Building a community is an essential step in establishing any company or brand as a leader in its respective industry. A brand community gives your consumers a place to engage, express themselves, connect with other like-minded individuals and more. It’s those engaged, expressive consumers who then become your brand evangelists and help increase brand awareness without you even asking.

Why companies should take a lesson from NRF and create entire communities around their events, and how this helps build brands.

A fantastic example of the power of community is the ecommerce ecosystem that springs up from the National Retail Federation’s Big Show (also known as NRF). New York is becoming a hub for new ecommerce and isn’t just a playground for big fashion labels anymore. NRF harnesses the power of this burgeoning retail-ecommerce communities and creates its own little world. This year, several other companies created events surround NRF 2019.

Young Presidents’ Organization held an event. There was a food and beverage event at the Marriott hotel down the street, my company Hawke Media held a networking mixer and Salesforce did something similar.

Creating Community

NRF is a hugely successful event in it of itself, but the community created around the conference is equally as important and should serve as an example to companies looking to build their own tribes. The ecosystem created around NRF is a great way to get outside of the conference and into core communities. These smaller, intimate events allow attendees to actually interact with each other on a personal level, forging connections and real relationships that are hard to achieve when just walking the floor.

Additionally, these smaller events allow for a variety of experiences that are hard to create with just a single conference. A variety of businesses putting on a variety of activations, be they happy hours, fireside chats, intimate dinners or otherwise, add diversity to an event’s programming.

Diversity ensures that there is something for everyone, increasing attendee engagement. With the increased attendee engagement also comes increased opportunities for executives to connect, make partnerships and collaborate.

How to Do It Yourself

NRF is a huge, annual event put on by the world’s most significant retail trade association. So while you may not get the entire city of New York involved, you can still create a great brand community through events,  just on a slightly smaller scale. Here’s where to start.

  1. Start small.

Everybody has to start somewhere. There’s no need to feel pressure to put on a massive, world-class event with over 500 attendees. That’d be pretty ridiculous to assume. Instead, start small. Begin to host regular happy hours, more intimate networking mixers or exclusive dinners. These smaller events help to establish and begin to foster your community. You’ll be able to see exactly who makes up your community, their interests and what gets them engaged.

  1. Get growing.

Once you’ve established a good idea of who your community consists of and who you want to be involved, expand your efforts a bit. The ball is rolling, and your community is there, so it’s time to grow. Create larger, all-day or multi-day events that focus on building and expanding your community and network.

Encourage collaboration between members of your blossoming community. Doing so not only helps to continue to build out your brand community but also establishes your brand as a thought leader in the industry.

  1. Do It Again — But Elsewhere.

Now that you’ve got the ball rolling, it’s time to expand your brand community to new, strategic locations and begin the community building process all over again. This building process is the perfect time to attend and piggyback of more significant, well-known industry events to give your brand a boost!

That’s precisely what Hawke Media did during NRF. We’re in the process of opening a new location in New York and expanding our business to the East Coast. To prepare for our arrival, we hosted a networking mixer that included an intimate discussion with the founder and CEO of a successful ecommerce brand. Our get-together ended up being one of the most well-attended events during the conference, with over 100 guests taking part!

Do something similar when your brand is ready to begin building its community in a new location. By piggybacking off industry events, you’ll be sure to attract like-minded individuals.

If You Built It —

Whether you own an ecommerce company, run an agency or have a software company, creating a community around your brand should be at the top of your list. Take a page from NRF’s handbook on how a single event can blossom into an entire ecosystem with a life of its own, and incorporate some of its elements into your own event marketing strategy.

If you’re an ecommerce company in New York looking to build your community, we’d love for you to grow with Hawke Media. We’re expanding to the East Coast and would love for you to join the family!

Erik Huberman

Erik Huberman is the founder and CEO of Hawke Media, the fastest-growing marketing consultancy in the United States. Launched in 2014, Hawke Media has been valued at $75 million and has grown from seven to more than 130 employees.