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10 ways to create genuine fans for the long term

3 min read

Marketing Strategy

This guest post is by Jeremy Epstein, founder and chief marketing navigator at Never Stop Marketing. It is adapted from his free e-book, “10 Ways to Cultivate Your Community: How to Create Genuine Fans for the Long-Term.”

Community. Advocates. Raving Fans.

It’s almost accepted marketing gospel these days that you want passionate people to evangelize your brand. If you have that, your network will do the targeting for you.

It’s also pretty widely accepted that the way you create these dedicated fans is to  “be remarkable” (Seth Godin) or “put dent in the universe” (Steve Jobs).

But, once you have these fans, what the hell do you actually do with them?

You know, of course,  that you shouldn’t be spamming them relentlessly, asking them to fill out 25-minute surveys or giving them incentives that reward the wrong behaviors.

Here are 10 things you can do:

  1. Provide personalized acknowledgment. It’s not social media; it’s social media. The individual, no matter how “influential” (or not), deserves to be respected as a human being with value. If you do that, good things happen.
  2. Connect like-minded folks. Evangelists are fueled by meeting other believers. If you connect them with each other, the value of your network grows. There’s actually a mathematical formula that backs this up. It’s called Reed’s Law.
  3. Understand the core motivation. They aren’t connecting to you because of what you do. As Simon Sinek brilliantly put it, “people don’t buy what you do, people buy why you do it.” Figure that out and you’ll be able to give them more of what they want.
  4. Offer the opportunity to participate. Don’t just offer simple contests; offer real involvement. Dell’s Ideastorm is a classic example here.
  5. Curate content. Clay Shirky said, “It’s not information overload, it’s filter failure.” Be the filter for your community about what’s relevant to them and they won’t have to go other places.
  6. Participate in a relevant way. Going all the way back to the Cluetrain Manifesto, “Markets are conversations.” If you’re at my house and I’m talking about football, you wouldn’t just say, “Hey, when will you buy my product?”
  7. Offer social proof. Robert Cialdini in his book “Influence” (review) tells us how much we value the opinions of others and how we look for clues in their behavior as to what we should do. Let your community know what others such as them find valuable.
  8. Provide exclusive experiences. If everybody can do it, it’s not special. When you give your community special access, that builds loyalty, word of mouth and excitement.
  9. Create unexpected moments. You want your “message” to be remembered, right? Well, the single biggest determinant of whether we recall something later is determined by emotion. And (positive) surprises create emotion … opening the door to help you secure your position in the mind of your community.
  10. Act with “no strings attached.” Tim Sanders wrote a great book called “Love is the Killer App,” and he is right. What feels better? “I’ll give you X, if you do Y for me” or “here’s X … just because we appreciate you?”

And yes, there’s return on investment in this approach … but you’ll have to check out page 2 of the e-book for that.
Hint: it’s not about “monetizing fans.”

Programmatically and consistently use these genuine community cultivation activities and you’ll soon grow an asset so valuable that the IRS will probably start taxing it.

Your turn: What’s worked for you?