090: How to build a community-led membership – with Dejan Pralica

Dejan Pralica is the co-founder of Sole Savy, an exclusive sneakerhead membership community. In this episode, he joins Ward to discuss what are the benefits and challenges of creating a community-led membership.

✍️ Show Notes

📄 Show Transcript

This transcript is computer generated, please excuse any errors 🙂

Ward Sandler: Welcome everyone. Today, I’ll be talking to Dejan Pralica. Dejan is the co-founder of SoleSavy, an exclusive membership community that helps its members to find other true sneakerheads, collectors, and enthusiasts providing them with the right tools and resources to purchase the products they want for retail. 

Dejan, welcome to The Membership Maker podcast

Dejan Pralica: Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here. 

Ward Sandler:Being a community led company is a proven way to increase the lifetime value of members. What’s your advice on creating a thriving niche community? 

Dejan Pralica: Start with that and be honest with what you’re trying to build. I think a lot of people come into it trying to insert community into their membership or their brand or their company. And, I think people have a really good BS meter these days. It can come off inauthentic and again, like your driving motivation behind that is not you wanting to make something great for the community. It is revenue based and you’re thinking, Hey, let’s add community to this, and everyone’s going to love us. Think about the foundation of your company, your membership, your website, whatever you’re doing from the lens of how do I foster community from the very beginning? And if that’s the way you’re thinking about things, you’re inherently going to make the right decisions. That’s going to benefit you and the community, build that brand loyalty, build that equity with them and have them stick around long-term because they feel like they’re invested in whatever that you are doing or building.

Ward Sandler: Yeah. I think a lot of folks also underestimate how much work it is to actually create a real thriving community. It doesn’t just automagically happen cause you have a community forum available, right? So can you talk a little bit about how you sort of, I guess let’s say created the kindling for the community and kind of got it going?

Dejan Pralica: It took us almost 16 months to figure out the formula.

And I don’t know if it’s something where we could say, Hey, here’s the blueprint PDF guide for how to make a perfect community. Again, cause every space is different. Every person is different. Community building is genuinely touching the heartstrings of someone else on the other side of the screen, right? So you have to be adaptable to those situations. But for us, it was really, again, like every decision we made, we thought about how is it going to feel for one of our customers if I told them this and if my initial reaction was like, Oh, they might be mad. You know, that’s how you’ve ruined community. Because you’re not thinking about them first. So a lot of it was just iterating, and encouraging engagement and, you know, allowing people to feel like they were truly a part of it versus paying for it, right? Everyone understands they’re paying for it, but community needs to be really equal and that playing field needs to be level for everyone involved. Because if you don’t, then there’s micro fractions or groups, or it becomes a little elitist. You kind of get the, I’ll say the Twitter problem. If you’re an average person, you don’t have much incentive to be active on Twitter because who’s going to read your tweets. So, you know, one thing that we never will do and plan to do is have a follower account with an article, or you can follow this person you’re in the community, you follow all everyone. We specifically do our communities and cohorts. So it’s a little bit different. It’s not going to be 40, 50,000 people in one chat, but that’s generally the idea for us. 

Ward Sandler: Could you give an example of how you sort of encouraged engagement? Like you said, like you were trying to really get folks to engage and participate what you actually did specifically?

Dejan Pralica: So we were posting, we were starting the conversations. We wanted to see them start and do what we were doing,  consistently. So, for example, sneakers and upcoming releases, we would post every upcoming release. Early on heavily, we post all of them, so everyone would see them coming and that would start the conversation. And then we started to peel that back a little bit. For one week we’d post less and then some people would fill the voids because they would notice that like, Hey, they didn’t post this thing that I saw. No one else is talking about it. And we got to the point where in most of our channels, we don’t actually comment at all or participate. We just let the community create the threads, the stories, and interact with themselves. And then we go on and participate. What they’ve started versus us starting the conversation.

I think that’s very important and community building is that, if they’re not talking without you, you just kind of have a newsletter where people are reading what you say. They need to start those conversations and they need to have them on their own with, or without you at all times of the day on different types of subjects.

Ward Sandler: I think that’s a clever idea of, Hey, let’s post a topic, and then eventually we start clawing back how frequently we were posting about it. That’s an interesting strategy. I don’t know if I’ve actually heard that one before. I like it though. Were you concerned at all though? That if you didn’t post, no one would, like if you see like in the beginning, right? Like if you did, let’s say one week of like, all right, here are the sneaker releases this week. And then the next week you said, I’m not going to do it at all. And let’s see if anyone posts, that’d be maybe too soon to do that, right? 

Dejan Pralica: Yeah, you have to transition. And, and again, it’s not like it’s going to work full-proof. Every time you have to adjust, you know, there might be a day where it works great. And everyone does the posting and the next day, people are busy, right? It depends on the volume count of memberships we’ve been growing consistently. So we have the luxury of knowing, you know, currently we’re signing up 40 50 members a day. So any community that we do have has a new lifeline of people joining and participating. But yeah, you definitely have to ease people into it. You can’t take them cold Turkey, and to be in the community that is it. 

Ward Sandler: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Dejan, we really appreciate it. Would you like to share any resources or recommendations for folks trying to learn more about SoleSavvy? 

Dejan Pralica: Yeah, I mean, please check us out on solesavvy.com, it’s spelled wrong on purpose because when we did this, you couldn’t get the two of these in the domain name and why not? So check this out! Solesavy.com, same thing on, on social: Instagram and Twitter. If you’re a sneakerhead casual or experienced, definitely give us a look.

Ward Sandler: Thanks, Dejan. 

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