Read an Excerpt
THINK LIKE A ROCK STAR
HOW TO CREATE SOCIAL MEDIA AND MARKETING STRATEGIES THAT TURN CUSTOMERS INTO FANS
By MACK COLLIER
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Mack Collier
All rights reserved.
Rock Stars Are Fans Themselves
Perhaps the biggest reason why rock stars have fans instead of customers is that rock stars are fans themselves. Think about it. Rock stars are obviously going to be fans of their own music, right? This means that they are, by definition, members of the very audience they are trying to connect with. This also allows them to have a deeper level of understanding of their fans. Add the fact that rock stars are constantly connecting directly with their fans via concerts and appearances, and you can see how easily rock stars not only understand their fans but feel an actual emotional connection with these special people. The following example perfectly illustrates how rock stars understand their fans and their point of view.
Nettwerk Defends a Music Fan Accused of Stealing Its Artists' Music
In 2006, David Greubel received a rather ominous letter from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the music industry's governing body. The RIAA was contacting Mr. Greubel to let him know that it was seeking a judgment against him because it believed that Mr. Greubel's home computer had been used to illegally download songs off the Internet. Some of the songs that the RIAA believed had been illegally downloaded were performed by artists that were being managed by Terry McBride, who was the CEO of Nettwerk Music, a music label based in Canada.
When Terry found out that the RIAA was pursuing legal action against Mr. Greubel, he immediately got involved in the process—but not in the way you might think. Nettwerk Music contacted Mr. Greubel and informed him that if he would fight this case in court, Nettwerk would agree to pay any and all legal fees and judgments associated with the case. The case did indeed go to court and was eventually settled, with Nettwerk paying all associated fees.
Why in the world would Nettwerk essentially turn its back on its own industry to support a music fan who was accused of stealing music from its own artists? Because Nettwerk felt that the RIAA was ultimately hurting its artists by suing music fans. Nettwerk was able to look at this situation through the eyes of the artists' fans. Terry understood that while supporting legal action such as this might result in a few dollars for his artists in the short term, it would probably erode the trust between his artists and their fans in the long run. He was willing to side with the music fans, even if it meant drawing the ire of many of his peers.
As you're thinking about how you can become better connected with your customers and cultivate fans of your brand, please keep the following in mind at all times. Your customers won't become fans of your brand unless they understand your brand and feel that your brand understands them. Only when this happens will they begin to let their guard down and trust you. Once that trust between your customers and your brand has been established, they may begin to advocate for your brand.
Terry McBride understood that when they shared music online, music fans weren't trying to hurt the artists that his label managed; they just wanted more access to more music. He also understood that you shouldn't attempt to legislate the behavior of teenagers! His position was that he needed to understand and accept the behavior of his fans, and to think about ways to work with it instead of against it. This is why he's opposed to the RIAA suing music fans, and why he supports services like Spotify that make it easier and cheaper for fans to get access to more music. As a result, music fans develop greater respect for Nettwerk and are more loyal to its artists. So if your brand wants to cultivate fans, then you need not only to gain a deeper level of understanding of who your customers are, but to help them understand your brand and what it stands for as well.
A few years ago I saw a cable special on the Harley-Davidson brand. Harley-Davidson is what many people would consider a rock star brand. The host was talking to a Harley-Davidson executive about the company's marketing efforts and whether the brand did a lot of market research in an effort to better understand its customers. The executive immediately noted that Harley-Davidson was in constant contact with its customers because its employees rode with them all the time. The point this executive was making was that Harley-Davidson doesn't need to consult a spreadsheet or hire a team of business consultants to learn who its customers are. The company understands its customers because they are part of the same community. Its executives love their motorcycles just as much as their customers do, and they enjoy using them in the same ways their customers do and interacting with their customers. Simply interacting with customers on the open road, even if it's only a few at a time, gives Harley-Davidson's executives key insights into who the company's customers are and why they buy its products.
So if you want to better understand your customers, you need to become better connected to them, and they to you. Luckily, the rise of social media and digital technologies has made it easier than ever before for you to interact with your customers and better understand them. For example, I just did a Google search for Harley-Davidson, and there are more than 160 million results! No doubt buried in these results are thousands of Facebook pages, groups, forums, and message boards run by fans of Harley-Davidson. Now granted, your brand may not be as big as Harley-Davidson, but the odds are that your current and potential customers are online and creating content about your brand and your marketplace. That content might be on their blogs, on LinkedIn Groups, or on Twitter. The point is, the content is out there, and it gives you a wonderful chance to learn more about who your customers are and how and why they buy your products. We'll do a deep dive into how you can monitor the online conversations your customers are having in Chapters 7 and 8.
For right now, start by simply Googling your brand and your competitors. Then start doing the same searches with Google Blog Search, which will show you what bloggers are saying about your brand and your marketplace (http://www.google.com/blogsearch). Another site you may find useful is Boardreader.com, which is a search engine for posting on message boards and forums (http://boardreader.com/). Start playing around with these free online search engines and you'll start to get an idea of the conversations that are happening online that involve your brand and your marketplace. This is a very simple method that you can start using today to get a better understanding of what your online customers are saying about your brand.
Graco Creates a Successful Blogging Strategy Powered by the Same Audience It Wants to Reach
If your brand wants to cultivate fans, it pays to be part of the same community that you are trying to connect with. Rock stars have always done a wonderful job of this, and it's possible for your brand to do the same.
A perfect example of this is how Graco structured its strategy for its blog when it launched it in 2008. When Graco was ready to launch a company blog, the brand decided to first invest several months in monitoring online mentions of its brand. It took this approach because not only did it want to understand the online conversations that were happening that involved its brand, but it also wanted to discover who was participating in those conversations.
Finally, Graco was ready to launch its blogging strategy. In my mind, there are three key elements that made this strategy so successful. First, Graco needed to decide who the target audience for its blog was. After spending several months monitoring the online conversations involving its brand, Graco determined that the primary audience for its blog would be young parents with young children. That was the first step.
Then it decided that the content on its new blog would focus on parenting and would deal with issues and situations that its target audience was grappling with every single day. Too many companies create content on their blogs that's very self-promotional. The end result is that the company's blog becomes little more than a digital version of its weekly circular. Graco could promote its products on its blog, but it would do so in the context of discussing the larger topic of parenting, which is far more valuable to its readers.
Now Graco knew whom it was writing for (young parents with young children) and the focus of the blog's content (parenting). The final element of its blogging strategy that Graco needed to decide on was who would write the blog. This is where Graco had a stroke of genius. The company decided that since it wanted to write parenting content for young parents with young children, why not pick bloggers who were ... young parents with young children? Graco was smart enough to pick bloggers who belonged to the community that the brand wanted to connect with. Readers of Graco's blog are more likely to pay attention to the content because it's written from a point of view that's familiar to them: their own.
The content resonates because it addresses situations and problems that the readers are already dealing with.
How successful has this blogging strategy been for Graco? As of 2007, 68 percent of all online mentions of the Graco brand were positive. A year after Graco launched its blog, that figure had ballooned to 83 percent, and total online mentions of the brand had doubled at the same time. By becoming an active participant in the online conversations about its brand, Graco had changed those conversations.
Note that the brand started by doing research to determine who was talking about the brand online and what those people were saying. With those findings, the brand could flesh out its content strategy and determine who would blog for the brand. But the foundation of its successful blogging strategy came from Graco's first investing the time to learn as much as possible about the conversations that were happening online involving its brand. By doing this, the company began to understand the people who were involved in those conversations. The impact that understanding your customers and their point of view has on your marketing and its effectiveness cannot be overstated.
Earlier we talked about how Harley-Davidson executives connect with their customers by riding the open road with them. In much the same way, Tim League makes a point of watching movies in his theaters alongside his customers. This allows him to enjoy the same experience they have and better understand what shapes that experience, as this example shows.
Alamo Drafthouse Throws Customers Out; Movie Fans Love It
Let's make a quick list of some of the things that annoy us when we're watching a movie at a theater:
1. People who talk loudly during the movie
2. People who talk on their phones during the movie
3. People who text on their phones during the movie
Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League agrees and even trains the ushers at his movie theaters to throw out any customer who is engaging in behavior that's distracting or bothersome to the other moviegoers. In 1997, League adopted a strict no talking policy at Alamo Drafthouse. He realized that some patrons would be upset about the policy, and might even take their business elsewhere. So why did League adopt such policies at his theaters? He did this because he is a fan of watching movies at theaters, and of the experience that's unique to that setting. As a fan, he knows what behavior distracts from that experience, and he has policies in place to ensure that such behavior isn't tolerated.
In 2009, Tim attended one of his theaters and helped throw out a customer who was talking during the movie. The customer then followed Tim to his car and hit his windshield! League blogged about the event, and not only refused to apologize for his actions, but clearly stated that the customer was welcome to never come back to his theater!
What's been the reaction to Alamo Drafthouse's no talking or texting policies? It's been overwhelmingly positive. In 2011, a teenager was booted from an Alamo Drafthouse theater for texting on her phone. Shortly afterward, she left a profanity-laced voicemail at the theater complaining about being kicked out of the theater. Alamo Drafthouse took her voicemail and turned it into a video that is shown before movies. Here's the video, and, warning, it does use profanity: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IL3eeC2lJZs.
After it was posted on YouTube, the video went viral and drew millions of views. It garnered national media attention for Alamo Drafthouse and its CEO, whom Anderson Cooper called a "great American hero" for kicking out the texter (http://blogs.indiewire.com/thompsononhollywood/alamo_drafthouses_kicked _out_customer_worst_moviegoer_ever#).
Alamo Drafthouse's customers love League's strict policies about behavior during a movie because they understand that he's trying to create a better viewing experience for everyone. League is approaching this as a movie fan, not as a CEO. This is a big reason why Alamo Drafthouse is so popular with movie fans who want to watch movies in a theater. They know that if they go to Alamo Drafthouse, they will get a better experience because League is working hard to ensure it.
If you can find ways to improve your customers' experience and environment, you are communicating to them that you understand their point of view. This is an incredibly powerful way to connect with your customers, earn their loyalty, and cultivate fans.
How Does Your Brand Become Part of the Same Community as Your Fans?
Rock stars have an inherent advantage over most brands when it comes to connecting with their fans in that they want to connect with their fans. They thrive on connecting with their fans. As a result, they better understand their fans, and their fans better understand them.
If your brand is at a place where you are disconnected from your customers, what do you do? Recall that in the Graco example, the brand invested months in monitoring and tracking the online conversations that its customers were having. Its goal was to understand who its customers were and what was important to them. Sure, Graco had probably done customer surveys and had a good idea of who its customers were and what was important to them, but it wanted to know what its customers were talking about right now, and what role the brand could play in those conversations.
This is a key distinction. Graco wasn't trying to control the conversations its customers were having, nor was it trying to ignore those conversations. It wanted to be an active participant in those conversations. Its blog gave the brand a vehicle that allowed it to become a part of the community it was trying to connect with. By doing so, Graco now had a voice in the ongoing conversations that involved its brand.
It pays to invest the time in understanding who your customers are and what motivates them. Please keep in mind that this goes beyond simply monitoring online conversations. You need to pay close attention to offline communications that your customers send you. What are your customers saying in the letters they send you or during their phone calls? Even if these communications are complaints about your brand, pay close attention to why your customers are complaining. What are they saying about the things in their daily lives that prompted them to reach out to you? For example, if a customer writes to tell you that your toaster intermittently fails and adds, "As a single mother of three, I am rushing to get my children off to school every morning, and I don't have time for this!" you've just been given valuable clues to this customer's life and lifestyle. It pays to dig deeper and get real insights into who your customers are, because that will give you ideas about how you can create value for them.
Always Think About How You Can Create Value for Your Customers
In the Graco example, the company did extensive research to determine who its target audience was and understand how it could create value for them. Think of this as Graco's admission ticket into this community. By creating content that was valuable to this group, Graco earned its attention.
I just gave an example of a single mom of three writing your brand a letter to complain about a toaster that you sell. Let's say your brand sells different types of kitchen appliances. You start researching the feedback you are getting from your customers on your appliances. You consider letters written to your company, blog posts, Amazon reviews, and even tweets on Twitter. After spending a few months compiling the responses from your customers, you note that in 23 percent of the responses, there is some mention of how your products either save time for your customers or waste time for them when the products fail. Additionally, 38 percent of the customer feedback on your products contains some mention of using the product in the preparation of a particular meal. In those cases, 78 percent of these responses mention using these products to make breakfast.
When you examine the research, it may indicate that your products are popular with parents who are trying to save time, especially when they are making breakfast for their children. There's your value proposition for the content that you will create. You want to create content that shows parents how to create healthy meals for their families quickly. And since these parents are already strapped for time, showing them how to create meals that can be cleaned up quickly would probably be a nice touch as well! You could even expand this to add an offline element by creating inperson events where chefs cook healthy meals for families in 30 minutes or less, using your products.
By adopting this strategy, you are creating content that's crafted from your customer's point of view. The customer's core problem isn't, "How do I buy more of your cooking products?" It's, "How do I cook a healthy meal for my family in less than 30 minutes that can also be cleaned up quickly?" If you are solving the customer's core problem, you are giving her a reason to purchase your products. This makes your content more customer-centric, which makes it more relevant to the people you are trying to reach. This, in turn, increases the loyalty of these customers, which makes them more likely to tell others about your products.
Excerpted from THINK LIKE A ROCK STAR by MACK COLLIER. Copyright © 2013 by Mack Collier. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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