6 Ways to Build Community through Your Business (with Imurj)
Whether it's through your brick and mortar or on an online platform, building a sense of community for your customers and followers is a powerful thing. Everyone wants to feel like they belong to something, and becoming that something for people serves not only them, but also does amazing things to build your company.
Today we get to hear from the director of business development for Imurj, Amy Hoffman. Imurj is a new (one year old), one-of-a-kind venue that is driven by its mission to be a resource and a home for musicians, artists and really anyone who enjoys taking in the arts. The underground space is set off of McDowell Street in the heart of downtown Raleigh, just under Whiskey Kitchen.
Through our conversation, Amy hits on 6 ways Imurj has built a strong and effective community for their audience. And, rest assured, you don't have to run a venue for building a community to have an meaningful impact on your customers.
This article is part of a new series where we'll be hearing from local businesses and highlighting one way they are killin' it.
1. Authentic Community is Sparked from Authentic Generosity
The key to creating a community that people genuinely want to be a part of is making that community genuinely about them. This is a practice that Imurj has owned since the beginning. Many businesses invite people to be a part of something they are doing for he sake of growing their own business. Amy calls that “fake generosity.” And people can always sense the underlying motivation.
Instead, Amy says to think, "What can I do for that person? What can I do for their business?" She’s often asking the question, “What can we create together?” She meets with people a lot, and sometimes the casual, underground vibe Imurj offers isn’t the best fit for their next event. But, Amy says that often times, “We may not think of a specific plan on the spot, but I get emails the next day. ‘Oh, I was driving home I a realize I need a space for…’” Being authentically interested in helping people is the mark of a welcoming community that eventually people want to be a part of.
2. Meet a Need
Imurj was created to fill a need. When Imurj co-founder, Karl Thor, was trying to kick off his music career, he became very aware of all the challenges musicians face when getting started. So, Imurj was born as an "art and music incubator" where amateurs can get hands on help and find support from others in similar stages of life and career.
Without meeting a real need for your community, there won't be a purpose for them to join in. In Raleigh, Amy mentions, musicians and artists are striving to find a place to express themselves. It's a clear need that Imurj exists to fill.
When it comes to the community you're wanting to reach, what needs are you meeting for them? What value do you provide that they can't get anywhere else?
3. Know Who You Are
Regardless of the size of your organization, the more people you try to reach, the more challenging it becomes. So, rather than just going for the masses, in order to build a strong community, you've got to know who you are and be able to own your niche. For Imurj, knowing who they are does an amazing job of relieving the sense of competition for other nearby venues.
"When people are looking for venues," she says, "I tell them there’s no such thing as competition.” She knows that not everyone is looking for an eclectic, underground art scene for their next event, and that's okay!
Amy says that it's not about taking every client you can, it's about helping people find what they need. And, the more you become an expert on your niche, the more you'll connect with and welcome your specific audience.
4. Remain Flexible
Just as important as knowing who you are, one of the reasons Imurj has been successful, is through flexibility. Your perspective of what your products offer and of the community you're building may be different from how other people can find you useful.
Amy remembers a time when someone was looking for a wedding venue. Her initial thought was that Imurj's space might not be the best fit for this bride's style. But, the bride had a completely different take on how they could use the space.
There may also be people who are part of your audience that you wouldn't expect to identify with your core community. For Imurj, there have been new groups of people (like meditation or comedy) that wouldn't be an obvious fit in the traditional category of music and art.
As you're forming and growing your community, stay flexible to people who feel your community is for them, even if it's not what you originally expected. They could be your most committed followers.
5. Connect the Different Communities
Many of us don't just sell one product or service to one type of customer. So, a challenge of becoming a successful business is introducing our current customers to products they may not initially be interested in or aware of.
One of the challenges Imurj saw early on was that people would only come to the events they were familiar with: artists came to paint models and musicians just came to play at the open mic nights. Amy said, when they started moving these events closer together, so there would be an intentional overlap, amazing things happened. Musicians would come in and admire people painting a model and some of the artist actually started painting musicians as they warmed up.
If you can help your different customer groups see their similarities – their shared needs and interests – this can grow your overall community. How can you enable people notice and connect over their shared passions?
6. Build a Consistent Presence
If you run a small company or are over your company's social media presence, it can be a challenge to feel like you're building momentum with your audience. In it's first year, Imurj has been working to find the best fit for the hours it's open, so it would be available when people need it but not wasting resources when they don't.
One major thing they've heard from their audience is just how important consistency is. To build trust and a sense of reliability, the community you're building needs to be a stable environment. For your business, this consistency could come through your social media platforms, blogs, events or however you connect with people. Just give them a place they can count on.
If you haven't had a chance to VISIT IMURJ for one of their open mic nights or art experiences, you're missing out on a rare jewel in Raleigh. Check out their events and join in on their community this week!
At the end of our interview, I ask each company to summarize what their business is about in one word. Without hesitation or needing a second to think about it, Amy said, "Community". Though a lot goes on at Imurj, from performances, poetry readings, painting, music, meditation, events, etc., they know who they are and it makes a huge impact on everything they do.