as little effort as possible for them to get involved.
Choose where & how to serve up your goodies
Are people already coming over for dinner? Or are you looking for more guests? Whether you’re looking to sell something, or just host a dinner party, creating the right invite, dining experience or shop front for your target audience is essential.
I.e. - pick your platforms, process and medium
If you’ve got a millennial demographic who are health conscious - are you on Instagram? Or showing up at boutique gyms and health businesses? If it’s parents - perhaps facebook, schools or local markets are a good starting point.
Bake Together: The magic of the shared experience & co-creation
There’s a reason people buy pre-prepared meal kits like HelloFresh (where all the ingredients are delivered to you prepared + recipe) instead of buying take out. Or, do group cooking classes as bonding activities.
When people contribute or put effort in to achieve something, they often enjoy it more and become invested in what they created. Also, going through experiences with others results in the “cohort effect” - creating common ground and stronger, more meaningful connections. And reasons to come back.
People like to contribute, so find ways to get them involved.
Provide a space for the magic to happen
If you want to cook, you’ll need a kitchen. Ideally, equipped and clean.
I’m going on a bit of a limb here… cooking for yourself is one thing. But if you want others to get involved, you’re going to have to provide the right setting.
Is this a newsletter? A forum? A Facebook group?
Whatever it is, define it clearly, with rules, opportunities for engagement, and be prepared for the inevitable ongoing upkeep.
It takes effort to maintain a good environment and thriving community.
Make it sticky… No, I’m not talking about the batter…
We can’t eat dessert all day. Ok, you can... But you might end up with some serious health issues.
When I mention dessert, you likely have 1-3 that come to mind as your favourites. It’s the same for communities.
In a world of millions of options, we only have enough bandwidth to participate in a few. So, they will need to be our favourites. Providing sufficient substance, joy (or alleviating pain) and a sense of belonging so that we maintain these connections in the face of other shiny objects that come our way.
Why are people going to remember you and want to come back?
Don’t forget your special sauce
*Also known as your USP = Unique Selling Proposition*
This is what should define your community… and make it sticky.
How do we know you made this cake? What makes it different from the other 500 chocolate cake recipes? Is it a special blend of 20 niche ingredients? Easy to cook? No-bake? Or low cal?
Make sure you think about what makes your special combo embed it into your identity
At the end of the day, Icing is nice, but a good base is everything 🧁
A pretty exterior can lure you in, but without substance underneath, there’s little chance anyone will take another bite or go back for seconds.
To succeed, you need to create sustained engagement, foster true loyalty (and love), smash expectations, get people invested, and the key of all successful communities - create your own advocates.
These are the people who love you so much that they will then tell others to go try the cake. Average, is, well, average.
With so many “communities” popping up, it's easy to be distracted by novelties, shiny things or false promises. But unless there’s true substance, they won’t survive.
🍰 There are endless ways to make a cake
And it's ok to experiment & get messy (isn’t that half the fun?!). Just make sure you set some guidelines and alter things as you go if it doesn’t get you the result you want.
It takes practice to find your flavour, as it’s a true art, but it’s worth it.
A few people have been keen to chat community (only my favourite thing apart from possibly healthtech)… perhaps over coffee and a cake…
If this is you, or you have some thoughts on the topic, hit reply!
Until next time