I recently re-watched a brilliant TED Talk by Seth Godin who explored the topic of how ideas get spread. He gave the talk in 2003, the year before Facebook launched and well before anyone had any idea how social media would become both an outlet and a curse for sharing information. Here we are nearly 15 years later, whizzing around in a funnel of technology and social sharing that no one could have predicted, and yet Seth’s words of wisdom are somehow even more prevalent today than they were more than a decade ago - and here’s why.
Seth talks about how big brands all followed a similar path in the 80’s and 90’s. Make a mass product for a mass audience and you’ll be successful. Back in the day, TV was all the rage and advertising was simple. Spend money on ads, gain distribution, sell more products, and buy more ads. This cycle made a lot of companies a boatload of money based simply on reach and critical mass. But in the early 2000’s when Facebook, YouTube, and other media disruptors offered a different and unique form of entertainment, advertising had to adapt. Which brings us to where we are today.
With so many methods of communication screaming for our attention every single second, no brand or business can rely on playing it safe and creating a product or service that appeals to many. No longer can we ignore the niche groups, because those niche groups just so happen to be the people who will spread our ideas. You simply can’t make a craft beer for craft beer lovers - you have to define your target market and make a beer that appeals to extreme sports loving, crochet enthusiasts who buy organic food and collect comic books. The smart business owner is the one who is hell-bent on creating something remarkable for a tribe that’s willing to listen, learn, and talk about the things that they love.
If you’re a small business owner, this concept is more applicable to you than anyone else. Without the million dollar marketing budgets and teams of laser focused salespeople, you need to work harder to define your brand and your customer’s role in it. So ask yourself, “Who is my tribe?” Who are the people who are going to drive across town for your cup of coffee and then not only snap a photo for Instagram, but also tell their friends over dinner about how you roast your beans, what the flavor profile is like, and what that morning cup makes them feel like inside? Who are the people who are going to flock to your event to hear what you have to say, spending hours of their free time inside of your carefully orchestrated commercial just to be the first to know and the one to spread the word to others who are willing to listen?
Today we need to be remarkable, which Seth Godin reminds us to mean “worth making a remark about”. To be remarkable doesn’t necessarily mean inventing something life-changing or creating an opportunity to enhance millions of people’s days. It simply reminds us that as business owners, we need to offer something that makes people want to talk about us in a way that resonates with others.
I’ve recently taken on the daunting task of buying a new car. Being a city person, I’ve never had to buy a vehicle, so adding my naivety on top of an already painful process made the whole thing feel anxiety-inducing. I had received several quotes over the course of a few weeks and I casually mentioned to someone in one of my new networking groups that I was in the market. He told me that he had a great salesperson who he had worked with for many years and that he would pass my details on. Within half an hour, the salesperson, John, called me and quoted me a great price which had me interested enough to drive 30 minutes to the dealership to test drive some vehicles that very afternoon. I met John with a warm handshake and a friendly smile and spent 45 minutes driving cars, learning about him and his family, and discovering his passion for his job. John made the process fun and exciting and he gave me confidence through his commitment to my comfort. I’ll have my new car in four days and he’ll have me talking about him for months to come.
John is a car salesman. He might not be changing the world, but he’s making it his priority to change the way people feel about buying a car. He is keeping families safe and ensuring that people get what they want at a price that they can afford. And he’s doing it all from a place that has no influence over the actual product that his customers are purchasing. He’s finding ways to connect with people and he is helping them through a journey that might otherwise be difficult. To me, that’s remarkable.
My experience with John and a poignant reminder from Seth Godin has me thinking more about how we can all do a better job for our customers. By committing to our tribe, we are committing our focus, our care, and our responsibility to be the best we can be to the people who support us. So let’s take a step back and work on creating things that people truly love. The rest might just take care of itself.