When it comes down to it, everything we do as business owners we do to turn a profit. And the most profitable businesses are created by happy customers, who come back time and time again.
(Unless you’re selling glass slippers with a lifetime guarantee – it’s back to the drawing board for you.)
But your customers aren’t the only people who matter. In fact, there’s one group with the potential to completely shake-up the hierarchy.
These people are your fans.
Yes, you heard that right.
If you think you said goodbye to your dreams of rockstar popularity back in the golden years before you had to make a living – you are wrong! These little ego-boosters are not reserved only for the pop-princesses and the punk-mistresses of the world.
In this article, I’ll discuss how and why any business who wants to grow can and should have its own troop of ‘Beliebers’ (I’m sorry, but it’s still a strong cultural reference).
What’s the difference between a customer and a fan?
Customers: You actively sell to them. Your aim is to convince them to commit to a purchase.
Fans: These are the people who love your content, are always dying to hear from you and want to share your stuff with their friends – just because.
To get customers: use sales copy.
To get fans: use content marketing.
And never the twain shall meet!
(But they will, that’s actually the point.)
World Class Brands Who Owe Their Fans
I know. ‘Fans’ sound a bit weird and needy.
But you only need to look at world-class brands like Innocent Drinks – think heart-achingly cute miniature bunnets on tiny smoothie bottles – to see that having a fanboy buzz around your product can skyrocket your brand and your sales.
Think about Andrex toilet roll, which, let’s face it, we buy for the puppies.
[Side note: Does the toilet roll even see any puppies? What happens when the Andrex puppies grow up? Anyway, let’s not put an unfounded dark spin on a nationally adored, household name.]
Both these brands have engaged with their target customers above and beyond traditional sales strategies. It’s content marketing, done very well.
How to build a fanbase for your small business – fast.
Step 1: Start a blog.
It really is the easiest, cheapest and most effective way to build your fanbase.
It will come as no surprise that blogging is my favourite way to help you connect – on a real, human level – with your target audience.
Companies who blog can benefit from a 50% increase in website visitors, compared to companies who don’t blog. That’s despite such forms of inbound marketing costing companies 62% less than ‘traditional’ marketing methods.
It’s easy, low cost and most importantly, you can do it yourself and start today. In fact, the best person to blog about your business is you. You are the expert on what you do and that’s why your customers come to you with their burning questions. You also know what kind of brand voice and tone you want to put across. And if you’re not sure how to do this, you can hire a professional copywriter to help you.
TIP: And for Pete’s sake do NOT forget to share your posts across your social media channels – these are the best places to engage with your fans. Treat your posts like conversation starters and get your fans talkings to you. I like to use Twitter and LinkedIn, but you can share across whichever channels work for you.
How to Build a Fanbase with Your Business Blog
Close your eyes for a moment.
Okay, you’d better open them again – there’s more.
Imagine that you’re mad for carpets. You make them, source them, sell them and fit them in people’s homes. You live and breathe carpets. You’re on the cutting edge of the carpet industry and if there’s a new development in the world of luxury floor coverings – you heard it first.
Now remember, this example can be applied to ANY BUSINESS.
Whatever you’re into, there’s an audience out there who’s either:
A: as nuts about it as you.
B: a rookie looking for insider knowledge to help them make a purchasing decision.
Keep these two people in mind. All will be revealed in the next section.
The Difference Between Fans and Customers
The two groups A and B above actually work in unison.
Group A: These are your fans, these are the people who follow you because of a shared hobby or interest.
For the carpet enthusiast, these are the people who could talk to you about thread counts ‘til the cows come home. And who can’t wait to read your blog posts every week, watch your videos and listen to your expert tips. These are the people who will really enjoy the content you put out as well as getting real value from it.
Group B: These people might not have the same burning passion for what you do as their buddies in Group A but they find themselves with an immediate need for something they probably don’t know a much about. Us fancy marketing types call these people ‘qualified leads’, buyers who are ready to make a purchase and are actively searching for services like yours.
Your goal is to convert these ‘qualified leads’ into paying customers. This is where your devoted fan-base comes to the rescue.
EXAMPLE: The first time carpet-buyer is searching the web and looking to the internet’s leading flooring-gurus for advice. And if you’ve built up a solid fanbase of people who are singing your praises all over the digiverse – that’s you!
These people might land on a blog post titled ‘The Top 5 Mistakes People Make When Choosing a New Carpet’. That’s going to catch the eye of a carpet-conscious industry newbie.
BAM! They’re in the market for a new carpet and they are already on your website.
That’s why fans are SO good for business. They’re doing your marketing for you, while you’re hanging around the internet looking at puppies and knitting woolly hats for inanimate objects.
So, fans are great. They create a buzz around your business but aside from that, they’re the people who share your passion for what you do and that’s the kind of positivity that can make your day as a business owner.
The Best Ways to Build a Business Fanbase
Let’s wrap things up with 3 practical actions you can take to start building your fanbase.
- Start a business blog – write a blog and stick to a regular publishing schedule. Fans will lose interest if you’re not consistent and find someone else to follow. If you really don’t have the time or the inclination to write regularly, contact a copywriter who can do this for you. And if the idea of starting a blog makes you feel like a millennial-wannabe, then you can stick to a more traditional variant like a ‘Latest News’ page.
- Social media – If you’re broadcasting material on your channels but not actually socialising with your fans, it’s just plain media. Use your social media channels to answer questions, share your recent project and comment on what’s going on in your industry – always with the aim of grabbing attention or starting a discussion. Always reply to comments from your followers. Sounds simple, but lots of businesses fall short when it comes to active engagement.
- Be current! Keep up to date with what’s going on in the world. Whether that be on Twitter, LinkedIn or by listening and commenting on Woman’s Hour (shout out to the Beeb). Don’t send uncensored waffle out into cyberspace, but use your brand voice to comment on current events in a way that’s in line with your values as a company and that will elicit a response from your followers.
It’s not rocket science but does require some time and some discipline. In the end, though, you’re guaranteed a return on investment that can’t be rivalled in terms of value for money when compared to traditional marketing methods.
If you don’t have the time or the inclination to write yourself, you can have a copywriter like me do it for you. You can even have a nosey at some samples in my writing portfolio.
Want more where that came from? Read my post ‘Blogging for Business’.
Have you already built a fanbase for your business? I’d love to hear about your experience and how it’s helped to build your brand.
Comments on a postcard.