I’ve been to 97 concerts in my lifetime. I know this because every ticket stub of every show I’ve ever seen since I was 12 lay under a sheet of glass on my coffee table. Some of the stubs are signed by my favorite musicians; some are tattered and torn from the pouring rain through which I stood and sung for hours. Some of the tickets aren’t even tickets! They’re napkins or flyers I stole from the venue because I just HAD to get a memento from every event.
And each day when I look at those faded pieces of cardstock, I don’t just think about some of the greatest memories of my life.
I think about being a fan.
A fan who would stop at nothing to watch his favorite bands play live – even if he’d already seen them 8 times before; even if he had to drive three hours each way; even if he had to skip school to wait in line to get tickets; and even if it meant staying out all night and failing his marketing exam the next morning.
Because that’s what fans do.
But does the term ‘fan’ ONLY refer to a music lover, sports enthusiast or dedicated follower of a performing art? What about business?
Let’s ask Webster. It defines a fan as an ‘enthusiastic devotee or an ardent admirer or enthusiast.’ They also have related words for fan like: addict, aficionado, buff, bug, devotee, enthusiast, fanatic, fancier, fiend, freak, lover, maniac, nut, groupie; admirer, collector, connoisseur, dilettante; authority, expert; cultist, disciple, follower, votary; backer, patron, promoter, supporter; partisan, zealot; booster, rooter and well-wisher.
Aha! Interesting. So it isn’t just painted faces and screaming audience members; it’s simply someone who ‘loves your stuff.’ For example, maybe someone’s been to your website before. Bought your products before. Worked with your people before. Stayed at your hotel before.
Then one day they come to you and say, ‘You know, I just LOVE your stuff.’
If you ever hear those beautiful words come out of your customer’s mouth, congratulations – you have a fan. And fans are the most important people in your business.
Fans are better than customers because they’re devoted to you and your company. They stick with you and come back for more. And most importantly, they tell all their friends to do the same.
So the question is: how can companies create and keep their fans?
Well, since the term ‘fan’ is most often associated with music, let’s look at four great musical performers and bands – and see what they do.
Riding with the King
B.B. King has been playing the blues since he was 18 years old. Recently, I saw The King in concert on his 80th Birthday Tour. Wow! That means he’s been creating and keeping fans for over 62 years.
After the show, I figured out why he’s known as ‘The King of the Blues.’ It’s not because he’s a precise, gifted guitar player. It’s not because he sings with more soul than a church choir. It’s because he’s a storyteller. And his stories throughout the concert captivated 5000 screaming fans who will never forget “riding with the king.”
And why? Because it wasn’t a concert – it was an experience. It was unlike any of the other 96 other concerts I’d ever seen. That’s why I’ll go see B.B. next time he comes through town. That’s why I’ll buy his next album. And that why I’m using him as an example in this article that I’ll email to all of my clients and friends.
FAN CLUB RULE #1: Fans crave an experience.
The Best of What’s Around
I’ve been a hard core Dave Matthews Band fan since 1994 when his debut album changed the face of ‘jam rock’ forever. And by hard core I mean: I’ve seen him in concert I-can’t-remember-how-many times; I can play every song he’s ever written on the guitar; I’ve bought every album, every DVD, every t-shirt; even joined his fan club online so I can get advanced notice (and priority seating) for upcoming shows!
But then, in February of 2001, something happened. Something that almost killed me. DMB released their 7th album, Everyday.
And I hated it.
I listened to the CD twice on the day I bought – and never listened to it again. The reviews were terrible. And all of my fan-friends agreed that it was the band’s worst album to date. I was so disappointed, I felt sick. After all, this was my favorite band in the world and they’d let me down!
Were they about to lose me as a fan?
Because I knew that someday, they’d win me back. Even the great DMB was capable of making a mistake! And sure enough, one year later, they released their 8th album, Busted Stuff. And it was unbelievable. I listened to it over and over again. Then I paid $72 to see them in concert for the umpteenth time.
And why? One word: loyalty.
FAN CLUB RULE #2: Fans will stick with you, even when you make a mistake.
VH1 once did a countdown of ‘The Greatest Rock and Roll Bands of All Time.’ Their number one pick: The Rolling Stones. And I remember watching the program with my dad (another dedicated fan) who said, ‘I can’t believe they beat out the Beatles!’
‘Yeah, but the Beatles’ last concert was in 1966,’ I said. ‘The Stones are in their 60’s are they’re still rockin!’
That why, three weeks later, I skipped school to stand in line outside of a record store for three hours freezing my butt off with $700 worth of my friends’ ticket money in my pocket.
Because it was the Stones, man. THE STONES!
The show was unparalleled to anything we’d ever seen before – or would ever see in the future. My friends thanked me non-stop for three weeks. And I knew that everything I’d gone through was worth it.
Because that’s what fans do.
Come on, you do it too. How many times have you driven that extra few miles just to eat at the restaurant you love so much? How many times have you gone to store after store, looking to re-buy that ONE item you can’t live with out?
Just imagine if your customers did that for YOU.
FAN CLUB RULE #3: Fans will go to the ends of the earth for you.
With Or Without You
I first heard the song ‘Vertigo’ by U2 while driving to a speech one morning. After the song was over, the DJ said, ‘And that’s the new hit single from U2! Their new album just hit stores today. It’s called…’
And that’s all I needed to know.
I immediately exited off the highway and drove right over to my local record store. Within 5 minutes I had their new album in my CD player. I listened to it 7 times that day. Then I called every other U2 fan I knew and told them to go buy it. Then I burned copies for my friends. Then I listened to it three more times the next day. Then I spent $172 dollars to see them in concert when they came through town 9 months later.
Because when it comes to U2, nothing else matters. I just love them THAT much. I’m such a die hard fan that I don’t care what the critics say about the new album; I don’t care how much the ticket costs; I don’t care what else I have to do that day. I need my U2. And that’s that.
Would your customers do that for you?
FAN CLUB RULE #4: Fans don’t need to be sold.
Fans, Not Customers
The business world is obsessed with the word ‘customer.’ In fact, if you type in the word ‘customer’ on Amazon, 174,906 books come up. And if you type in the word ‘fan,’ 5,418 books come up.
My opinion? Customers, schmustomers. You need fans. Fans are people who will do your marketing for you, encourage and support everything you do, and most importantly, tell all their friends to become fans of yours too.
So, if you want to create and keep those fans, remember these four things:
Fans crave an experience.
Fans will stick with you, even when you make a mistake.
Fans will go to the ends of the earth for you.
Fans don’t need to be sold.
That reminds me: I was recently contacted by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) to give the keynote address at their 2006 convention. Right before signing the contract, I asked my newly acquired client an important question, ‘Why me?’
And do you know what he said?
‘I love your stuff.’
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
What are you a fan of?