In a world where individuals are seeking belonging, everyone is trying to figure out how to create communities that provide their members with the safe and supportive space they are searching for. While this is obviously true for communities of faith, ideology, and identity, Lottie Unwin shared her secrets for creating a successful professional community.
Based out of London, Lottie is the founder of The Copy Club, a business that offers events and courses for a quickly-growing community of entrepreneurial marketers. Lottie manages a team of sixteen, including a Community Team, a Match Making Team that connects startups with marketing people looking for jobs, and the Brand Hackers Team, who run outsourced marketing teams for Founder lead brands. The Copy Club has more than 1,000 active community members who pay a monthly subscription. Lottie has more than 13,000 followers on LinkedIn, and her posts reach more than 25,000 readers. But it wasn’t always this way. Through our interview with Lottie, we learned about The Copy Club’s humble beginnings and what values have contributed to Lottie’s success.
So, where did it all begin?
The Copy Club was not born through Lottie trying to aggressively find a niche market, but rather as the result of her genuinely trying to find a solution for her own challenges. After completing her graduate training at marketing powerhouse, Proctor & Gamble, Lottie began a new position, leading the marketing efforts at a small startup.
“After leaving the corporate world, I found myself all alone,” Lottie recalled, “I missed working together with a team of people who could help each other out - both emotionally and practically. I didn’t understand why I was struggling so much when everyone else was doing just fine. So I started randomly reaching out to other people who worked in similar roles and asking them out for coffee.” Lottie soon realized that she wasn’t the only one looking for more support “Marketing can be really lonely if you don’t have a tribe,” Lottie stated, “So I decided to invite a bunch of the people I’d been meeting with one-on-one to a supper club together at a restaurant.”
“Marketing can be really lonely if you don’t have a tribe.”
She had no master plan for the creation of a new business. She was simply trying to find ways to meet her own needs and those of the other people in her industry. “Slowly but surely, the list of people who wanted to join our dinners got longer, until every event was fully booked!” At this point, Lottie decided to put together breakfast sessions that focussed on specific topics and other opportunities for people to share their wisdom.
It wasn’t until she quit her job and moved to India, however, that Lottie realized she had unintentionally created something far greater than herself. “I assumed the meetups would simply stop once I moved abroad,” Lottie said, “but the community members were getting so much value from each other that they were begging for more. I found myself organizing events from abroad, and that’s when I realized I’d discovered a real gap in the industry. I managed to create a useful resource that happened to have enormous business potential.”
When asked how Lottie grew The Copy Club community so successfully, she had a lot to say.
Listen to your community members
According to Lottie, one of the greatest contributors to her success is the emphasis she puts on understanding the ever-changing needs of The Copy Club community. “Because I essentially created The Copy Club to meet my own needs, I understand them from the inside,” Lottie explained. But as the community has grown and changed, she has kept her finger on the pulse from very close range.
“We have constant and direct customer insight, because we are chatting literally all day long."
“We have constant and direct customer insight, because we are chatting literally all day long, whether it be on Slack, WhatsApp groups, or at face-to-face and virtual events,” Lottie described, “When we are deciding what programs to offer, we simply look at the hot topics in the Slack conversations and then we turn directly to our community members to hear their thoughts. We’ll invite a focus group to provide feedback and help us shape a course that will provide genuine value to as many people as possible. We have lengthy voice note conversations with people who message us on Instagram, and we’ll get customers on the phone for a few hours just to hear what they have to say.”
Create brand advocates
According to Lottie’s experience, it’s important to identify the community members who really want to get involved and give them opportunities to contribute. “Our strongest brand advocates are the community members themselves and the founders who have been with us from the start.” As Marianna Gose Martinelli says, your early members have a disproportionate impact on your community in the long term, so you need to think of them as the seeds of your community. If they are taken care of, they will flourish and bring others into your ecosystem.
When it comes to building communities, Lottie believes that people often try to run before they can walk. “Founders are busy worrying about their 300 millionth customer when they haven’t even got ten,” Lottie laughed, “We exist totally at the service of our customers. We have no internal agenda or goals. We are simply trying to meet the needs of our community members in the most effective manner.”
Find the balance between humility and courage
While listening to and responding to the needs of your community members requires a lot of humility, you also need to know when to step up and do something bold. “At every juncture, I try to be humble enough to be see the opportunities in front of me and courageous enough to take them,” Lottie summarized, “You need to change your plan as the needs of your industry change and let go of the idea that you know best.”
“I try to be humble enough to be see the opportunities in front of me and courageous enough to take them."
When companies do this right, they will see success. “For example, when COVID hit, so many people turned to us after losing their jobs. We never planned to become a recruitment agency, but we realized it was what people needed,” Lottie said, “So we created a hotline for people looking for work, and pretty soon we were running a Match Making service that was helping more people than we ever could have dreamed of.”
Lottie was able to strike this balance only because she created a framework that was completely unintimidating, both to herself and those she was bringing into her community. “All people want is a safe space to connect with others, where they can show up and be themselves,” Lottie explained, “So we’ve kept everything super informal. Our meetups are at local coffee shops and restaurants, and even now that we have more than 3,000 members, we’re still just humans sending out a WhatsApp message to other humans about an event that we genuinely think they might find interesting.”