How to build an engaged customer community

Carol Haffke The Shoe Garden

At a time when a business can easily be created by anyone with an idea, it can be difficult to keep your community engaged when their attention is constantly being pulled from one place to another.

The Shoe Garden, providing shoes exclusively for longer footed women, has attracted a community of women searching for a specific product, and we are growing the business based on the connections with these loyal followers.

Here are my top tips for building and sustaining an engaged community:

Know your brand

It seems simple but there are so many businesses out there who haven’t delved into the ‘what, why and who’ behind their brand – what makes them special, why they started and who they’re marketing to. Understanding the reason your business exists is key when it comes to engaging with customers who will ultimately be your community.

I have purposefully shared the journey of starting my own business with my customers so they are familiar and comfortable with my brand and I. It’s clear that I’m one of them… I wear a size 12 shoe so I know first-hand how difficult it has been to find gorgeous shoes that fit my slightly-longer-than-average feet.


An engaged community is built by making the people within it feel valued. Feedback is one of the most important tools you have as a business and it’s important to use it wisely. When you’re given feedback on your product or services, good or bad, it’s irresponsible not to acknowledge it and take it on board.

This will both improve your business and show your community you care about what they think and how they feel, in turn increasing their recommendations and further growing your community. We have conducted several surveys since opening the store and have implemented some great changes following feedback.

Acknowledge loyalty

If your customers are loyal to you, you need to reciprocate. Show them their loyalty means something to you. Acknowledging them may come in the form of invitations to special events, gift vouchers for their birthdays and I also try to remember people’s names and the stories they share with me.

For online customers we wrap the shoes like a present as they miss out a little by ordering remotely. We also includes packets of lollies with every purchase which people love. As long as whatever you’re doing matches the rest of your branding, your community will be appreciative that you took the time to make them feel special.

Grow and learn

Perhaps the most important thing you can do for your business is to learn as much as possible and be innovative. This keeps things interesting and will ensure people want to keep following you and being involved in what you’re doing.

Like many business owners I have been on a steep learning curve since opening the shop and I continue to be excited to learn, grow and try new things. A business that adapts with the times shows it’s willing to do whatever it takes to keep their community engaged.

Carol Haffke, Business Owner, The Shoe Garden