9 Steps to Building a Loyal Brand Community in 2024: With Darius Fong, President of Run Tech Club
2024 is the inflection point year where commitment to organic community building will separate the winners from losers.
As economic uncertainty continues, consumers are flocking to brands that offer not just products, but belonging and purpose. Founders who prioritize building magnetic tribes of fans and customers today will reap sustainable revenue gains later.
We sat down with Darius Fong, President of Run Tech Club to curate a list of 9 actionable steps that you can take to begin to build a loyal community.
Darius knows the power of community. As a 2x Grammy-winning music executive turned President of Run Tech Club, he has witnessed firsthand how cultivating passionate user bases drives growth. Central to RTC’s magnetism is Darius’ philosophy around community building for the modern era. His blueprint offers founders an alternative path to short-term growth hacks, instead emphasizing long-view strategies that convert customers to fans.
Run Tech Club began in 2020 as a gathering point for LA entrepreneurs and pre-entrepreneurs to connect over shared interests in health, personal growth and technology. What started as informal co-founder coffee chats has expanded to a national running community 700 members strong, with expansion to New York underway.
Before we dive into the guide, check out the full episode here:
1. Create a Multi-Faceted Community Experience
Run Tech Club isn't just a run club; it's a synergy of running, technology, and mentorship, demonstrating the impact of a multi-faceted community experience. Darius saw the value in bringing together diverse interests to create a more engaging and supportive community. This approach catered to individuals' various facets, fostering a deeper connection and loyalty to the club.
The takeaway? Don't limit your community to a single interest or activity. Explore how you can weave multiple aspects of your brand’s ethos or your audience’s interests into the community experience.
Start by assessing your community's diverse interests and how they intersect with your brand. Introduce varied activities or content streams that cater to these interests, encouraging broader participation and engagement.
2. Harness the Power of Shared Activities for Connection
The foundation of Run Tech Club on the simple activity of running illustrates the power of shared activities to connect people. Darius leveraged running not only as a physical activity but as a metaphor for perseverance, growth, and community building. This shared experience became the cornerstone for discussions, mentorships, and collaborations among members.
Shared activities can foster a sense of belonging and community among individuals, creating a strong foundation for brand loyalty.
Identify an activity or set of activities that resonate with your brand and community. Organize regular events or challenges around these activities to encourage participation, interaction, and a sense of achievement among members.
3. Think Beyond Traditional Business Models
Darius’s approach with Run Tech Club challenges the conventional venture capital model by prioritizing community building and mentorship. This strategy focuses on the broader impact of supporting early-stage founders, offering guidance, and fostering an inclusive community over immediate financial returns.
A great place to start is to evaluate how your business can incorporate community support and mentorship. Consider initiatives like mentorship programs, community funds, or support networks that contribute value beyond your core product or service offerings.
4. Prioritize Diversity and Inclusion from the Start
The organic development of a diverse membership within Run Tech Club highlights the importance of prioritizing diversity and inclusion. Darius’s club became a space where a wide array of founders felt welcome, leading to rich discussions and varied perspectives that enriched the community as a whole.
A community's strength lies in its diversity. Prioritizing inclusivity from the start can lead to a more vibrant and dynamic community. Actively seek and encourage participation from underrepresented groups within your community. This could involve outreach programs, partnerships with organizations focused on diversity, or highlighting diverse voices within your community platforms.
5. Reimagine Retail and Brand Experiences
Reflecting on brands that successfully integrate community with retail, like Nike’s evolving approach to store experiences or Rapha’s global clubhouses for cycling enthusiasts to gather over coffee before and after rides, Darius highlights the potential for reimagining how brand spaces serve as community hubs. These spaces go beyond transactions, fostering connections and shared experiences among customers.
Retail and brand experiences can be powerful platforms for community building when they transcend traditional sales-focused interactions.
Design your physical or virtual spaces to encourage community interaction. This could mean hosting events, workshops, or creating areas within your store or website that encourage customers to engage with each other and your brand on a deeper level.
6. Engage in Authentic Collaborations and Partnerships
Darius’s success with Run Tech Club also comes from meaningful collaborations and partnerships that align with the club’s values. These partnerships are not just about brand visibility but about creating value for the community members, whether through shared resources, knowledge, or experiences.
Authentic collaborations and partnerships can amplify your community’s value and reach. So, seek out partners who share your brand’s values and have communities that would benefit from what you offer. Collaborate on events, content, or products that serve both communities’ interests and foster a sense of mutual growth.
7. Focus on Organic Growth and Co-Creation
The co-creation experiences within Run Tech Club, where members contribute to and shape the club’s direction, illustrate the power of organic growth. This approach builds a deeply invested community that feels ownership and pride in the community's success.
Implement mechanisms for member feedback and participation in decision-making processes. Encourage members to lead initiatives, share their expertise, or contribute content to foster a sense of ownership and investment in the community.
8. Cultivate a Mindset of Sustainable Growth
Adopting a flywheel approach, as discussed by Darius, emphasizes sustainable growth driven by continuous investment in and from your community members. This model relies on the momentum generated by providing value, which in turn attracts more members and opportunities for growth.
Sustainable growth is fueled by the continuous exchange of value between a brand and its community. Identify key actions or contributions your community members can make that add value to the community. Incentivize these actions through recognition, rewards, or opportunities for greater involvement in the community.
9. Embrace Legacy Building Through Community
Finally, Darius’s reflection on legacy highlights the profound impact a community can have beyond any single product or service. Building a community is about creating something that endures and evolves, touching lives and inspiring future generations.
Your greatest legacy may not be the products you create but the community you build and the lives you impact. Consider the long-term impact of your community-building efforts. Foster an environment where members can grow, lead, and contribute to the community's legacy. Encourage storytelling and shared experiences to highlight the community’s journey and evolution.
Darius’ journey with Run Tech Club offers valuable lessons for any brand looking to build a loyal, engaged community. By focusing on shared experiences, diversity, authentic collaborations, and sustainable growth, brands can create meaningful connections that transcend traditional business models, laying the foundation for a lasting legacy.
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