I live in Chicago, and if you are a fan of sports, you’re probably familiar with one of our local teams. They are BELOVED by their huge fan base. Every season, they draw near record crowds, they sell out their century old stadium. They show up year after year, walking tall and proud of the team they have aligned themselves with. In a 2011 Harris poll, this team was voted the 4th most popular team in this sport – OVERALL. People love them.
So naturally, a team with that kind of following is beloved because of the immense success they have brought to the city, like for example a string of 6 national championships… I must be talking about the Chicago Bulls, right? Or how about the Blackhawks, they won the Stanley Cup just last year?
The team I am referring to is a Major League Baseball team, and they haven’t made it to the World Series, in over ONE HUNDRED YEARS.
We even have a competing professional baseball team here in Chicago, who HAS successfully brought home a World Series victory within the last 10 years.
If one looked at their statistics from a purely objective point of view, it doesn’t make sense that this team even exists still. And more so, why on earth do they have such a rabid following of fans, who subject themselves to disappointment, year after year?
“Maybe this year will be the year!”
Lets take a closer look at how a fan following can be established and grown, even in the absence of traditional measures of “success” – and consider some ways that we could apply those factors to growing our brand, and creating a loyal fanbase for our business.
Create A Unique Environment That People Want To Come Back To
Wrigley Field – its legendary. Sure, its 98 years old and is in dire need of a facelift (I’ve heard wild stories about the troughs in the mens restrooms – google it). But it has an old world charm that is captivating. Its exterior billboard is one of the most photographed sites in Chicago, and the rooftop seats in the outfields, are an experience you won’t soon forget.
Think about the experience that visitors have when they first find your website or one of your social media profiles. What is the experience there like? Is it unique? Is it memorable? Do your readers feel a connection to you through the copy and content on the site, that makes them trust you? Does it stand out from other sites that you have been to?
- Having an easy to read and navigate website is fundamental and very important. Nothing can turn people off more than getting onto your website, and not having any clue where to start. So tell them! Have a pop up, or a link in the navigation bar, inviting them to join you for a webinar, or on your email list.
- Provide unique content – If people get to your site and see really bland, regurgitated articles that some outsourcer overseas slapped together, their trust is out the window and they’ll be gone for good. I cannot say this enough – quality over quantity is the name of the game, and you don’t get a 2nd chance to win those readers back.
- Facts Tell, Stories Sell – objective writing has its place, but if its not supported with opinion and colorful commentary, your readers will get bored and move on. Even if they don’t always agree with your opinions, they are more likely to stay engaged for the sake of a debate.
- Make sure your brand, your logo, your graphics, and your color scheme fit with your target audience. Do they communicate authority? Do they communicate trust? Do they communicate the message you are trying to get across?
They call Wrigley Field the “Friendly Confines”, and the team itself has been coined the “Lovable Losers”. Case and point, people like to return to places where they are welcomed, where they feel camaraderie, and feel at home. Brings to mind the old Cheers song “Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name!” Familiarity breeds loyalty.
One of the most important things you can do with your brand or blog audience, is to connect with them socially, and make it meaningful. Make your website stand out from others, in terms of the welcome that users get when they show up. Take the time to leave a personal message to every person who comments on your blog, or one of your social media profiles – welcoming them and responding to them – think about it, do you know many other sites who take the time to do that, for ALL their readers? It would certainly set you apart.
Find ways to “give back” to your audience – perhaps in the form of giveaways, contests, exclusive coupons, free product, free training, or a even just a shout out. Maybe even feature a success story from your audience every week, and give them some fame on your site.
Creating active conversations with your guests and visitors, will turn them into loyal fans who feel like they know you, and they are welcomed by you. If you turn your website into the “friendly confines” of your industry, where they aren’t afraid to come and ask questions or be themselves, and you’ll have fans lining up to see what else you have in store for them.
Foster A Sense of Community, Commonality and Belonging
Ever notice how when times get tough, we cling onto the things that mean the most to us? Take our Cubs fans…. They cheer for that team, through hell or highwater, with absolutely nothing to prove for it. It’s like a badge of honor. The more they lose, the more Cubs fans cling to their team, praying for “next time”. Wouldn’t you love a “you can never fail” sort of fanbase like that?
Creating a sense of belonging and community, will bring your fans into your business a bit more, so they feel like they are a part of it, rain or shine. When people are invested, whether it be emotionally, socially or financially, they start to soften their critical eye, as they align themselves with whatever it is they are vested with. That’s not to say you want them to be invested so you can hoodwink them with crap products or service – thats not what I mean at all. I’m talking about winning them over with authentically – converting them from a casual visitor, who may still not be convinced that you are the real deal, to a raving fan who will sing your praises all day long.
So how do you foster this type of community?
Create a forum, create a “mastermind”, create a retreat, create a private Facebook page or group for your fans – where they can network, and fellowship with one another, and confirm with each other, how awesome you are. Grouping a community of like-minded fans together, who all share the same viewpoint (that you are, yes, pretty spectacular), will only further solidify and validate their appreciation for who you are and what your business stands for.
Mastering Controversy And Going Viral
There is something about the Curse of the Billygoat that is mystifying. Every time the Cubs get close to a World Series appearance something crazy happens (re:the Steve Bartman incident). Sure, most of us don’t *actually* believe in curses, but when crazy things happen year after year, it makes you start to wonder. I mean seriously, how can it go so bad for so many years? Odds should be better than 1 in 100 that you’d end up top of the standings eventually, right?
This curse keeps alive a hope, and fosters a continued longing to see things through, and to turn the curse around.
Think outside the box with your content, and your marketing. Try to think of ways that you could take a new angle on an otherwise bland topic, and make it controversial or a unique talking point that someone hasn’t considered. Consider how you could frame some part of your business in such a way as to create intrigue or mystery.
Just this morning, I was reading a great example. As a test, a woman took before and after photos of her supposed weight loss journey, and posted it on the web. People were congratulating her, saying how great she looked, what a change it was, and giving her huge kudos. That is, until a day or so later, she informed them that she took both photos about 10 minutes apart. She simply used posture, clothing and lighting to make the before photo look as bad as possible, and the after photo to look as thin and attractive as possible. She posted a great commentary on the experiment, discussing how the body in both photos was exactly the same, and how so much of our body image comes down to perception and how we view ourselves – whether we see ourselves as the frumpy girl on the left, or the thin, standing tall girl on the right – the body is the same, we just need to change our viewpoint. She created controversy, and then turned it into a great talking point, and selling point for her business (which just happens to sell fitness training programs).
And not only that, but her story went viral, and is getting media coverage all over the country. Just from one simple, “controversial” experiment.
What kind of controversial angle could you take in your business?
Mine might be putting the word “Loser” in the title of an article, case studying the fan base of the Cubs. 🙂 (My husband is a White Sox fan, so he’ll appreciate that I threw that in there).
Don’t Think You Have To Be THE Authority Or THE Superstar In Your Niche, In Order To Have a Voice
I talk to a lot of small business owners who are brilliant at what they do, and they run fantastic businesses. But so many of them are hesitant to “put themselves out there” because they aren’t well known in the industry yet, or they feel like they aren’t the most qualified to speak on a topic, or step up as an authority.
Come on people – the Cubs are the #4 most popular team in the entire MLB and none of that is based off of them being the “best” -by a LONG stretch.
So stop thinking that just because you haven’t put yourself out there yet, or aren’t well known in your industry, that people won’t listen to you.
Sometimes its the quiet ones, who haven’t yet really shown the world who they are and what they can do, that will come out of nowhere with the most amazing, genius ideas or products.
So step out, and put your skills and expertise out there for people to see!
When you back it up with authenticity, opinion, colorful commentary, community, great design, and you take the time to show or tell each reader how valuable they are to you… you’ll soon find yourself much like the Cubs – with a radically huge, “you can do no wrong”, loyal fan base who will stay true to your brand through thick and thin.