For small business owners seeking to stand out in a crowded market, finding and nurturing a “tribe” of loyal customers is critical to success.
But how can you uncover and inspire passionate fans and followers?
Here are seven steps to capturing and cultivating your business’s tribe.
1. Know what your business is all about.
To find the people you belong with, you first have to know who you are. If you haven’t already done so, create a mission statement and values statement for your company. This forces you to put into words what your business is all about, so you can communicate it to prospects.
Next, get crystal clear on your target market—the members of that tribe you’re looking for. The more specific your tribe is, the better. “Pet owners” is a pretty broad category. “Dog owners” is better, and “English bulldog owners” or “Chihuahua owners” are better still.
Finally, clarify your unique selling proposition (USP). What problems do you help your customers solve, and what differentiates your business from the competition?
If you sell dog accessories, for example, do you specialize in harnesses, leashes, and clothing for hard-to-fit dogs (like those aforementioned English bulldogs and Chihuahuas)?
2. Discover where your people are.
Like a new high school student trying to make friends, you need to scope out where the people you’re interested in spend their time. Social media is the best place to start.
Identify the social media platforms your target customers spend the most time on, whether Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. Spend some time “lurking” on each, researching the groups your target customers belong to, hashtags they use, and influencers they follow. Listen in to what they’re saying to uncover their problems, questions, or challenges to which your business can provide solutions.
3. Make the first move.
Ease into social media groups and conversations relevant to your target customers. Don’t do a hard sell—when you’re looking for your tribe, the whole point is to be authentic. Nor do you want to come off as desperate by begging or bribing people to visit your website, sign up for your webinar, or follow you on social media.
Instead, get your tribe to come to you by offering value and sharing your passion for what you have in common. If you sell English bulldog harnesses or clothes, post some funny video of a bulldog Halloween costume party or cute pics of your bulldog sporting his personalized harness.
In addition to online engagement, you also want to interact with your tribe in real life. If you own a local business, getting involved in the community, such as hosting events or participating in charitable causes, is a great way to find and grow your tribe.
4. Build relationships.
As you spend more time engaging with your growing tribe, both online and off, you can figure out what they respond to best—in terms of both format and content.
For instance, maybe your tribe likes humor and fun, or maybe they prefer serious socially responsible actions. Do they want to dress their bulldogs in bikinis and paint their nails, or train them and groom them to be show dogs? Do they prefer to attend live events, or are they introverts who only like to interact online?
As you learn what your tribe likes, you can give them more of it, deepening your connection.
5. Learn from your tribe.
Members of a tribe are interdependent. Once you’ve found an audience that likes what you and your business have to offer, give them some input into your business. Use your customer relationship management software, loyalty program data, social media analytics and other tools to identify your most loyal customers and talk to them.
What do they like (and dislike) about your business? Use this information to improve, and be sure to let them know you’re acting on their feedback. When you make your tribe feel important, they’ll feel even more strongly about your business.
6. Use your tribe to grow your business.
Tribes grow by invitation—and since everyone wants to belong, we all want to be invited.
Enlist your most passionate customers to build your tribe by spreading the word to their tribes. When people find a great product or service, telling their friends about it makes them feel “in the know.” Be sure to reward and thank your tribe for evangelizing for you.
7. Hire a tribe.
Your employees have a huge role to play in building your tribe. Hire staffers who share your businesses’ values and care about its mission. When your employees are truly passionate about what your company does, engaging with potential customers and building your business’s tribe will come naturally to them.
Follow these seven steps, be patient, and you’ll find yourself the leader of an enthusiastic and loyal tribe.