“The greatest ability in business is to get along with others and to influence their actions.” — John Hancock
I’ve been listening to a lot of Daft Punk lately. I think their new stuff is brilliant. Somehow the band can disappear for a few years without creating any new music, suddenly reappear, and generate immediate buzz. Yes, their music is fantastic. Equally so is the bit of mystery that they manufacture with their aloof comings and goings. But why are they able to re-capture an immediate following–especially among listeners who may never have heard of them (my nephew loves “Get Lucky” and last year he would have been like, “Daft Punk who!?”) Why did they choose to make “Get Lucky” their first single? And why does it overtly include Pharrell Williams? The answer: because Daft Punk understands that creating explosive success among True Fans exponentially explodes their success along the “Long Tail” of influence (and they get rich).
The always brilliant Kevin Kelly wrote an article called “1000 True Fans.” He argues that a craftsman only “needs to acquire 1000 True Fans to make a living.” He defines “True Fans” as those folks who buy everything the craftsman produces and sells, follows the craftsman in one form or another (in person, on-line, in networks), and are influential enough in their own spheres to elevate the Long Tail flat line into bigger, deeper dimensions. In other words, “True Fans” pull others in to their circles, their fandoms, and subsequently increase the craftsman’s total audience reach and overall success. A craftsman who doesn’t have to worry about attracting new clients (because her Fans do it for her) is freed up from one of business’ big stresses: buying an audience (and its cost).
“Get Lucky” was downloaded over 1,000,000 times following its release. So I’ve been asking myself: How can a small business accomplish something similar (smaller maybe, but still)? How can a small business learn from Daft Punk and use the principle of “influence marketing” to create True Fans who automatically help grow the business following the initial event (a sale in this case).
The basic problem for most small businesses is that they generally do a poor job of staying connected with their customers. It’s totally confounding given the zero-cost mechanisms for reaching out to folks. Nonetheless, it’s just what happens. A business owner invests in a marketing or advertising campaign, pays hundreds of dollars for a lead, maybe converts a cold lead, probably doesn’t. But if he sells something then the product is delivered, the credit card is processed, and the customer’s file is alphabetized and shuttled away. Meanwhile marketing costs keep increasing and owners become frustrated at crappy results, but they still spend the money anyway and grow a little more skeptical and on and on–never realizing that they’re sitting on a goldmine of data. Somewhere buried in a file cabinet they may have True Fans but they’re not doing anything about it. It’s time to start…
For the sake of discussion if a business owner decided to get serious about creating 1000 “True Fans” then he’d have to start asking some new questions and taking new steps towards generating influence:
Question 1: Who are your best customers? What does “best” mean? Most likely it describes a customer who was referred to the business–they entered the sales cycle voluntarily and knew something about the business beforehand.
Step 1: Filter your database by lead source and isolate customers who were referred to your business!
Question 2: Did they buy from you? Referrals have a typically high close ratio but it’s certainly not guaranteed that they will close.
Step 2: From the referral group further isolate the customers who purchased something from your business!
Question 3: Did they buy the best stuff and/or accessorize their purchase? In other words, are these folks who may have challenged you on price but eventually concluded that buying the best and/or accessorizing it was the smart choice?
Step 3: Of the customers who were referred and who purchased, further screen the group for “best-in-class” buyers.
Question 4: Are they connected to the business in any way? People who buy the best of anything like to talk about buying the best of anything. It’s a status thing for them. Did they refer others? Did they connect on a social media site? Do they follow your newsletter? Have you called them in the last month to say hello? Is there any connection or dialogue whatsoever?
Step 4: If no, then it’s time to reach out to high value customers who were referred, who bought the best stuff, who connected with your business, and who probably have their own circles of influence.
Question 5: Are they themselves influential? Do they have a Peer Index score? Do they have an active Facebook following? Are they tweeting? Are they Pinteresting? Are they blogging? Are they prominent in the community? Are they involved in charities? Do they live in a desirable neighborhood? In other words: Do they “move the needle” among their peers?
Step 5: Research your high-value influence targets. “Listen” to them using all of the free resources at your disposal. What are they talking about? What are they sharing with their peers? What are they “in” to? How do people respond to their sharing and their influence?
Question 6: Can you influence them so that they’ll influence you? This is just a matter of push-pull behavior. If you know what motivates your high value influence customer then reach out with a similar incentive (doesn’t have to be an item per se). Their recognition of your recognition can be enough to spark conversation.
Step 6: Create simple, low/no cost incentives to “push” at your influence customers so they will begin pulling their circle toward you.
Question 7: Are there super high-profile customers in your database? Affiliation with super high-profile fans is proven to generate positive influence and great buzz. A client in Tucson, AZ does work with the college football coach. He’s turned in to a fan and automatically creates business by virtue of his status in the community.
Step 7: Isolate your high-profile users and reach out to them with an invitation to participate in your company’s charity work or philanthropies. Grab a video testimonial or a Facebook post from them.
Question 8: Do I have a consistent plan to stay in front of high value influencers? Influence marketing demands regular contact. Once the flywheel starts to spin a business owner has to help keep it spinning with monthly contacts to the people who matter most.
Step 8: Proactively design a 12 month Influence calendar that highlights the specific types of reach-out and incentives directed at high value influencers.
Question 9: Do I have the gumption to make this part of my business? Influence marketing isn’t for everyone. But in a world in which it takes 30-40 “clicks” to generate ONE lead and the average cost of a cold lead is over $400 it may make smart financial sense.
Step 9: Gut check. Is your lead generation and client retention on auto-pilot? Do you view it as a necessary evil? Would you rather let your best customers do the work for you?
Question 10: Do my customers view me and my business as interesting and relevant enough to follow and recommend? This is a tough question. But it’s the right question to ask in terms of influence marketing. Everything else aside, the product and experience your produce needs to be worth 1,000,000 downloads. It’ll take time to get there but it’s worth it.
Step 10: Get strategically interesting. I highly recommend The End of Business as Usual by Brian Solis as a starting point.
Obviously there’s a reason Pharrell is included on “Get Lucky.” He’s an world-class musician and a gold-standard influencer. And it worked. The song blew up. And as I think through this topic I’m increasingly convinced that a small business can leverage a similar process in order to capitalize on “Long Tail” influence in order to grow their business, reduce costs associated with lead generation, and expand their visibility in to unseen circles.
More on this to come…Daft Punk is playing at my house…what are your thoughts?