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Four Ways to Create an Army of Fans for Your Brand

by Mack Collier  |  
April 15, 2013

Rock stars and fans. They go together like peanut butter and jelly. Batman and Robin. Lindsay Lohan and house arrest... Well, you get the idea.

So why don't more companies have fans like rock stars? If you said "because everyone's naturally a fan of music," you'd be partly correct. True, rock stars do create products that are easy to be fans of. But it can't be just about the product, because we have brands making extremely "boring" products—industrial lubricants, diapers, and orange-handled scissors—that have armies of fans.

What's their secret? Why do rock stars have fans but companies have customers? The short answer: that's what rock stars and companies want to have.

Rock stars focus their marketing on connecting with fans. That's no revelation. But that approach is grounded in solid business sense. A 2010 Satmetrix study found that evangelists (which is fancy business lingo for fans) spend 13% more than the average customer, and they refer business equal to 45% of the money they spend!

So, if the average customer is spending $100, the fan is spending $113—plus referring business worth $51! What sounds better, getting $100 of business per customer, or getting $164 from each fan?

If you said most marketers would rather have $164 per fan versus $100 per customer, you would be wrong. In fact, the top goal for US marketers is acquiring new customers. That's right: Instead of placing the priority on connecting with their most passionate customers, most brands want to grow their customer base by acquiring new customers—who have little or no loyalty toward the brand.

The problem with that approach is this: It not only results in less business per customer but also costs more to acquire that business. On average, it costs 6-7 as much to acquire a new customer versus retaining an existing one. So if the choice is between marketing to a group that spends more and costs LESS to reach, or marketing to a group that costs more to reach and spends less.... well, that's really no choice at all, is it?

If you're ready to think like a rock star and cultivate an army of fans for your brand, here are the four steps you need to take.

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Mack Collier is a social-media strategist based in Alabama. He helps companies build programs and initiatives that let them better connect with their customers and advocates. His podcast, The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show, discusses ways that brands can turn customers into fans. His first book, Think Like a Rock Star: How to Create Social Media and Marketing Strategies That Turn Customers Into Fans, was published in April 2013 by McGraw-Hill.

Twitter: @MackCollier

LinkedIn: Mack Collier

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  • by Mark Masters Mon Apr 15, 2013 via web

    With every rock star, if you have an attitude of 'who cares who doesn't like me' then you cut through to those who want to listen and become part of your community. It's not a popularity contest, it's about standing for something you believe in.

    Now, time for me to find out how I can make 'Sex On Fire' apply to a cash flow forecast!

    Enjoyed the article.

  • by Rosemary O'Neill Mon Apr 15, 2013 via web

    Thanks Mack! This was really timely for me...we're in the process of building a formal program and this had some great ideas I can use right away.

  • by Mack Collier Mon Apr 15, 2013 via web

    Hi Rosemary! Glad the article was helpful, if you need any more help feel free to email me at

  • by Richard Dumas Mon Apr 15, 2013 via web

    Nice article Mark. There are some great community tools out there to help companies implement the strategies you suggest. At the high end there are products like Jive and Lithium and for the mid tier Get Satisfaction and DNN Social (one of my former projects) that enable organizations to add community functionality to their sites making it easier to identify and enable fans.

    Richard (

  • by Mari Baskin Mon Apr 15, 2013 via web

    Your headline grabbed me the instant I read it, Mack. We've learned that although our fans come in a variety of shapes and sizes their fan-rapture is interestingly homogeneous. As we redesign our site it's now up to us to implement your tips to better empower and embrace our fans. Thanks for a very useful article, especially your example for "the bigger idea."

  • by Mike Camplin Mon Apr 15, 2013 via web

    Great article, Mack. I ran a developer relations "fan" program for Kodak in the 90's for software develepors that influenced or purchased 40% of Kodak's digital cameras using many of the techniques you describe. Similar to your recommendation, we focused on the benefits our software "fans" mentioned in focus groups rather than the cameras themselves. The results speak for themselves. The program returned ROIs of 2-300%.

  • by Kris P. Mon Apr 15, 2013 via web

    Solid points, Mack. I've also had experience finding a group of passionate people around a brand to leverage an outreach strategy. It is honestly one of the most successful jump off points for a brand's social media strategy. Often times engagement with fans/follower is not about what the product is and does, but what that small group of passionates can do with it.

  • by Mack Collier Mon Apr 15, 2013 via web

    Thank you Mari, glad you liked the headline!

    Mike can you please email me at I would love to hear more about the program you were involved in with Kodak. LOVE how you focused on the benefits of using the product vs the product itself! I am always looking for case studies like this so I'd love to hear any additional information you are willing to share.

    So glad y'all are enjoying the article. This is a topic I am extremely passionate about because I believe when a brand understands and embraces its fans, it not only greatly improves the quality of its marketing (lower costs, raising effectiveness), but it also creates a much better experience for its customers, which drives up loyalty and increases sales!

  • by Great article! Tue Apr 16, 2013 via iphone

    Spot on! Identifying your real fans and who they are and what they love is so important and also a tremendous challenge. I sell a product that has a number of different types of Customers.. Trying to speak to them all has been a bust... Would love to discuss this with you if you have a few extra minutes... Thanks for your help!

  • by Mack Collier Tue Apr 16, 2013 via web

    Figuring out WHY your fans love your brand is very important, and very difficult. A lot of it comes back to simply engaging them and ASKING them what it is about your brand that they love. Maybe it's the design of the products, how they work together. Or maybe its stellar customer service, or maybe its your brand's commitment to protecting the environment.

    This is why I am constantly stressing the need for brands to connect with their biggest fans and TALK to them, so they can understand who they are, and what type of relationship they want to have with your brand. For every 100 fans your brand has, there may be 5 different reasons WHY they are fans of your brand. If you try to communicate with them all in the same way, your message may only connect with 20% of them, if that.

    Communicate, communicate, communicate. Too many brands view their fans as a marketing channel, when it's far more valuable to the brand (and by extension, their fans) if they view their fans as a FEEDBACK channel.

  • by Arnold Waldstein Tue Apr 16, 2013 via web

    Good read.

    Some good points for certain and great to be enthusiastic.

    Aspirational thinking causes change.

    But...I simply don't buy into the belief that the marketplace is flat as you presume and that all consumer fan behavior is equal.

    Simply not behaviorally true.

    Consumers relationship towards their musicians, brands like Apple, brands like Armani or Porsche are not the same and do not create the same emotive response as people have towards more practical apps.

    Take that part away from the post, I'm in. leave it in as it is, and I see this as more enthusiasm less guidance for action. Which is still useful

    No one believes in community as a core brand builder more than myself. I've built many and blogged endlessly on it.

    Experience tells me that all products don't engender it at the same level.

    My thoughts...

  • by Mack Collier Tue Apr 16, 2013 via web

    Hey Arnold! I agree with what I think is your point, that all fans are not created equally. That's true because all brands aren't either. They make different products aimed at different markets set at different price points, etc etc.

    But while certain brands creating certain products might more easily lend themselves to creating fans, even the most basic of products can create passionate fans. At the start of the article I talk about how Fiskars has turned one of the most basic products (scissors) and created a movement of passionate fans. They did this by understanding how their customers were using the scissors, and built a fan movement around HOW they used the scissors (in scrapbooking projects). A few years ago there was a fan-created Ning community for fans of WD-40 that became so popular that I believe the brand bought it and incorporated it into its corporate website.

    Is it easier for some brands to cultivate fans based simply on the type of product they make? Sure, but let's remember that customers become fans of a particular brand for a myriad of reasons, and type of product is just one of those reasons.

  • by Custom Made Embroidered Patches Wed Apr 24, 2013 via web

    Embroidered patches and emblems are awesome for branding.

  • by Cynthia Tue Apr 30, 2013 via web

    Great article. Much food for thought as I attempt to maximize potential with my website. Will be sure to pass this along to others in the small business world. We don't all have to be Apple to have a great fan base. (Particularly love the interactive company suggestions. People - fans - love to be valued and have input.) Thanks again!

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