Creating Fans

by: Doug Michaelides


I enjoy comparing notes with marketers in different businesses.  Recently I spoke to an executive with a professional sports team.  What she does is the epitome of content marketing.  

After all, for sports teams, the content is the product (although there are many peripheral revenue sources, like merchandise, that are enabled by that content).

I was struck by a basic difference in our language.  Whereas I talked about “customers” and “clients” she referred to “fans”.  I figured this was just the lingo one uses in the sports and entertainment business.  Then, the “aha” moment struck!

Thinking about customers as fans drives an entirely different approach to marketing.

Marketers often talk about creating a dialogue with their audience, particularly through social media.  The objective is to build a relationship that keeps a company top of mind for when the need for their services arise.  Hopefully that audience will also refer others to the company because of the relationship that’s been established.

Unfortunately, while these people are called an audience they don’t always get treated like one.  Sometimes they’re treated more like visitors to a used car lot – “marks” being pitched to visit a website or buy something.  If they were truly appreciated as an audience, we’d first try to engage them and to entertain them; to have them follow us and cheer for us; to turn them into fans rather than just sales leads.

Fans won’t forget us.  They will refer others to our company.  They may even become advocates for our brand.  And they’ll keep coming back for more.  But creating fans requires attention to the entire customer experience, from “opening day” awareness of our company through advertising or social media, all the way to “post-season” after-sales support.  

When you’re planning your next marketing campaign, don’t just ask yourself how many leads you’ll generate.  Think about establishing long-term relationships with prospective customers and influencers.  Relationships based on emotional connection, shared values and mutual benefit.  Ask yourself how many fans you’ll win over.

And while you’re at it, ask your Sales and Customer Service teams the same question.  Help them figure out how to create fans through their interactions with prospects and customers.

Who else but a marketing executive could coach your organization through that game?

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