Saul Colt on building a community: It’s like dating a pretty girl

“Building a community is like making love to the customer,” said Sault Colt. “You can’t just disappear in the middle of the night.”

Colt, the Head of Magic at Toronto-based real-estate search engine Zoocasa, knows a fair bit about marketing a brand.

Along with bringing Zip Car car sharing franchise to Canada, he’s also been Head of Magic (a title that follows him around) at online invoicing service Freshbooks where he ran several successful community building efforts (Colt refuses to call them “campaigns” as a campaign is something that ends.)

He shared his wisdom in Ottawa last night to a crowd of entrepreneurs at the first Ottawa Sprout Up event.

Colt compared the process of building a community around a brand to dating. There has to be an introduction, followed by an initial attraction that leads to the courting stage.

In the courting stage, Colt emphasizes that it’s about doing nice things “because you want to,” not expecting a reward, though the process can be rewarding.

For example while working at Freshbooks in 2008, Colt and company drove an RV from Toronto to Texas for South by South West, meeting up with customers along the way, many of whom who also attending the conference. The result was a KISS Army-like group of cheerleaders at a major industry event.

Finally, getting through courting and dating leads to love, the stage companies want to reach.

“If people are in love with your company, they’re going to talk about you,” said Colt. Be it blog posts, Tweets or other public forums, loving a company gets people talking.

Colt also emphasized that while he has respect for ad and PR agencies, the community building work should be done in-house.

“No one is going to care more about your business than you,” he said.

What this “dating” comes to is word-of-mouth marketing, which Colt said he believes is still the most effective.

” ‘How did you hear about us?’ is the greatest metric,” he said.