Using the term ‘Tribe’ to describe your customer base might seem like a strange choice of terminology. However, this is exactly how Seth Godin chose to describe your top customers and supporters in his aptly-titled, 2008 book Tribes.
Godin was, in a way, harkening back to the good old, nomadic days when humans travelled around in bands – picking berries and whacking any animal that wasn’t quick enough to run away with large wooden clubs. Although the berries and clubs didn’t really factor into his analysis all that much.
Instead, Godin explains that for as long as we know, humans have needed communities to belong to. Back then, of course, these communities were formed for survival. We needed the support of our brethren in order to hunt bigger animals and carry more berries. But even today – when berries and cows are plentiful at every local Woolworths – we still cling to collectives thanks to the tenaciously hard wiring of evolution. (If you are selling clubs to whack animals with, and you’ve stumbled upon this article, you probably have far weightier books on far weightier issues to be reading).
Human beings can’t help it. We need to belong.
Godin, a marketer, then shows us how to we can use this inherent drive of man to build better businesses. If you haven’t read the book, we strongly recommend it. Ten years on, his message is still as important as ever. But for the time poor of you, let’s break down what it takes to build a tribe of your own…
The modern tribe
The modern tribal scene is a far different to that of days of old. T, though the same wants and needs are still there. Today, for instance, we no longer belong to just one. Instead, each person’s life and identity is defined by their commitment to dozens of different tribes. There’s your family, your religion, your old school buddies, and the people you work with. But it goes further, still. If you love Converse shoes, and own a pair for every occasion, could we not also consider you part of the Converse tribe? If you choose to shop at Coles instead of Woolworths, are you not a Coles Comrade?
If you’re reflecting on your shopping habits, and aren’t entirely sure that you’re comfortable labelling yourself as part of any commercial ‘tribe’ – ask yourself this question: have you ever bought a product you were so happy with, that you recommended it to your family or friends?
There you go. Not only are you a member of Product X’s tribe, you’re an evangelist.
This is, of course, the holy grail for ecommerce businesses. In a crowded, online market, breaking free of the digital constraints and having your offering touted by your customers in the real world is incredibly beneficial. You need a tribe, and you need them to advocate for you.
So how do you go about building your tribe? What are the best practices to follow? Here are Godin’s big ideas:
Reward your most loyal customers. We’ve written about building your customer advocacy through rewards programs before – but Godin does a great, and succinct, job of summing up why. The fact of the matter is, a small group of very motivated people is much better than a large group with a weak connection to your brand. You might have 1,000,000 customers today – but if they aren’t aligned with your values, there’s no reason they’ll won’t up and leave for a competitor if the prices are better. Take a look at this awesome article – 1,000 True Fans – for a great analysis of why this is the case.
Be a true leader. The biggest takeaway from Tribes is Godin’s assertion that all tribes share one common trait. They all have a definite, prominent leader. This doesn’t mean to say people are sheep, rather, that all great communities are founded on someone who breaks the status quo, and recruits like minded people to follow him. Being a true leader means being a true original – which is just another way of saying, develop a strong point of difference in the marketplace and dig your heels in deep.
Selling a product isn’t enough. Sell a movement. As we discussed previously, framing your product as a lifestyle is possible for even the most unassuming of brands. And this goes a long way towards the ongoing success of your business. Converse converts don’t just wear the shoes because they’re comfortable. They wear them to show solidarity with the countless thousands of basketballers, artists, musicians, gamers and skaters that have worn them in the past. Woolworths are ‘The fresh food people’. Marlboro target ‘Marlboro Men’. Apple products are for ‘The Crazy Ones’.
Selling your product in the new, hyper-connected era means starting a tribe. There internet provides too many options available to simply ‘have a product’. Your brand is a tribe. And that’s what really moves stock online.