Most creatives I know hate marketing. They want to write, speak, or entertain. But they hate the thought of promoting themselves or selling their art.
If this describes you, I have good news. Marketing is dead.
Okay, maybe I am overstating my case.
Marketing may not be dead, but, in the world of social media, it has morphed. Dramatically.
Tribe-building is the new marketing.
- Marketing is no longer about shouting in a crowded marketplace. It is about participating in a dialogue with fellow travelers.
- Marketing is no longer about generating transactions. It is about building relationships.
- Marketing is no longer about exploiting a market for your own benefit. It is about serving those who share your passion—for your mutual benefit.
In his groundbreaking book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, Seth Godin defines a tribe as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.”
I reviewed this book right after it came out in 2008. It is just as relevant today as it was then. It is the first book I give to new authors. It is must reading if you are serious about building an enduring career as a creative.
Seth says that a tribe only has two requirements:
- A shared interest
- A way to communicate.
It is easy to think of examples:
- Apple users—Just visit a local Apple retail store. People aren’t just there to buy products. They come to share their passion and interact with other enthusiasts. While other retailers struggle, Apple can barely keep up with the demand.
- Dave Ramsey fans—He has built an immense tribe of people who are passionate about getting out of debt and taking control of their money. It borders on religious fervor. No wonder. His philosophy has given hope to millions.
- Don Miller readers—His first book, Blue Like Jazz was on the New York Times bestsellers list for months. He tried to make a movie based on the book but couldn’t raise the money. But his tribe wouldn’t let it die. They raised the money themselves.
- Evernote users—Who would ever think that a simple software database would engender such a large and burgeoning tribe. But with over 12 million registered users, Evernote has attracted a diverse and passionate group of users.
I am a proud member of all four tribes.
But here’s the key for creatives. Building a tribe is your ticket to enduring success. This is what platform is all about. It is a way for you to connect to your tribe.
How do you build a tribe? Let me suggest four ways:
- Discover your passion. Marketing is the act of sharing what you are passionate about. Nothing more. Nothing less.
For example, Gary Vaynerchuk runs Wine Library TV. He has a huge tribe that didn’t exist a few years ago. It all began when he discovered his passion for wine.
Millions of people tune into Gary’s short video program daily to discover new wines and better understand the wines they love.
- Volunteer to lead. This is everything. Without a leader, you don’t have a tribe. You only have a crowd.
Marketing is really about leading people who already want to follow. They just need a leader to take them where they already want to go.
- Be generous. The old marketing was about taking from people. As it turns out, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (see Acts 20:35) is a brilliant marketing strategy. When you lead by serving and by giving, people follow.
- Provide a way to communicate. People need a way to communicate. They need a way to share their stories.
In Tribes, Seth outlines four kinds of tribal leadership. If you are going to be serious about building tribes, you have to provide for all four kinds of communication.
- Tribe leader to tribe member.
- Tribe member to tribe leader.
- Tribe member to tribe member.
- Tribe member to outsiders.
The real issue is no longer whether or not your publishing company or record label will market your product and give you the visibility your need to succeed. It is really about whether or not you are willing to step up and provide leadership to a tribe of fellow travelers who share your passion.