“Showing up when things get tough is what customers will remember most”

Maryam Banikarim, Head of Marketing at Nextdoor on the importance of constant communication and nurturing neighbourhood values.

Izzy Ashton

Deputy Editor, BITE


Perhaps one of the biggest lessons from months of living through a global pandemic is that it’s the little things that matter. A hand-drawn rainbow in a front window; a smile and brief conversation with the supermarket cashier you see every day, or simply a wave to a neighbour as you both walk in through your front doors.

It’s these simple acts of human connection which are at the heart of Nextdoor’s ethos; the brand even has a wave built into its new brand identity. As a movement, the wave is designed to catch, to move from welcome to connection and to be passed from person to person. As Maryam Banikarim explains: “the message of kindness and having a neighbourhood to rely on is more relevant than ever.”

Banikarim joined Nextdoor as Head of Marketing in February 2020 and says it was a decision motivated by a strong belief in the power of what she describes as: “purpose-driven leadership and purpose-driven brands.” It was the neighbourhood purpose of the business that Banikarim feels so strongly about, a feeling she saw only grow stronger during the nationwide lockdown. People stepped in to help one another, their actions demonstrative of a community kindness that has perhaps not been seen in recent years.

“If ever there was a moment to connect with our neighbourhoods, that time is now,” says Banikarim. “It’s time for us to meet our neighbours, reach out to someone who’s lonely or support a local business. Or, simply, to wave.”

During this time, nothing has been more important than leading with empathy and transparency.

Maryam Banikarim

Constant communication 

As the crisis extended, it became more apparent to everyone that constant communication was the only way to support one another, whether within work or at home. Banikarim talks about how when the coronavirus first hit, the business ramped up internal communication, sending employees workplace and product updates, and dedicating a section of the weekly company-wide meeting to coronavirus. 

“It’s moments like these where it’s crucial to increase communication as we are all working remotely, and things are changing all the time,” she explains. The business also created a coronavirus internal website hub for employees with work from home tips and other resources. “During this time, nothing has been more important than leading with empathy and transparency,” she adds.

It wasn’t only internal communication that was front of mind for Banikarim at the height of the crisis. She also wanted to focus on what the business could do to help it’s consumers: “in moments like this you have to just go for it and push for ideas that will help people.” Her team set about building new products and features for users that would assist them in their day-to-day lives.

Showing up when things get tough  

Nextdoor also partnered with Barclays during lockdown to help “UK businesses directly communicate with new and existing local customers,” as Banikarim explains. Local businesses could post on the Nextdoor platform twice a month for free, with information such as new openings hours, delivery options and special offers. As Banikarim says, “it is vital that big brands collaborate to support consumers, echoing the positive community engagement triggered by the events of the past year.”

It has been proven during this global pandemic that brands that show up for their community are perceived more favourably by it. “Showing up when things get tough is what customers will remember most,” says Banikarim, as she highlights how she believes there has never been a more important moment for brands to step up for their consumers.

Indeed, she reveals that Nextdoor members in the UK are 61% more likely than the average internet user to favour advertising which shows how the brand is responding to the coronavirus and helping customers. But brand value propositions must be rooted in utility, believes Banikarim: “Ask how your brand might add value right now and also promote acts of kindness during this time.”

She points to Walmart in the US who sponsored Nextdoor’s Neighbours Helping Neighbours groups where people could find a neighbour to go shopping at Walmart for them. “This allowed people who needed help to find it, and also reduced the number of shoppers in stores,” she explains.

Consumers, she feels, want to hear from brands, “if you have relevant information and can share it in the right cadence,” she says. “No matter what business you are in or how you are affected by our current crisis, being in touch with your customers is still more critical than ever,” she adds.

We need our neighbours, now more than ever.

Maryam Banikarim

Neighbourhood values

Banikarim believes that the coronavirus crisis has only amplified Nextdoor’s purpose as it became more aligned with what the world needed right now: “neighbours helping neighbours and providing each other with a neighbourhood to rely on,” she says.  

“We believe that neighbourhoods are the mechanism of change,” Banikarim explains, whether that’s the community coming together to save a struggling local business, pushing tough conversations to be more inclusive or simply saying hello to your neighbours.

“Nextdoor is unique in that it’s built on proximity not preference, connecting people who don’t already know each other and who may have differing points of view,” she explains. She points out that everyone has a role to play within the neighbourhood as everyone has the capacity and ability to make a difference. It is within your neighbourhood that you can be exposed to difference, of opinion, political affiliation and perspective. Building an understanding of difference is essential to creating an inclusive community.

“Proximity has never been more important”, Banikarim says as she offers her advice to a world trying to navigate its way through myriad uncertainties and difficulties.We need our neighbours, now more than ever”, she adds. It’s a belief she feels will carry on the other side of the crisis and a piece of advice cemented in the importance of connection. Of building a community right outside your front door because you never know when you might need it. 

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