Launching any truly innovative product is hard. You have to create a market for it, rather than tap into an existing one, where everyone understands the need to be met and can simply be persuaded to try a different brand or approach. Instead, you have to move people from not being aware of any need for what you are creating, to a point where they’re ready to buy it. That’s tough.
To reach this point, consumers need to satisfy a number of different points, check off a subconscious scorecard, on which most factors – as every marketer knows – are emotional, rather than financial/practical. From FOMO to fashion, we’re pushed and pulled by a range of subtle pressures which are largely externally driven, when we’re really asking ourselves “is this something I want to be doing? Am I the kind of person who does this?” As legendary marketer Seth Godin has stated in This Is Marketing and many times before, purchasing decisions give us emotional fulfillment when we feel it connects us to a community or subculture. “People like us do things like this”.
Herein lies the challenge for the emergent tech developer, however, because you have to build the tribe as well as the product. Help people be people like that… when “that” is being defined as you go along.
You have to build a community around your product.
Sparking the Vision
Getting your message and vision clear is the mandatory first step because that provides the boundaries to your tribe. Is this me, does it resonate? Am I in this group or not? It doesn’t matter how many people you rule out, and it’s better to be crystal clear and explicit about your message. Godin talks about your smallest viable audience, and these are the people you’ll be targeting initially, your crowdfunders and early evangelists. ‘People like us’ should be able to identify instantly with your message, and know they have found a spiritual home with the destination you have created.
But that tribe of yours may be globally distributed, particularly in the blockchain startup world, and you have to do more than catch their eye. You need to provide pathways to that feeling of connectedness for them.
The reason they’re drawn to your message isn’t just about the product, it’s about being part of something with other people. And they need to connect with those others – potentially over a lengthy period, from pre-sale momentum building through to a successful launch (and even then when you’re a public success story, your original exponents remain your core supporters, in need of enhanced care and attention).
These are the people who will amplify your message to their own contacts, give you feedback on your ideas, help you define yourself within the competitive landscape, and ultimately put their own time and money into your vision. They are absolutely priceless to you and fundamental to your success. Neglect their needs at your peril. Alongside all the work you have to do to bring your product to market, you must invest in your community of advocates, or you will have no-one to market it to.
Tell your story
Your tribe needs news. They want progress updates, proof of concept, a celebration of milestones reached. They need validation from indirect sources, so getting written about in independent publications supports their decision to support you, as well as creating a sense of surround-sound – they were the first to discover you, but now you’re everywhere.
But your tribe needs more, because they’re your inner circle, closer to the action than the other people reading your updates on news sites. Advance notice of upcoming events, AMAs with founders, ‘behind the scenes’ content just for them… Making your brand and the people behind it human and relatable builds trust and loyalty as well as identity. And not all the content has to be polished and perfected – some quite informal video can work quite well for example, the lack of professional production adding a note of candidness and authenticity, compared with content for more public consumption.
Your inner circle needs direct access to the parts of the project they relate to – founders, for investors. Developers, for those interested in your tech and contributing to your open-source testing. You should reserve your richest and most intimate content for them, whether synchronous or asynchronous – supporters updates, private channels, ambassador or brand evangelist programmes.
As you move further out people still feel connected to you, just not quite as invested – perhaps literally – as those on the inner layers. They’re still ‘people like us’, looking for validation and updates to come to them, rather than to have to go looking – email newsletters, subreddits, telegram channels, they expect a place to engage with your content in the time and place of their choosing.
And they’ll buy – if not now then in the future.
Finally there’s everyone else, people who haven’t heard of you at this point, and have little interest in who you are or what you’re doing. They might never move closer to the centre of the circle, but you need to create messaging for them too, because they could get curious, and your aim is to build the awareness and brand recognition required to sink into their subconscious for when they need to access it – to become, ideally, the generic and verbified exemplar of your category.
Everything you create for these people also supports what you’re doing for those closer too you as well. When someone in your inner circle sees a news article about you on a popular site, they’ll glow with pride to be in the know, and part of something important.
… And Multiple Modes
We live in an onmi-screen world where we could drown in incoming content, if we didn’t all learn to manage it and be selective. We’re all learning that we can choose and curate how we engage with anything from friends to brands, and sometimes we want to do that in real time – such as tuning in for your AMA or discussing a code update in a live chat – and at other times, we’ll bookmark that article or video to enjoy later on.
So your brand messaging needs to cater to this expectation, from the Netflix culture, that your content can be consumed on their terms, and via a mix of asynchronous and synchronous channels.
If everything is in real-time, people feel pressured and coerced, they might opt-out in reaction, especially if it feels contrived in any way, eg “only live views of the webcast will qualify for the special discount” – remember your target audience, and as a result your tribe, is global – so real-time for one segment means the rest might be fast asleep on another continent. Plan your live events accordingly – maybe run your AMA twice or even 3 times, to ensure it covers all working days. And always offer a watch-back link afterward, along with a way to engage in the conversation asynchronously (such as “comment on this video”), so that everyone can feel involved.
It all reflects the brand values you want to convey to your tribe after all.
And to this point, remember that just because something is real-time or fleeting, it still exists forever in the online world. Ephemeral does not mean inconsequential, not in the days where a regrettable tweet can be screenshotted and shared long after you think twice and delete it, and anything you say targeted at one group must be regarded as fully accessible to the world at large. Never lose sight of this when considering your ‘special insider’ content – sharing an outtake from your last video session with your inner circle might help to illustrate your authenticity and humanity, but could it make someone who’s never heard of you judge you poorly – a future customer or investor?
Essentially every bit of communication you put out there has to be regarded as 100% public and forever, and to reach each layer of your global community you must create accessible and acceptable content for each individual.
It’s a challenge, but we can help, if you don’t have the resources to do it all in house. We can help you stay relevant, consistent, congruent and responsive – while you go and build your product.