Does Your Business Have a “Tribal” Following?

What are “Tribes”?   Just look around, and you’ll see “tribes” everywhere.   We’ve all seen the Apple Computer tribe members who put those little apple stickers on their cars, but have you ever thought about what’s going on here?  Why do people feel the need to tell the world they are part of one tribe or another?

The fact is tribes are a force with remarkable power within client relations.  The money spent by people wanting to identify themselves with tribes is amazing.  In 2010 it’s estimated that over 200 billion dollars was spent on sports-related merchandise alone.  Two hundred billion!  People wait in line for hours, even days to throw down hundreds of dollars on the newest iPhone, which is really not any more capable than any other cutting edge smart phone.

“Tribes” That Revolve Around Member or Client Relations

Here are a few more examples of tribes and the things people buy to identify with them.   As you read this short list, consider just how much people are willing to spend to show affiliation with their chosen tribe(s).

  1. Sports team tribes: clothing, bumper stickers, tickets, cable channelsA company's tribal following is more about connection and belonging than about trade.
  2. Family tribes: travel destinations, foods, clothing, where they live
  3. Product tribes: Polo, Apple, Nike, Chevy
  4. Religious tribes:  books, foods, tithes & offerings

It’s really amazing when you consider it.  Human beings have a deep need to belong, and tribes cater to that need.  The fact is, though, being a tribe member is not so much showing that you like a particular product or organization; rather it is the meaning/message behind that product or organization.  It’s a very deep emotional connection, and “emotion” is the key for building personal relationships with clients.

So how does that relate to marketing your product or service?  The connection might not be obvious, but the underlying power of tribe (emotion) is a powerful tool you can use to build personal relationships with clients and connect with your market.

Let’s identify a few examples of “tribal drivers.”  These are the things that make buyers want to be part of the YOUR tribe.

Examples of Tribal Drivers For Building Trust with Clients

There are several reasons clients may choose to work with you over other businesses. They may do business with you to…

  1. Be “part of a group” of savvy business owners who realize the value your product or service will provide.  (loyalty)
  2. Do business with a “Family Business” just like their own. (affinity)
  3. Buy a product from a company that will always “stand behind” their products no matter what! (honor)
  4. Buy a product with a long “tradition” of quality.  (trust)
  5. Be “part of a group” of like-minded business owners pursuing the American Dream.  (something bigger than us all)

Certainly there are others, but you get the idea.  The key is tapping into the power of tribes for client relations by deciding what exactly is YOUR tribe?  What’s the message/emotion behind what you do, building trust with clients?  Once you identify this, you have to share that message.  Your tribal driver will become a compelling reason for your customers to join your tribe and become a morale booster in the culture of your company.

What you can learn from this is to think a little differently about how you market and sell and think about client relations.  Rather than focusing on just presenting a particular feature of your offering, consider presenting it within the context of joining your tribe.  What does it really mean to do business with you?  What emotions are associated with it? Apple figured this out and has a tribal following any business would envy.

You’ll present many of the same ideas as you always have, but now just framing them within the concept of “tribe” can be a huge help in building personal relationships with clients.  And like any strategy, you don’t want to overuse it or it becomes awkward and obvious.  Used effectively though, “tribes” are powerful way to connect with your potential customers that your competitors almost certainly don’t use.

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