Assuming you’ve started to gain a growing group of fans for your product, your next step as a marketer becomes persuading them to actually buy it. And the key to doing this is to create and relieve tension – a sense of uncomfortable pressure to which your product offers the antidote.
One way to do this is to challenge their status – their relationship to a group and their position within its hierarchy. This the ranking system that tells them who has the most respect and power within the group. In this case, the group is the tribe that’s gathered around your product.
The easiest way to challenge your tribe members’ status and thereby create tension is to raise the prospect of separation. Most people want to keep up with their tribe; they don’t want to be left behind when it moves forward or changes direction.
By adopting your product, your tribe is doing just that; its internal culture is evolving. In the statement “people like us do X, Y and Z,” your product is becoming one of the variables. Your task as a marketer now becomes broadcasting the message of that statement.
How do you do that? It depends on the type of people who belong to your tribe and the manner in which they approach their status relationships. There are two basic approaches: affiliation and domination.
People who seek affiliation want two things: kinship with the other members of their group and reassurance about whether and where they belong within its hierarchy. To create tension among these people, you want to send signals of popularity. That could mean having busy trade show booths, getting celebrities to attend your product’s launch party or finding renowned authors to write a blurb for your book. Such actions will signal to everyone that the tribe is embracing your product or service.
In contrast, people who seek domination want one of three things: to climb the ranks of their own group’s hierarchy, to see their group outrank other groups or to achieve a bit of both. To create tension among these people, you want to send signals of, well, dominance.
For example, Uber did this in its early years by boldly taking on conflicts with local governments, competitors and even their own drivers. This sent a message to domination-oriented investors, customers and employees alike: “We’re here to win, and nothing’s going to stop us. So why not join us and become a winner, too?”
Unless you’re marketing a super specialized product that could only appeal to a niche audience, you’ll probably eventually want to move beyond your initial fan base and reach the general public, where a much larger market awaits.
To cross the gap between that fan base and the public, you’ll need to perform the final step of effective marketing: building a bridge that will allow your product to spread. But first, you need to know the nature of the gap you’re trying to span. It boils down to the difference between the two groups in question.
Your fan base consists of adopters, while the general public is primarily composed of adapters. As a result, you become popular with your fan base for the same reason you’re unpopular with the public: you disrupted the old way of doing things.
For example, imagine you’re a pioneer of online video streaming back in 2010. Tech mavens are eager to embrace your service – but the general public wants to cling to their DVDs.
How do you convince them to let go? How do you build a bridge to them?
A very powerful answer lies in a phenomenon called the network effect. It happens when a product or service becomes more valuable as more people use it. This sets the stage for a positive feedback loop: as more people use the product or service, it becomes more useful; that leads to even more people using it, which makes it even more useful, and so forth and so on.
Consider the case of Slack, an online collaboration platform for coworkers. Initially, it was embraced by a small fan base of people who were willing to learn the ropes of a new program that nobody else was using.
Once they had learned it, they worked on converting their coworkers into Slack users. Why? Because the more coworkers using the platform, the more useful it became.
So the platform started spreading – and before long, even if someone was a change-resistant adapter, they felt like they had to, well, adapt to the new Slack-ified reality of their workplace.
Why? Because they didn’t want to miss out on the conversations and collaborations everyone else was having on the platform. In sum, network effects can help your product go mainstream, and your initial fan base can lead the way.
With the rise of the internet and the fall of the monolithic mass media, marketers can no longer rely on advertising alone. Instead, they should take an approach to marketing that identifies people’s underlying needs and desires, develops a product that can fulfill them and uses value-positioning and storytelling to cultivate a core group of fans who are receptive to trying new things and can provide the product with it smallest v
With the rise of the internet and the fall of the monolithic mass media, marketers can no longer rely on advertising alone. Instead, they should take an approach to marketing that identifies people’s underlying needs and desires, develops a product that can fulfill them and uses value-positioning and storytelling to cultivate a core group of fans who are receptive to trying new things and can provide the product with it smallest viable market.
To spur these fans into action and encourage them to spread the message about the product, marketers should create and relieve tension by challenging their statuses and leveraging network effects to create a bridge between the fans and the general public.
Check out my related post: What is Supreme?