“Build it and they will come”, is the underlying message of almost every startup founder’s pitch.

But with the stark reality of 90%+ startups failing in the first three years, it’s clear that even if you build the most beautiful, functional, user-centred “it”, they still won’t come. Or not, at least, in sufficient numbers.

One of the issues is that vast budgets are devoted to the development of “product”. Precious little, by comparison, is spent on “market”. This is prioritised in the push for “product-market fit”.

Our approach is the opposite – to seek “market-product fit”.

And this is why it’s important to understand and cultivate customer communities.

Community management has been around as a discipline for some years, but the truth is, it has been around for millennia. As a species, we have been tapping into communities for support, strength and connection forever. In fact, our sense of “social” is deeply hard wired into our thinking and being, but in the shift to digital that has transformed our lives over the last 20 years, we’ve missed a step or two.

No matter whether your business is at an early stage, or well advanced in years, it is never too late to build community. And these days it has never been easier – there are tools, great case studies and a strong strategic discipline for professional community managers to learn from.

But as in all things, it starts with INTENT. You need to build community with positive intention from the ground up. And that means getting close to your customers. It also means putting a STRATEGY in place.

A great place to start is this great playbook from Yammer. Once the darling of the enterprise social media space, Yammer produced this guide on community strategy, design and execution (by Maria Ogneva, then global head of community). The foundations remain the same, and the benefits for your business will be profound. The earlier you can get started the more you will learn and gain.

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