I started my first business 9 years ago, when I realized that the need to do something new overcame my need to maintain status quo. I just couldn’t do the same old sales job any more. So I gave my 2 weeks notice and started finding ways to make my ideas reality.
The first thing I did was to research my competitors, I wanted to know what they were doing and what I could learn from them. Now, you gotta realize that searching for information in Toronto 9 years ago was very different than what it is today. In 2006 we didn’t have a Facebook, and Google wasn’t as popular, so I had to use very specific queries. Eventually I found what services were competing in Toronto. Most folks had some sort of web presence, but they had a poorly made website, typos, color clashes; but what got me most was the lack of testimonials on their website. (This was before Yelp!) That gave an epiphany that is still invaluable today. I needed to build an army if I wanted to ‘conquer’ the world.
Just like in warfare, you will have different units for different purposes. Below is a breakdown.
BUILD YOUR ARMY:
-Prospects have heard about you and are curious about what you’re doing. Before they make any commitments they will look for the reason why they should care.
-Followers are the largest part of your team, they have learned your cause and have found it interesting, and want to find out more. Leverage a website, update you blog and send them a newsletter biweekly (too frequent can cause over exposure). They will buy from you regularly, but you DO NOT have their exclusive attention.
-True fans: These are your 20%. These are the people to go to the leafs game, cry because they sucked and go to the next game anyway. They are walking talking advertisements of the brand. Usually between 2-4% of your follower base and are committed to your success.
On a RFM (Recency, Frequency, Monetary Value) chart they score a 5 5 5 (that’s considered best customer) and you must spend your time and energy making it worthwhile to keep these folks coming back. Best practice is to have them actively market your business through social media….
-Allies: Like minded individuals who are in the same boat as yourself. On a similar journey.
-Friends of Friends: Represent your extended network. As an entrepreneur utilize what you get, and that includes (primarily) human capital. Make sure to expose yourself to as many people as you can. If you need something, chances are that these people will know the right person.
Now that you can visualize every component and why it is important to have an army, we will work on the plan.
PLAN OF ACTION:
1. Recruit your army
2. Train and Reward them
3. Ask them for help
Ready to recruit people to your army?
In 2015 people are bombarded with a ridiculous amount of information coming at them from every direction; be it the cellphone, computer, friends, advertisements, out of home… Especially if one lives in a metropolitan area such as downtown Toronto or the GTA, there is always someone competing to get your attention, in order to sell you something. If you are in the business of making money, then chances are that you are one of those people, but don’t be ashamed, you are doing this to answer a need. And make your army help you with every step of the way.
The first thing you will need is to decide on a platform… What is the medium you are going to use to communicate to your people? Is it a social media platform? A website? Are you going to set up a mailing list on your website? The internet is a scalable option that will allow you to reach tons of people (as long as you play by the internet rules).
The second step you will take is to let people know that you’re looking for help. People who visit your website are prospects, walk-ins your shop’s prospects. Why should they give YOU their attention instead of your competition? What makes you special? Is it your brand? Your incredible service?
Once your prospect has a ‘reason’ to join your ranks (even following you on social media counts) you will begin to reinforce the concept that they are part of something bigger. People tend to like people who have similar thoughts, so build a community of like minded people. One more thing you must understand is that not everyone is a potential recruit for your cause. Disclamer: make sure that your niche is something that people are interested in, but isn’t too saturated, otherwise they could subscribe to another cause.
Lets talk about how you would reward your followers.
Once a prospect has been converted to a follower, you will have to work to nourish that relationship. There are a few ways that could be done, but we will focus primarily on motivation. Without getting to Freudian, you can ask yourself why you listen to the same genre of music, or visit the same website, time after time. The answer would be that something about it motivates you, however, if the website stops producing new content, you will eventually stop visiting it.
Any behaviorist will tell you that motivation has 3 forms: education, inspiration and entertainment. Try to mix and match your efforts as you will be able to engage different people with different types of content; but don’t forget your goal. What is your call to action in all this? do you want them to visit your website? Vote? Buy? What is going to motivate your follower to see your message on their own (to be differentiated from noise – banners that can appear, but are irrelevant). This is where you will have an advantage over competitors.
Now comes the the fun part in the training – the reward. The best part is that a reward doesn’t have to be monetary. Pay attention to your army, communicate and give them personal recognition. Some experts recommend writing a personal thank you note. If you have enough followers, that are driving in business, you could attempt to have a giveaway. To do a little something that allows your army to feel your presence. A little extra, and that would take you a long way, especially if you utilize social media gracefully (without making it obscene).
What remains now is to ask your army for help. Once you have created awareness, converted prospects and created true fans, you can ask them to help you. Small things to begin with, join my mail list, complete a survey… You want to get a feel of who your average follower is and where they fit, just so you can communicate better to them.
So once you have established some sort of communication, your army can help you do various things.
a. Spread the word- if you refer back to the graphic of the friends of friends, when aggregated, your followers know a lot more people than you. Utilize that fact to spread your message to new people, to raise awareness and get new prospects. Nourish these prospects and grow your army exponentially. Just make sure that when you ask your army for help, you are being specific. Ask them to put you in touch with relevant people, to tag a friend who might need your service, or share your article with someone whom they think may find it interesting. It’s a game of quality over quantity.
b. Help you connect- this coincides with section ‘a’ but it still deserves a section of it’s own. As an entrepreneur, especially in the Toronto area, you will rely heavily on word of mouth marketing. Having your army connect you with people whom they think will appreciate your work is something you want. You are out there to build ties with people, and there are two kinds of ties. Strong ties, which are people you know directly (friends). Then there are weak ties, who are people known to your network (friends of friends). Leverage the strength of weak ties to maximize your exposure – once again be specific.
c. Provide financial support – in the day of Kickstarter and Tilt, using crowdfunding can be is highly lucrative. Send your army to spread the word and they can help your funding campaign turn in profitable. If they support your business they can refer friends to your business. Remember that once again, the theme of quality over quantity comes into play. If you have a couple hundred true fans, they will come in much more handy than a thousand followers. However, there is some litigation and legality involved in Canada regarding funding (lets take a moment to thank fraudsters), but there are some changes and appeals made in order to make it easier for startups to raise funds.