Photo: Adam Whitlock

Marketing can be exciting.

Yes, you read that right. 

You know what else? It doesn’t always have to involve months of planning or $10,000 ad spends. 

Even better, some of the most effective marketing is community-first marketing. That is, instead of trying to reach a new, cold audience who has no idea who you are, you market to your existing audience in a way that strengthens that relationship and in turn, actually ends up bringing in more people.

Loyal, existing customers bringing in new customers while you get to sit back and just do what you do best… who doesn’t want that?!

We’ve compiled three examples of unique marketing strategies that you probably haven’t thought of yet—but that are incredibly easy (and fun) to implement.

For these ideas, we’re focusing on the audience you already have. As I said, those existing connections are already your strongest and social proof is one of the fastest and most organic ways to grow your business. 

Simply put, word of mouth is a crucial part of your marketing strategy.. After all, as we profiled last week, when Roc Nation and J. Cole focused on his existing community, it earned them $60 million dollars in just a few years.

So yeah, there’s something to do this.

Ok enough of my talking, let’s get to the ideas.

Arkells—Scavenger Hunt around Vancouver

A super recent example of clever marketing is when Canadian band Arkells hid tickets for their October 25th show all around Vancouver, then filmed and released a Reel to their fans with the reveal of the locations that fans could find their free tickets.

Why this works: First of all, it’s fun. There’s a sense of adventure to it with fans racing against the clock to try and find the tickets. It’s not something they can sit around and think about, it’s something they have to immediately take action on or, they’ll miss out. (So there’s also a bit of FOMO there).

Even if fans weren’t in the city themselves, they started tagging friends who were, which of course gets more eyes on their feed, and more eyes on their brand. Not only that, they would tag their friends just to share how cool it was, or comment to ask Arkells to do the same thing in their city. 

They used a few very clever strategies here

It also made fans feel like the band genuinely cared about those who might want to attend the show but not have the means. By hiding a handful of ticket sets around the city, they were giving people a chance to attend for free and their fans took notice of that.

How you can do it: No matter the size or budget you’re working with, you can do this. It could be for an event, a product, or a new release. It could be hiding physical prizes around the city or QR codes that lead to digital ones. This works especially well before a big event (show, release, conference, product reveal) but can be done any time. All you need is a little creativity and an hour around your city.

Level99–Collaboration + Community Marketing

Level99 is essentially a combination of Ninja Warrior and your favorite puzzles, all rolled up into one incredible adult play place a little bit outside of Boston, MA. It’s a newer business that my husband and I have been (obsessively) going to about once a month since we discovered it earlier this year. Their social media is a great place to go for marketing inspiration but for now, we’re going to focus on two key components of it: the way they use collaborations, and the way they draw on their community.

First, social media marketing is not going anywhere. The medium will change (Twitter to Facebook to Instagram to TikTok to BeReal and so on) but the thing consumers crave is the same: connection. Understanding. To be seen. 

They want to feel a part of a community that gets them. Everything we’re doing online should be to help them get there. 

Collaboration: Level99 has done a lot of things really well, and collaboration is one of them. Inside Level99, separate from where the games are, there’s a local brewery called Night Shift Brewing that offers snacks and beer, which of course, is already a perfect example of an ideal collaboration. What adult doesn’t want to play and have fun for 2 hours and then grab a beer and snacks?

But they didn’t just include the brewery and hope people would show up.. they took it a step further and invited the community in.

This is key: passive marketing is not enough. You need to take an active stance and invite your community into your world. It should be very easy for them to assimilate into it.

Level99 does this by doing regular Trivia Nights inside Night Shift that are almost always geared towards their ideal crowd—Millenials. Examples of past trivia nights include Blockbuster Trivia Stranger Things Trivia, Pixar Trivia, and Nickelodeon Trivia.

They know their audience, and they know the nostalgia of these trivia nights, combined with the promise of fun, food, and a community of their peers, will bring people in. They also know that:

Let’s assume each person brings 4 new friends. 

And that 50 people already know about the event. 

So that’s 50 people, each bringing 4 friends.

For an average of 200 people being introduced to Level99 and Night Shift for the first time.

Now if they each share to their hundreds or thousands of followers and invite another 4 people next time, now that’s 200 more people that know about and visit the business…

All from an event that cost them essentially nothing to run, they’ve generated hundreds of new fans in one night, and thousands of impressions of social proof on social media.

Think: How can you look at what you’re offering and take it a step further? How can you invite people into that world, rather than just hoping they wander in?

Balanced Breakfast—Annual BB Music Summit

You’ve heard of doing webinars to increase your audience. You’ve probably even thrown or attended a few. If done well, they really are a great marketing tool with the potential to bring in lots of new customers. But they can be a lot of work, take months to plan well, and rely on new leads, which is always more arduous than existing leads.

What if there was a quicker, easier way to bring in new leads?

Let’s look at Balanced Breakfast for our next example. Balanced Breakfast’s motto is “Creating Community in the Music Industry” and everything they do, including their marketing, comes back to that. 

At its core, it’s an in-person music community currently operating in over 20 cities/countries. It’s solved one of the music industry’s biggest problems–networking–by providing regular meetings that allow you to do exactly that. In addition, by operating in so many cities, members are also building a network across the globe so that no matter where they go, odds are there’s a Balanced Breakfast community that can introduce them to new fans, customers, or opportunities.

While their regular meetings are a great way to do this, they sensed their community was craving more. A way to connect beyond just the weekly meetings and with a wider network. So, they created the annual Balanced Breakfast Summit, featuring panels and performances by and for Balanced Breakfast members.

While the summit welcomes newcomers, its goal is to truly create a once-a-year event for all the existing members, from all the cities, to come together and celebrate and learn together. It’s an opportunity to gather the whole community together in one place for a few days and strengthen the existing connection between the cities and their people.

What this does is:

It’s truly a brand focused on community first and that’s shown in its tremendous growth over the years, thanks to community-first marketing strategies.

Next time you’re looking to tap into your creativity, turn to these examples as a way to kickstart the brainstorming process. What can you find inspiration in? Replicate to make your own? How can you connect with your community in a new and fresh way?

Have fun with it, and enjoy connecting with your audience. It’s your community after all!