3 True Stories of Profitable Adventures

Community Building as Marketing

Waqas Ali is originally from Basirpur, a small town in the middle of Punjab, Pakistan. He came to Lahore, the heart of Pakistan, to do what most of us do: further his studies. Halfway through, he dropped out.

“The stuff they were teaching me at college was so outdated,” he says, “I was reading books from the library that showed me the now!” He realised that college syllabus was not enough.

He started a small company Hometown, that sells hand-made shoes. They are selling these hand-crafted shoes online, from Pakistan to all over the world. They work from a small, shared office in Gulberg, putting in the hours.

“Every order that is placed with us,” he says, “I send a hand-written letter along with it. And we place a call 7 days after purchase to see if our customers liked our shoes.”

Their little start-up has won awards here in Pakistan. But awards don’t make you money. Selling makes you money. But they are not focused on selling, nor on winning awards. They have chosen something else to focus on.

Niall Doherty is currently in Thailand. He left his job almost four years ago to travel the world without flying. Yes. Round-The-World without ever getting on an aeroplane. Ever.

Originally from Ireland, he documents his journey on his blog Disrupting The Rabblement, has recently published a book and freelances as a web designer.

“My laptop is my office,” he says. He is very regular on his blog and all of his posts are supplemented with a video, where he talks about fighting fears and trying out new things. He is vagabonding across the globe and maintaining a business in the process.

Niall is obviously well-travelled. He is a published writer with thousands of people reading his articles. He offers his services as a web designer but after talking to him and reading his blog, you wouldn’t find any “selling”. What kind of a business doesn’t focus on “sell, sell, sell.”?

Yasir Nisar is a photographer from Lahore, Pakistan. He used to work at a bank, taking the time out on holidays to pursue his passion of photography. And pursue it he did!

His passion for photography was evident in his Flickr profile and the large following that he catered to. He eventually quit his job, doing photography full time and making money along the way.

He has exhibited his photographs in three different countries and continues to travel and shoot.

“My last visit to the north,” he tells me, “I think I got about 90 Gigs of pictures.” 90 Gigs? That’s a lot of photographs for a single man to take on single trip.

The pursuit of passion is obvious, but the pursuit of money is not. It is there – he is running a profit-generating business through his photography – but you won’t immediately notice that. But if you are not always selling, how can you actually sell?

Speaking with each of these remarkable individuals, I found one thing common: they are focusing on building a community instead of a client base. The money is there, but that is almost considered a by-product.

All the while I talked to any of them, the fact that they are earning money from their adventures hardly came up. I had to bring it up. Otherwise, they would keep talking about either the craft they are pursuing, or the reactions and interactions with their community.

Community Building Vs. Marketing

If you extrapolate the for-profit philanthropy business model, you will see that your “marketing” is actually “community building” and nothing else.

Going the extra mile, and then some, is a great way to build your brand, right? But too often you see that the idea of customer service is either lost, or poorly executed. You can see that the corporations are not into it; you realise they are doing it for the money and money only.

Helping someone out because your primary intention is to solve their problem is much easier to show. You just stay truthful and everything falls into place.

Focusing on community building instead of marketing is a great long-term strategy. I keep finding it in many success stories, and this “helping attitude” is quite common in successful entrepreneurs/adventurers.

The above three examples, amongst countless others, are to show how one can realistically focus on community building as an actual business model. It is always inspirational to see the “for-profit philanthropy” model being implemented in the “real” world. Anyone who is interested in learning more about them, I highly recommend you check out their communities and businesses.

Same Strategy, Different Tactics

All three are essentially building communities and are using vastly different techniques.

Using letters and snail mail is usually too cumbersome to be attractive, but if that is the only way for you to reach your audience, then one must do what needs to be done. Like Waqas, once you understand the power of community, the task at hands becomes easier to follow.

If you are an artist (a painter, writer, photographer etc), you can always share your creations and build your community around your art, like Yasir.

Out of the above three stories, Niall is the only person who is uses his blog as the primary tool to build and interact with his community.

Building a community via social media, especially blogging, is something that I truly am passionate about. Blogging (or self-publishing) makes community building so much more manageable that I always recommend this to pretty much all entrepreneurs who are willing to gather people around their ideas and/or brands.

Question: I wonder if you are trying to build a community around your brand or business? What are you struggling with the most when it comes to community building? Do you have any questions regarding blogging as a business? Do let me know either via email or in the comments section.

I wish you all the best in your conquests and adventures.

Photo courtesy of James Cridland

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10 Comments

  1. Inspiring and thought provoking as always, I believe building a community first for business model is a long term strategy and requires patience to do it.

    Momekh I have been building a community as well, that community is a learning community, here I share all the learning stuff about personal development, professional development, and life form different sources like movies, songs, people and books, I called it as MyLearningz, for which I created a website as well which is http://www.mylearningz.com

    Alhamdurillah it is going good so far and we have almost 700 visitors per day on average after working for 5 months constantly, but the problem is that we are not earning anything out of it.

    I consulted some of the free lancers and business consultants, they suggested me to introduce SUBSCRIBE for etc amount of dollars per month or per week.

    But the people of Pakistan unfortunately aren’t willing to learn anyhow, what to talk of learning by paying.

    My website is becoming more of a blog but I don’t have much engaging audience, what do you suggest me to make a good business out of it and how do I engage my audience?

    I mean I create 100% original content, I record, edit and upload every learning video myself, but still there isn’t much engagement and there isn’t much name of my community?

    What do you suggest? Help

    • When you started working on it, 5 months back, did you have a product in mind? Did you have an idea what you’re going to sell?

      And there is no need to be disheartened, Talha. People of Pakistan are willing to learn. They pay to buy my book on dairy farming. What are the chances of that? But still, there are good people out there, who are willing to trust and more importantly, who are willing to learn. Alhumdulillah. Our job is to talk to those people. Not people who are not as trusting. That’s OK too. Trust is a hard currency to earn.

      To earn, you MUST have a product, it’s that simple. You are trying to earn through Google Adsense, then guess what even Google tells you? They tell you that Google Adsense is a “supplemental” income. My advice: drop google adsense.

      You can build a communinty around an idea, and then ASK them what problems need to be solved. And then TRY to solve that problem with a product or service. That’s the model I know, and that’s what works. InshAllah.

      It is why I am writing Find Your Business, it why I am writing the Milk Case Study and that is why I am preparing workshops on building a business. Not because I feel like it, but because people have asked me for it. Will they ask you the same? I don’t know. Neither do you. How will you know? By asking them of course. 🙂

      I wish you the best friend, and I do hope you like the products that I try to produce inshAllah.

  2. Muhammad sohail Rana

    i have been following your for 1 year and bro you mostly wrote and still writing about general thing, what i want from your side please write specifically about the people of pakistan those have all those crisis in all over the country….

    • Thanks for reading Sohail and being part of the gang 🙂
      I hope you like the fact that two of these guys are from Pakistan. I have talked/met both of them. Yasir is actually an old friend.

      They are doing what they are doing EVEN THOUGH it is much tougher for a lot of us, here in Pakistan. The load-shedding situation alone is enough to drill the entrepreneur out of you, right? But still there are guys who are doing it. They are the inspiration I think. A bigger inspiration. I hope and pray.

      And all the best to all of us, all around the whole widey world! 🙂

  3. bright alex

    Hi Khan,
    Your articles inspire me to critically look at different spheres of life ranging from social, political and economical and my conclusion is that same principles apply. Thank you for giving me tools of analysis.
    Success and numbers are twins: “they all start from zero to infinity”. What makes the difference is the attitude within us and it’s this attitude that determines happiness, the joy that carries you forward. Many tend to mistake attitude for fear. We are all fearful but where we place our fear is what makes a difference. Put fear ahead it will lead you put it behind you lead yourself.

  4. Nice post.I became an “entrepreneur” or an “adventurer” (as you call it bhae) 6 months ago, I have been working hard much more than I used to but at the same time I feel Free and relaxed. I get to do so much more than just to “work”. most of it thanks to you :).. my question and struggle is that I don’t have enough blog readers and it feel that my message as much people as I want to, help….

    • More work yet you feel relaxed? That’s awesome, Aamir!
      About building an audience: it takes time. See this post by Chris Brogan -> http://www.chrisbrogan.com/ittakestime/

    • Muhammad Tausif

      Aamir, good to hear that you made a transition for the better. I am always curious to hear about people who have moved out from the “naukri” phase to a more independent life. So what’s your story? What did you do earlier and what are you doing now? And, most important, what did you do right?

  5. Timothy

    Great breakdown of the process. First time here. Liking it.

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