Speak the language.

Every tribe has their own language.

Sometimes that language is easy to understand. Most of the time it’s not.

Sometimes a tribe’s language is all about words. A tribe’s experience and values gives certain words different meaning and weight than in other tribes or in our culture as a whole. Sometimes a tribe’s language extends to images, video, music, or other forms of expression.

Failing to speak a tribe’s language, or attempting to speak one without being fluent, will at best leave you tolerated and at worst get you laughed out of the community. To truly connect with your tribe, you must speak their language like a native. Not familiar with using tribes instead of demographics in your marketing strategy? Check this post out. 

Sometimes You’re Already a Native…

If you’re courting your tribe, your business is probably in its infancy. It’s small and nimble, and you’re personally involved with most of its operations. What’s more, you’re passionate about what you’re providing. You may already be fluent in your tribe’s language.

If your new app is helping gamers connect with each other in new and amazing ways, you’re likely a gamer yourself. You can speak their language with ease, you know all of the in-jokes, and you know what your tribe will respond to best. Even better, you know which words and ideas to avoid to keep from sounding out of touch. 

…But Sometimes You’re Not

If you’re not already a part of your tribe, your attempts to speak their language aren’t likely to be as effective. Just like two people speaking a second language to each other, communication will be difficult and rife with misunderstanding. And just like your 10thgrade Spanish class, learning your tribe’s language requires study time.

Listening is one of the first steps in learning any foreign language. Listening to how your customers speak in the spaces where they feel most comfortable clues you in on the vocabulary they use the most. Location is important here. If your tribe hangs out on Instagram, images probably make up a large part of their language. If you’re more likely to find them on Reddit, memes, in-jokes, and text-based comments have a bigger role to play.

Speaking is the next step. Interact with your tribe in their preferred environments. Talk shop. Get to know how they feel about the types of products you’re offering, as well as how they view your competitors.

Evaluating your proficiency as you go lets you determine your level of fluency. Leverage feedback loops to learn how your customers are reacting to your messaging. If your tribe is indifferent to your attempts to speak their language, keep listening and speaking to sharpen your skills.

Finally, remember that all language is deliberate. You could learn to speak a foreign language by reading random sentences out of a phrase book, but everyone around will be able to tell you’re not a native speaker. You can only gain fluency by refining your skills and opening yourself up to the language’s nuances. Your tribe’s language is no different.

So what makes your tribe’s language unique? Are you already fluent, or are you taking steps to learn?

Engaging your tribe

Ever stood by yourself at a gathering? There are people all around you, but you’re not really connecting. There’s an invisible barrier you need to overcome. How do you get around it?

Option A: You jump up and down waving your arms wildly.
Pros: You’ll get tons of attention while burning a few extra calories
Cons: It’s tough to keep up a conversation when your tie is bouncing up in your face.

Option B: You spill your drink on your neighbor’s dress.
Pros: They’re definitely paying attention to you now!
Cons: Dry cleaning bills are expensive.

Option C: You listen in on a conversation and add a relevant story when it’s applicable.
Pros: Your audience is engaged and interested in what you have to say
Cons: You have to wait for the right opening.

Just like that party, your tribe is busy interacting with each other, building relationships, and sharing opinions about brands like yours. Sure, you could engage them by thrusting your message under their noses, but that’s not much different than jumping up and down and yelling. To truly engage your tribe, you need to find the right opening. Fortunately, these openings are everywhere. Remember, if you’re not speaking their language, it’s going to be hard to spark that conversation.

How to Engage Your Tribe: Four Ways to Get Lasting Attention

  1. Delight them – Your tribe’s world is full of delight. There are new products to try, pretty pictures to like and share, interesting articles to upvote and comment on, and countless ways to enjoy deep and meaningful conversations about things that matter. Become a source of delight to your tribe, and they’ll seek you out.
  2. Enrich them – When I was a kid I was really into dinosaurs. I read books about them, used my dino toys to carry out countless prehistoric wars filled with sudden yet inevitable betrayal, and gorged myself on t-rex shaped chicken nuggets. Anyone who could tell me something new about my dinosaur pals instantly earned my adoration. Your tribe’s tastes are probably a little more sophisticated than my childhood obsession, but we don’t change that much as we grow. If you can offer your tribe a way to interact with and understand their passions more fully, they’re likely to come back for more.
  3. Support them – Everyone has problems. As you created your brand, you probably thought hard about what your potential customers’ struggle with. Keep that thinking going. How can you support your tribe, whether or not they choose to purchase your product? Could you create a blog that offers advice and solutions to problems your tribe faces every day? Could your customer service team go above and beyond, both before and after purchase? This ties back into delight too – sometimes providing someone with an unexpected smile can be enough to elicit their engagement.
  4. Connect them – Your tribe wants to connect. Engage them by creating a space to do so. Maybe that means building a platform where they can share pictures, videos, stories, and information. Maybe that means carving out a space on another platform where members of your tribe can connect over their passions. You don’t need to create the next Facebook to help your tribe connect. All they need is a space where they know they’ll be heard.

Engaging your tribe isn’t much different from any other human interaction. Give them something that encourages, empowers, delights, or enriches them. Be generous, and they’ll respond with their loyalty and attention.

How are you engaging your tribe?

Delighting your tribe

As human beings we’re wired to be delighted. We crave that burst that comes when we see, hear, or experience something that makes us go “ahh…” Whether it’s fireworks on a balmy night, an extra scoop of ice cream on your triple-decker cone, or finding the perfect pair of shoes (and on sale, no less), we want that sudden spike of joy.

Your tribe’s no different. If you want to engage them, you need to evoke delight.

Delighting Your Customers

How would you feel if I walked up to you and gave you an exquisitely decorated, sumptuously baked cupcake? Unless you’re skipping carbs this week, you’d probably be pretty happy.

You can give your tribe that cupcake, though it’d probably look a little different.

What made that cupcake so delightful?

  • It looked great – time and thought was put into its design.
  • It filled a need – you were hungry, and that quick sugar fix would definitely hit the spot.
  • It was special – it was much more beautiful and delicious than what you’d make for yourself, or what other people have made for you
  • It was unexpected – it’s not every day that someone hands you a cupcake.

Delighting your tribe means hitting those same notes – providing an experience that is remarkable, that meets a need, that creates a unique and special feeling, and that your tribe’s not expecting. Great tribe leaders provide that delight from the first interaction, increasing loyalty and priming your tribe to spread the word about you to their friends.

How Does Your Tribe Spell Delight?

Your tribe will find different things delightful. Understanding how to evoke that feeling comes down to their specific problems and needs. Buyer personas can be a great help here.

Meet Dave. He’s a busy guy: he works sixty hours a week at a busy financial firm, helps his wife manage her candle making business, and spends his weekends biking for charity. His busy schedule keeps him from finding time to care for his pride and joy – his beard.

Lucky for Dave, you have the solution. Your comprehensive beard-care system reduces grooming time through an ultra-fast trimmer and an all-natural beard moisturizer that promotes fullness and helps keep stray hairs in place.

Dave’s gonna love this. But how do you get this busy guy to give you a chance?

Delight him. Start with a website that looks great and is easy to use. Give him a way to solve his problems: a blog with beard-care tips, a Facebook page where other bearded men can gather to discuss their experiences, a video series demonstrating faster ways to keep facial hair in great shape. Give him something a little special or unexpected – maybe a free ebook or a sample of your moisturizer if he signs up for your email list. Most importantly, do all of this before Dave becomes a customer.

When you provide Dave with a great experience before he gives you a cent, you establish yourself as a trustworthy, helpful, and genuine organization. You become a source of support, empowerment, and, yes, delight to him, rather than a faceless company trying to get him to make a purchase. You become someone he wants to do business with, and he’ll be enthusiastic about telling your story to other members of his tribe.

Delighting your tribe means exceeding their expectations before they consider buying from you. It’s a great way to start a relationship, and a powerful tool for keeping that partnership going strong.

Supporting your tribe

We all have problems.

You have problems. I have problems. My dog has problems.

Your tribe is no exception.

Are you solving your tribe’s problems? Of course you are, right? Your product or service was designed to make your customer’s lives easier and better.

Problem-solving is the core of product development, but in a way this mindset can be limiting. If you rely solely on the problem-solving abilities of what your company provides, you miss out on fantastic opportunities to support your tribe and earn their loyalty in other areas.

In other words: why can’t your marketing solve problems too?

Tribal Marketing and Problem Solving

The tribal marketing mindset is filled with possibilities when it comes to solving your customer’s problems. From creative apps to webinars to the humble blog, you can creatively connect your tribe with the support they need.

But let’s back up a step. What are your tribe’s problems in the first place? Talk to colleagues working in Support and Sales to find out. Then, keep an eye on your tribe’s favorite places to gather to learn more about the problems they don’t bring up to your business. Both sources provide plenty of fuel for your problem solving fire.

So you’ve got the problems: now it’s time to provide the solutions. Your blog can be a tremendous asset here. How-to style articles are a great place to start. Leverage your enterprise’s expertise to create content with authority. Your tribe will recognize writing that truly solves their problems (as opposed to web content that uses lots of words but doesn’t really say a whole lot) and provides actionable advice. If a blog post solves their problems and makes their lives better, they’ll even share it with their friends. Win-win.

Branch out into other platforms to proactively solve your tribe’s problems as they arise. Keep an eye on Twitter, check out Quora, browse through relevant forums, and mine any other useful channels for problems that you can solve. Then… solve them! In the same channel, give your tribe reliable advice for the problems they bring up, and let them know about other resources you can provide for additional information.

You can provide expert solutions to your tribe’s problems, but don’t let that keep you from leveraging the wealth of knowledge your tribe has within itself. Your tribe has problems, sure, but they also have answers. Give them a way to help themselves. Create a platform where questions can be asked and answered and advice freely given. Maybe you create a new forum. Maybe you post a question on Twitter and crowd source answers. Maybe you accept guest blog posts from experts among your tribe. Become a facilitator of constructive and useful conversation and your tribe will flock to the space you create.

Your tribe may be unique, but no tribe is free of problems. Leverage your team’s expertise to provide answers to your customer’s biggest questions to start building an authentic and lasting relationship

Supporting your tribe

Your tribe is a curious bunch. They’re not content to leave their hobbies, interests, and needs unexplored. Instead, they’re eager to comb through the internet’s miles and miles of unrelated information to learn more about what they consider important. They’re hungry for knowledge, and if they find a new fount of reliable wisdom they’ll be loyal to that source.

It’s time to step up.

Enriching Your Tribe with the Knowledge They Want

Generally, there are three types of people who may be interested in the product or service you provide. There are the people who are very knowledgeable about your area and are specifically researching what you’re offering. There are the people who are deciding exactly where your product fits in the greater market. Then there are the people who don’t really know much about you or your tribe at all, but are very interested in learning. You’ll want to engage each group differently.

So let’s say you have a new product that’s going to revolutionize the world of kitesurfing. It’s a new spreader bar and chicken loop assembly that leads to massive air time, especially when working with overhead waves. How’s your tribe going to react?

It depends on who you ask.

If you ask someone who’s researching you specifically, they’re going to want to know all the details. They’ll want a taste of what you’re offering. They’ll want videos proving that your claims are valid. They’ll want feedback from other members of their tribe that have tried your product and love it.

If you ask someone who knows about your product but aren’t sure where you fall in relation to your competitors, they’ll want a little more information. Give them FAQ pages, spec sheets, webinars, live demonstrations against competing products.

But what about that last group, the one that also happens to be (by far) the largest? How do you enrich the members of your tribe who don’t really know what they don’t know yet? It’s all about awareness.

Spreading Knowledge

When you’re passionate about your product, it’s easy to talk to people who already know who you are and can fully understand what you’re telling them. It’s not so easy to talk to people who don’t have a context for what you’re saying. In order to reach those corners of your tribe, become a source for context. This is where writing becomes your best friend.

Your tribe has questions about your area of expertise. They don’t understand the jargon. They don’t understand the equipment involved. They don’t know what a chicken loop is. They don’t know how it all works. They’re looking for someone to tell them. Creating content that meets that need is a great way to build loyalty.

One of the most enduring ways to enrich this part of your tribe is a blog. Research common questions newcomers have and write posts that answer them. Research less common questions and write posts that establish you as an expert on that topic. Research how your competitors are fulfilling your tribe’s need for information and do better than them.

From there, expand to different media. Create educational videos. Design infographics. Jot down some really clever Twitter posts. Get on Snapchat. Go to where your tribe lives and create the types of things that they’re most likely to share with each other. If you can enrich your tribe with real, usable information, they’ll start to spread your story.

In a marketing landscape that’s been product-focused for so long, it can feel a little strange to willingly provide potential customers with value without expecting anything in return. But education is an investment, and if you make it your tribe will respond.