Build a Fan Base for Your Business: Take Some Inspiration From Rock Stars
Cultivating Raving Fans and Brand Ambassadors for Your Business is Critical in Today’s Marketplace.
When I was 12 years old, I discovered Guns n’ Roses. First I heard the music, then I learned all about them, then I spent every dollar I had on merchandise. I was (and still am) a super fan.
Businesses can learn a thing or two from the music industry. They are experts at cultivating fandom. There is no reason why your small business or business-to-business SaaS company can’t do the same.
Today, the most relevant model for marketing is the word-of-mouth cycle. Even in digital marketing, the emphasis on what you can do after the transaction with branding and fan experience can truly drive future profits. Driving new interest towards your business isn’t enough. What you do after the transaction happens is just as important.
The Word-of-Mouth Marketing Cycle
Think about the last time you learned about a new “thing” that you might be interested in. Online advertising helps create some awareness, but the interest to make a purchase decision doesn’t happen until some word-of-mouth pushes the wheel forward.
The experience begins with the initial recommendation or chatter about a product or service or company. When this happens during a customer’s active pursuit of considering a purchase, the wheel takes off and can be pushed forward with online reviews and a customer-centric website.
Of course, the word-of-mouth cycle can take a dangerous turn if the experience is bad during the purchase. Companies of all size should take an agile approach to make the experience for customers exceptional. Outline the journey and put together new ideas and constantly be improving.
Once the purchase as happened, a focus on branding with an ambassador or fan program can help your business activate an army of potential salespeople in the field. Building brand ambassadors can also save you money on marketing and advertising in the future.
The Four A’s of a Brand Ambassador Program
The music industry has a formula for creating pop stars and they have a formula for activating fans around the globe for those pop stars. Here’s how you can apply the stages to your own program.
Appeal is the first step in your brand ambassador program. Is your brand customer-centric in its approach? How you talk about what you do should revolve around the problem you solve for your customers.
The music industry knows what kind of music and personality is going to appeal to certain demographics. Creating your brand around what you know about your audience is the foundation for everything else you do.
While you can play with different campaign ideas in your advertising, how you speak about your brand in your customer communication needs to be keenly focused on your brand messaging.
Constructing brand messaging should start by clearly understanding the why behind the purchase. Once you have a clear understanding of that, you can build a creative messaging approach and structure to how you speak and write about your business. Consistency in your brand messaging is how you build brand equity.
Advocacy is the second step in an effective brand ambassador program. Teach your customers and employees how to share their stories about your brand and encourage it.
The music industry has extremely shareable content to assist in this step. Since businesses aren’t typically creating catchy music and music videos, we have to teach advocacy differently.
Training your future army of brand ambassadors to advocate on your behalf isn’t as difficult as it seems, however. If they enjoyed the experience of working with you or loved the product, then they’re primed to do this for you. They just need a little encouragement.
Contests, referral programs, direct mail communication, little surprises, hashtags with a promise to share on social media might be all you need. The trick is to keep your following engaged with your own shareable content and encourage them to speak on your behalf.
Artifacts, or creating branded goods, is the next step in program development. The brand artifacts or “swag” associated with liking a brand takes us back to our teenage years when we used to define ourselves by wearing that shirt with the band we like on it.
There is a very deep need in our society to express our unique taste. For mavens, they have a deeper desire to be the first to express their unique taste for a thing. You can create mavens for your brand by loading them up with fun branded items that accurately express your brand but reflect your customer’s lifestyle.
People love free stuff. It helps them remember their great experience with you (just like a t-shirt helps you remember that great concert). Plus, the additional brand exposure that comes from artifacts found with your logo out in the real world drives new interest.
Access is the final step of a brand ambassador program. Make your best advocates feel special by including them in a fan club.
When Guns n’ Roses reunited and went on a world tour, they used social media to reactivate the fan base. They created a fan club that gave exclusive access to tickets to the tour before everyone else. In addition, they delivered one-of-kind fan club t-shirts and badges out to club members ahead of the concert and promised to look for fans at the stadium to feature them online or give them surprise seat upgrades.
What does a fan club for your business look like? You can use Facebook groups to create a similar experience with exclusive content or giveaways. Do you host events that you can provide V.I.P. access to? Examine what your customers perceive as the value to bring to them and find a way to give them more of it for free because they do so much for you.
Someday, at my funeral, everyone will sit in a moment of silence while Guns n’ Roses November Rain plays on a stereo. Even though I don’t walk around in their t-shirts anymore or listen to them every day, the experience of loving that band in my teens left a lifelong love for them. There’s no reason why your company can’t have a similar impact on its customers. Take a hint from the best in the world, and go out and create your own fans.