PHOTO BY: Matt Sclarandis. Written by Lidia Vijga, Co-founder at Briefbid
It’s no secret that the state of advertising industry is directly correlated to economic conditions, and 2020 was the worst year for economic growth. The unforeseen events and the shift in consumer behaviour caused many of our clients to rethink their marketing initiatives. Most brands did not want to go dark, but it wasn’t easy to decide where to allocate their advertising dollars. While our partners were trying to figure out the next moves, our startup was trying to figure out how to help them get there.
To help marketers find new user acquisition channels and support media sellers outside of the duopoly (Facebook and Google), we launched a free media planning tool to connect brands and advertising agencies to local and niche media sellers.
In a simultaneous effort, we started creating content with our clients and media partners to help them expand their business reach and share their expertise.
When most advertising budgets were on hold, the content marketing collaborations were a great way to keep the relationship going with our existing partners. Surprisingly, this created some buzz around our marketplace, and we made some new friends in the media industry.
That was when we thought of creating a community of our own using no-code tools. Online communities are being created around products, topics, social causes and interests. So why not start a community around content collaborations?
So, we created Guestra — a place where members connect and collaborate to expand their business reach and grow their audience.
Validating your community idea – the most critical step
To validate our idea, I put together a landing page with a clear CTA and set up a simple process for users to sign up if they were interested. I created a form using Airtable, which I linked to a database to store all the user submissions.
Tools – I wish it was easier!
I used Elementor as a builder for WordPress to create a website, and I picked a customizable template from Astra. I embedded the list of members on Airtable to the “community” page, and I added Memberpress as a membership plugin.
Branding – the extension of ourselves
For creative assets, I went to look for illustrations from artists on Creative Market. I believe branding is an extension of the founders, and I knew exactly what I was looking for when browsing through artwork. I’m personally obsessed with animals, and my co-founders are fascinated by space, so we decided to go with space animals (the choice was obvious!). Searching through different illustrations, I found Marish, – an incredibly talented artist, and I got a commercial license for the cutest set of illustrations.
Onboarding experience – get personal
We set up an automated welcome email on Memberpress to share our story behind the community. In addition, I sent personal notes to welcome the early adopters myself. I learned that it was crucial to interact with our first members. I’d suggest engaging with at least your first 50 users personally. Ask questions to find out what brought them into the community and what they would like to achieve.
Growing the community – The early adopters are your best ambassadors
The early adopters are your true believers, and once you know why they joined the community, you can start spreading the word further with the messaging that resonates with others. When I asked the early users to share a few words about the community on their socials, I was surprised by how many of them took the time to craft personal messages. We were grateful for all the posts that appeared in social feeds mentioning Guestra.
Searching for a better way to manage a community
After a while, I realized that we need to find a better way to manage the community. Essentially, we wanted to make it easier for our users to connect and find a way to synchronize our directory of members with the list of subscribers for the newsletter. We used SendGrid to send newsletters, but we had to manually extract new members from Memberpress and add them to the mailing list.
I started looking for a solution that would allow us to have a membership directory, a newsletter subscription and the community all in one place. I used a few trials to test some products, but then I came across this video, and I decided to wait for the release of Meeps.
Last week I got to be one of the first early adopters for Meeps, and yes – good things come to those who wait! Meeps is still missing a few features, but both founders are working closely with the early adopters to improve its functionality. All the Meeps members have access to an internal Discord server. It’s pretty awesome to see the process behind the scenes and get involved in the product build.
I haven’t carried over our Guestra community yet, but it was so easy to set things up on Meeps that I started another community the same day I got the access. It’s fascinating how some products can inspire you to do more, do better, and make something tangible overnight.
What’s the new community?
The new community is for the fellow founders who are currently raising capital. I’ve often been asked about my fundraising journey, how we closed our pre-seed round at Briefbid, what we included on the pitch deck and how we approached investors. I had been providing the answers to early-stage founders in Canada, but I didn’t have a structured or centralized way of sharing this information.
I hope this new community will help early-stage startups to raise capital faster and avoid common mistakes. If you are currently in the fundraising boat, join the community here.