Community and loyalty are often the foundation of the world’s most successful companies. Look at Apple, Nike, and Red Bull as just a few examples. While clever marketing and great products are certainly important, the unseen powerhouse driving these companies is community and loyalty.
Think of that little restaurant or café in your neighborhood, that doesn’t even have a Facebook page – they don’t have a clue how to market, but they have an incredibly loyal following and a line up around the corner every day.
No matter what your business is, online or offline, beauty products or business to business, one of the biggest keys to success is creating loyal fans and community for your customers.
Erin Woodward is with us today talking about how she built a community and a company with The Gloss Book Club, that started as a way to find herself some friends in a strange city, and has become an international endeavour with 150,000 members in 15 countries.
She drops some gold on building loyalty through consistency and how to connect with your target market no matter where they are.
Ready to create a business that propels itself through its community?
Social Media Links: @theglossbookclub
Get a free pass to the book club by connecting with Erin HERE
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Kristy: Thanks so much for being
Erin: here today. Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure
Kristy: now you've had a really interesting journey from small town in Ontario to where you
Erin: are now. Do you wanna share a little bit of that with us? Yes. Interesting is a good word.
I feel very fortunate. I did grow up in a very small town in Ontario and from there my mom actually sent me, my mom and dad sent me to Indonesia when I was 10. And that was sort of like the catalyst that set me about being a worldwide traveler. , I understood very early on that Lindsay was not the end all and be all of the world.
So, from there, I, decided to go to France and then I traveled the world in a gap year. I was fortunate enough to be [00:02:00] able to do that. And then I landed in London, England, , where I found out I didn't have any friends. , I had moved for a boy that I met in Africa, as you do. And, , I was there for about a year when I decided, can't stay here because.
Don't know anybody. And that's when this, crazy idea that I would start. This book club came up and, , it's been a journey for sure. and a real
Kristy: passion project.
Erin: Yeah. I mean, I started it because it was a problem.
I had myself, I needed to find friends in a foreign city and it's really exploded across the world because, , I'm not the only one with that problem.
Kristy: Right, right. Yeah. And especially the last few years, I'm sure , it's changed as well. And we can, I wanna get into that as well, because you have kind of a unique, unique model that you had to pivot on a little bit.
So let's start by. Why loyalty and community, because those are two of the cornerstones of what you do, why they're so important in growing a business, any business.
Erin: Absolutely. I think, for [00:03:00] loyalty, because you want those that purchase your product or use your product or use your service. To continue to come back.
So you need to be offering something that, makes them loyal to your brand and they need to connect with your brand. And I found that two things really helped me develop that loyalty. And that was consistency. Making sure that if you attend a book club in Dallas and you attend a book club in Melbourne Australia, that you're gonna have a similar experience.
The other thing that I found that was really important was that they connected to the brand that they knew who I was. They knew why I started this and. They could identify themselves in that, that they were now I'm in my forties. But when I started this, I was in my early thirties and I lived in a city where I didn't have any friends and I wasn't alone.
This, this is a problem. A lot of people have you have that, those times in your life where. You're completely surrounded by others that you can connect with, but then there's isolating times and it depends where you are and what you're doing. But, , once you leave university or college or any sort of [00:04:00] secondary education that you may have attended, or once you're working in a small firm or a small, , workplace, then it's harder to connect with people.
Kristy: And, and I love the piece of that, about the, the consistency building. Cause I don't think we think about that, but I don't, if anybody's ever read the E myth, , they talk about the McDonald's empire, right. And one of the cornerstones of that is consistency. Why do you go to McDonald's in, in, you know, Why did I go to McDonald's in Rome?
Erin: cause I knew what I was gonna get when
Kristy: I walked in the door and I was, you know, I was, I was the first time I'd been traveling and I was tired of getting things that I didn't know what I was gonna get. And I just wanted something that was familiar. Right. So it's consistency, you know, wherever you go, it's exactly what you expect it to be.
And you like that. That's why you go there in the first place. And I don't think enough of us recognize that that's great. Absolutely. So any other tips, as far as, , you know, kind of high level building, building community for that, you know, women in any industry can use.[00:05:00] ,
Erin: I think that probably another cornerstone to loyalty and, community would be making sure that you sort of address all the concerns.
And I mean, it comes down to that nitty gritty and that stuff that. Nobody really wants to deal with, but the emails, the queries, the questions, like making sure you go back to people because so many people, I mean, I know we're all getting a million emails a day in our inbox, but I think it's so important to be replying to the people that are reaching out because they've taken the time to reach out to you.
So I think a response in all of those, domains is really important as.
Kristy: And we kind of, we, we've normalized looking at people as numbers, right? Like it's like my list is, you know, a hundred people or a thousand people or 10,000 people, but that's 10,000 people. People with questions that people that need answers.
when I first looked at your, your website, I immediately thought it was completely online. It just hit me that it would be an online model. , but it, it wasn't, it was you, you built this as a [00:06:00] community, an in person community first
Erin: is that. Yeah. And that's so interesting.
,no, I mean, we started in person. We started in London, England in 2008 and to the first meeting we had 23 women show up. So ever since that day, it's always been about connection in real life. , however, , we did have a global pandemic and we did have to pivot.
, so we did go to online for those two years. , we're back in person now, but, , it's always been about. In person. And I think that not to say that it's not possible to connect online, cuz it absolutely is, but it is a lot easier to connect in person. , I find, and to build those really, , stable and lifelong friendships.
We do offer three meetings a month online in different time zones. , and the result of that was because we, we have people in places that.
Don't have a chapter. They might live very rurally or, , they may live in just a city that we haven't developed a chapter yet. And we didn't wanna just be like, [00:07:00] okay. The world is back in meeting in person. Goodbye. so, ,we absolutely still meet online and it's very popular those meetings.
Kristy: So what, what platforms. Are important when it comes to community, cuz I'm sure you've, you've tried a whole lot of things and you found what works and
Erin: what doesn't. So what, what works well, I think, and this will be important for probably most, if not all of, ,your entrepreneurs, but you want people visiting your site , and you wanna.
Keep them on your site as much as you can. And it's, I mean, we've seen some really beautiful third party sites that we'd love like event bright, for instance, like that's just like they have nailed events. So we'd love to push our members to those sites and be like, well, you can just purchase your ticket through here, but you always have to remember that.
, whatever you're building or doing, , you wanna keep your community on your site. , and that, that speaks to advertisers that speaks to all sorts. Maybe things you don't even know about yet, things that are coming down the pipeline or things that'll be in the future for your business. So it's always been really, really [00:08:00] important that we have a site that really functions well, but we have used a lot of third party sites and we do use a lot of social media still.
There's there's still a world in which Facebook. Works really, really well for us. So, , that helps the individual communities, , communicate and connect. So we actually do have a hybrid model where we, you have to RSVP for our events on our site, but then if you want to chat locally, you do that through Facebook.
Kristy: that's clever. So you've got your, because that's the problem with social media, right? You, you don't own that platform, so that can just go away at any time. So you've utilized both. Anything else as far as technology or platforms that people should be looking at to help build communities?
Erin: I mean, I think an app is still really relevant. I'm speaking from a place where I don't have one , but, , I certainly think that, I mean, Yeah, we've just seen them explode over the past. I don't even know. Is it been like 15 years now that they've been around? , so that's something we're actually, , building right now, but, , but yeah, I think that, that to, [00:09:00] and again, it just speaks to keeping your community in your own backyard.
Kristy: Yeah. Agreed. I know we're, we're looking at the same thing just because I know personally, I. Often I'm trying to fit things in on my phone, right? When I'm sitting in a pickup line or I'm, and if something's not accessible on my phone, I fall behind. I don't get a chance. Like if I'm doing any kind of training and, and we don't have an app for ours, so I know we need to do it as well.
We'll put that on our list. we talked a little bit about the pivoting. Is there anything else that you learned during the, pandemic that is going to help you moving forward? As far as community and,
Erin: loyalty goes. Yeah. , so much really, , I, you don't really know what's on the horizon.
I think that was the biggest lesson. I could never have forecasted that there would be something that closed us down globally. , we're in a unique operation because we operate in so many different countries and we actually collect a lot of different currencies. And I thought that sort of made us immune to a lot of, , a lot of problems that some companies undergo, like when the Canadian dollar [00:10:00] falls it's like, oh, that's fine.
Like the American dollar's up or, , there was. The sort of like ebb and flow of the different countries. So when, when the pandemic came, it was like, okay, now what? So we kind of held tight for a few months. Just like everybody, we just literally shut our doors overnight. And we just sort of like played that waiting game for a few months.
But by the summer of the first year, we're like, okay, this isn't, this isn't going away now. What? And so we did, we pivoted to online, but I just. I just think that the pandemic really needs to make us aware of how unstable, , the world really is. And you don't know what's coming up. So as , as I think, I think diversifying is probably the answer here and having a lot of different, , because if we had our fully functional store, which we, we are almost at now, then that would've been a very different experience for us.
We also had retreats running at the time, which obviously wasn't a great thing, but you don't know. Right. You don't know, maybe [00:11:00] something happens where your retreats go ahead and your store doesn't work. Who knows?
Kristy: and it that's exactly what I think for everybody. We had all these blind spots that we didn't realize, like who had any concept of supply chain issues, how that was gonna all play out.
And that like, you know, toilet paper was gonna become a hot commodity. You just couldn't, you couldn't have predicted that. And with one of my businesses, it was the same thing. I thought, I thought we were diversified because we were in a bunch of different industries, but it turned out all of those industries were affected by tourism, right.
In one way or another, even if they weren't directly tourism companies. So,
Erin: you know, Surprise so we learned, right.
Kristy: And you know, a question for you, I have about community because you would be absolutely the master at this is, , you know, people who are struggling. Cause I think most businesses out there are trying to build communities on Facebook or build, you know, some kind of, , interaction between their members or between their, their clients and themselves.
And it can be a struggle to get people to. Participate in [00:12:00] the conversation, whether that's the conversation I want them to have with my company or whether that's the conversation I want them to have with themselves. Have you got
Erin: any tips on, on helping get your, ,
Kristy: your followers, your customers, your clients, to, to
Erin: interact and engage?
I think we're probably asking the wrong questions if it's not working. Okay. Because sometimes when we're doing that, we're asking the questions that lead to sales, , cuz I mean that's what we want. Right. Mm-hmm . I think that engagement, , of your community is going to result in sales anyways. So I think if we are asking the questions that are like, top of mind are relevant or newsworthy, things that, , are going on in the world, then people are gonna engage because they can't help.
But engage . , and I think that that might lend itself to them visiting your site or your page or whatever, they're coming back because they're getting content, they're getting discussion, they're getting community. , and it's not necessarily about like, wow, [00:13:00] look guys, we're selling this. Who wants to buy one?
it's like, nobody's gonna respond to that. Yeah. But rather like for our book community specifically hard cover or paper. Like that is, that's a big question. that's
Kristy: like, that's like Android or iPhone. Right? Right. You get people going
Erin: and it doesn't result in any direct sales for us, but it keeps that community engaged.
Kristy: And you're right. We have a specific end in mind rather than just starting a conversation. Any conversation would be good. Thank you for that. Now we talked a little bit about how this was a passion project for you. , but you obviously took it from, you know, , something to help yourself settle and, and find some friends to a global business.
So can you talk a little bit about how you move that from a passion project to
Erin: profit? Yeah, I think that I was very lucky because I think starting a business as a passion project is, is really great because it's a problem that I, like we talked about. It's a problem. I had myself. So it wasn't very surprising.
[00:14:00] looking back that there was multiple people who had the same problem I had, , And initially I think we ran for maybe three years where we didn't charge anything we were just doing. I was actually paying out of pocket for all the different things that we were doing, building the website and all these different things, because I just like loved it.
And I loved that other people were sort of bringing the book club to their hometown and, , building those communities. And it really. Satisfied me. , but eventually, , my boyfriend at the time had said to me, you have 15 clubs in really random places. , what are you doing? . And so, , he was actually a corporate lawyer, so we sat down and we discussed.
Where we could go from there. And he helped me a lot in the end, sort of decide that this was more than just a passion project and this could literally become my life's work. So from there we started charging and I have to tell you that's a Rocky road. going from offering a free service to being like, [00:15:00] well, okay, we're gonna offer you the exact same thing, but you're gonna pay for it now.
I didn't love that. And I, I didn't love the emails that came in or the like, well, why do I have to pay for this now? And I mean, we got a lot, now fortunately, , people understand that we're offering a service and it's a paid for service. You know, we keep our rate really, really low.
We've always kept it really, really low. We've never changed it. to make it as accessible as possible, but there is still a small price tag involved. Yeah. So yeah. I think
Kristy: people too, especially right now, there seems to be just about everything. You can imagine people have a free offering, right? So I think people get so used to free.
They don't stop and think about it. It's like, this is this costs money to run this costs time. There's actual hard costs in operating a platform and doing all these things. Like it's,
Erin: it's only free if there's,
Kristy: if there's something else that's making money and if there isn't, then, then there needs to be a paid service.
So, As far as building your company and being a woman entrepreneur, what would your best, besides not changing from a free product to a paid product?
[00:16:00] noted. What is, , what's your best bit of advice for them in building their business?
Erin: I think reach out. I feel like there's like. There are so many successful female entrepreneurs now. And the, a great thing about women. And I'm not saying that men don't do this at as well. I mean, women do it better or more is that we rise together.
And, I feel like there's just been so much help out there. , and there's lots of organizations, I think Canada specifically, there's a women's forum. , there's just so many organizations where you can get either free or even, like very, very affordable help to help you like, avoid those really big pitfalls because.
I know myself, I'm very strong in certain areas, but like for instance, finance is not one of them, so I get help for that. so I think my best advice really would be to reach out and, and not necessarily hire, but. Find some sort of help for areas that are about your [00:17:00] strength? Mm,
Kristy: yes. Yeah. That's why I have a bookkeeper.
exactly, exactly my best friend. , one more thing I wanna ask you too, because because your business is it's it's global, and it's. It's gonna cross a lot of demographics, right? It's not, it's not as specific, like a roofer can look for new homeowners, but your, your market, I would suspect is, is wide ranging in ages probably.
And certainly in locations. So you would, you would have even more of a challenge, in my mind, in finding your ideal, your ideal clients, your ideal customers, your target market, how do you, ,
Erin: How do
Kristy: you reach your people? How would you, what, what kind of tips do you have for other women entrepreneurs, especially in online spaces, in, in reaching their markets?
Erin: thoughts there? Yeah. I mean, you're right. And you're wrong. Cause you're right in that. it's a huge demographic. Mm-hmm , , we absolutely do welcome women of all [00:18:00] ages, but that's almost our secret sauce because there's not many places in your life where you go and you actually get to engage with women of all ages.
, so it's actually really, really nice. And I've had countless emails from people talking about that, that aspect of our business, but yeah. Then your question is, well, how do I market to the entire world? Yeah. Or at least half the world. It's not easy, but we have done it very organically.
I mean, you, you can. Look at the Facebook and all the marketing that is like, they do very, very key demographic marketing. And we do a little bit of that for sure. , we have been successful through word of mouth, mostly friends, inviting friends. , we don't actually have one, but it would be brilliant if we did, but a referral program would work really, really well for us.
Mm-hmm , The problem with ours is that our, price is so small that the referral is hard sort of like to pass on . Right. But yeah. , word of mouth is really strong in female communities, [00:19:00] for sure. Also we use a lot of Facebook groups so like, I don't know, , in your community, but in my community, there's like tons of mom groups, tons of like, if you have a specific interest then, so like posting in there works really, really well for us as well.
Well, yeah, finding a marketing, a marketing sort of program for the world. You're right. Like what do you do?
Kristy: Something tricky? Where do you start? Yeah.
Erin: well, thank you so much for being on with us today now. You can connect
Kristy: with Erin on her site. It's the gloss book club.com. and Erin has very kindly offered a free book club meeting. All of our listeners, which is so generous and so really kind, and, and I thank you for that, Erin.
I'm excited to check it out as well. , so if you wanna take advantage of that, we're gonna link that free book club meeting.
So you can check that in the show notes. If you are on a platform that does not have show notes, visible, just go to one step empire.com. Just the name of the podcast. One step empire.com. We've got all the links. We've got all [00:20:00] the show notes and we've got all the other episodes there as well. So I just wanna thank you so much for being with us today, Erin and sharing your story and some really great tips to help us build our communities.
I appreciate you being here.
Erin: Thank you so much. It's been a pleasure.