The ROI of supporting existing community groups

“In variety of other ways — with the launch of community events, youth workshops, and other programs — Katz and her partner continue to double down, investing back into the culture and creative community that provide Paper Chase business, and in turn, support and nurture its growth.”

The Creative Entrepreneur Behind Paper Chase Press (99U)

I’m big on supporting existing community groups. Why? Because the people you want to reach are already coming together. The interest and momentum is there. You just need to tap into it.

I wouldn’t start a new group unless I felt like there’s something missing from what the current group was doing. Even then, I’d look at how I could fill that gap within the existing group, rather than forking off in a different direction.

Here’s an example:

Back in 2011, a local eBook publisher was struggling to get off the ground. The founders had a history in print, they knew the industry, they had connections to great authors.

They wanted to provide consulting, design, and editing services to new authors for a small percentage of the sales revenue. To keep costs low, they’d cut out the middleman and sell the books directly to readers.

They didn’t know where to start with their marketing, and they had a very limited budget. So I suggested that they take the community marketing route: piggyback on local meetups, book clubs, and online groups that aligned with both sides of their business — authors and readers.

The goal would be to find the aspiring authors in these groups. If they could convert a chunk of those members into publishing under their label, they’d have an organic (unpaid) program for raising awareness & finding new leads.

The groups could also help with customer research. What were people reading? How were they discovering new authors? If they were trying to write and get published, what were they struggling with?

That’s the ROI of supporting existing community groups. You’re plugging into a collective of people you need to reach. Instead of buying attention with dollars, your investment is time spent on showing up, contributing, participating, and listening.

Start small, build relationships with members, gather a lot of qualitative insights, figure out what works, and scale up from there.