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Put your Customer at the Center and Create a Tribe of Passionate Fans

As local small business owners we have an opportunity to make a profound impact on people’s lives.  We all started our business venture because we had a gift or talent that we were confident could fulfill a need and improve someone’s life.

Yet, when many of us start to build and communicate our brand we disconnect that purpose. Brands can go into promotion mode – look at us, look at these great things we have done – instead of truly understanding and then giving their customers what they need to improve their life. And a reason to further the relationship with their brand.

It is only natural that we want to share and tout all the wonderful things we have worked very hard to create. And genuinely we want others to know so we can help them. The intention is generally rooted in a good place. 

However, it’s time to step back and adjust our thinking and approach to brand management. It’s time to put the microphone down, start listening, and put the customer at the heart of your brand to create a tribe of passionate fans.

According to Seth Godin - creator of the tribe concept as it relates to marketing - says a tribe is a group of people who are connected to: each other, a leader, an idea. People want to feel connected, inspired, and validated in beliefs. When we go into promotion mode, our message becomes self-serving and starts to interrupt daily lives instead of enhancing them.  People are left wondering where they fit in the brand relationship. When we start thinking of our customers as a tribe that you lead and care for, rewards will follow. Your tribe will rally for you, spread the word, and help you grow your business.

How can you put your customers at the heart of your brand and build and serve your tribe? Here are four tips to get you started.

1) Make the customer – not the brand – the hero of the story Relentlessly work to understand your customers and what they need and desire as it relates to your brand. Then keep them at the center of everything you do and say. Your brand becomes the guide – helping them better their life – and they are the hero in the story.  Think about Beats by Dre. In their brand messaging and recent commercials they don't talk about all the features of the noise cancelling technology. They highlight #abovethenoise and how the user or Tom Brady is more focused than ever.  The user is the hero. And they got there with Beats help.

2) Find the connection in shared valuesHumans have an intrinsic need to make connections with one another. We like to hang with a tribe of people, and support brands that share our values. The University of Kansas conducted a study that proved the desire for like-minded is hard wired. Whether a relationship develops could depend on the level of similarity shared in the first interaction. So providing empathy with our customers and connecting based on shared passions and interests can attract more people for the right reasons. As a result, the quality of the relationship is stronger and lasts longer. If you are a local fitness center you may find a shared passion for living a peaceful life. A construction company can align to building a better community. And a bakery may connect through a mission to feed less fortunate. These are purpose-filled and ideals a tribe can rally around. 

3) Deliver brand experiences your customers loveSo much of brand strategy is focused on getting the brand promise right. We work hard on what we desire the brand to mean to customers. This is important to have a vision – that clarity is critical. But, what comes after is even more important to brand elevation. We must create experiences to bring that promise to life. These experiences should be rich in value and intention. Look at them as opportunities to make a stronger connection, simplify the complex, make everyday tasks more fun—and win new fans in the process.

According to the Ad Age 2017 Top Agency Report, brand experience is growing faster than advertising, PR, CRM, and media, at a rate second only to digital. Look to Starbucks as a great example. They have created stores to welcome the community and to enable face-to-face connections. It’s beyond selling coffee, the experience reflects their mission to inspire and nurture the human spirit.


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