Fan Funded: The Most Exciting Thing in Marketing Today

There’s a type of marketing being done today that is changing the way companies are built, and not nearly enough people are talking about it.

The Site:1 speaker from Princeton Audio was marketed and launched entirely through social media and crowd funding.

There’s a type of fan funded marketing being done online, especially on social media, that is actually changing the way companies are built, and not nearly enough people are talking about it.

One of the things that’s really worked well to get my attention as a consumer has been Facebook ads. Marketers have been able to dial those in to my personal interest with shocking accuracy. A lot of the time companies reaching me via Facebook are ones I’ve never heard of before. And often, they don’t even have a product to send me yet. … But they can still sell it to me!

That’s the really exciting thing to me. Platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo allow companies to launch without a product, without a lot of funding, and essentially presell enough product (with add-ons and kickers to boost order value) to guarantee the success of their first product.

In fact, one of the most successful of those for me has been for a product that doesn’t even exist yet, but I was very ready to spend $300 on: The Site:1 speaker from Princeton Audio in Wisconsin.

I didn’t actually end up buying one of these speakers, but only because the best speakers I currently own are probably the ones in my TV, so I’m not the kind of audiophile who can justify (to his wife) spending $300 on a speaker.

The marketing was done entirely through social media, Indiegogo, and word of mouth, and it had me totally sucked in. I was an inch from pulling the trigger, and I still might.

That marketing campaign created over $62,000 in funding, all of which represents various kinds of presales of the main speaker and various perks/upgrades. That’s more than enough to reach their goal and launch the company.

Think of what Princeton Audio did there. Too often we look at crowdfunding as nothing more than a donation engine. But that’s not really what’s happening here. This is the new face of social marketing, call it “fan funding,” and it is so powerful that it can actually let you use marketing to launch the company.

That’s really a 180-degree turn on the traditional way start-ups grow. Usually you come up with an idea, bring in a partner, bring in angel investors, then venture funding … all the while trying to develop your product and make some revenue on it. Marketing is secondary because your early goal is to get investor funding.

Fan funding lets you do the opposite. Instead of investors, you attract a fanbase, and that’s a marketing foundation that can carry your company for the long run.

The power of the fan funding/social media marketing platform in this case was enough to get to me, a guy who sees thousands of ads a day and doesn’t even own a stereo, to seriously considered buying one of these high end speakers. (I would love to know what in my Facebook profile tugged their ads in my direction.)

Princeton is hardly the first company founded on crowdfunding that’s gotten my attention, either. Just a few months ago I did buy into a product called Cthulhu Wars by a man named Sandy Petersen.

Why Raving Fans Are Money in the Bank

Blue Bell Ice Cream is an iconic brand for millions of consumers in the South. But this spring, a listeria outbreak linked to Blue Bell Ice Cream shut them down from April to November. Normally, this would spell disaster for a brand. But not Blue Bell. Instead of customers flocking to other brands, they impatiently waited for the return of this iconic brand. Consumers weren’t concerned about getting listeria. They were concerned about …

How Blue Bell's raving fans reacted when their product came back.
How Blue Bell’s raving fans reacted when their product came back. From Nola.com.

Blue Bell Ice Cream is an iconic brand for millions of consumers in the South. But this spring, a listeria outbreak linked to Blue Bell Ice Cream shut them down from April to November. Normally, this would spell disaster for a brand. But not Blue Bell. Instead of customers flocking to other brands, they impatiently waited for the return of this iconic brand. Consumers weren’t concerned about getting listeria. They were concerned about when Blue Bell would return.

Little was ever mentioned in local media or social media from consumers about the fear of getting sick. And when Blue Bell came back last month, there were lines of customers and local news reporting put Blue Bell in the headlines daily.

This level of loyalty is unusual, especially when tainted product could produce serious illness and in some cases death. Still, the Blue Bell brand prevailed.

It took millions of outside investment dollars from a wealthy Texan to keep the company in business, but this investor could see why throwing his money at this would pay off.

The reason? Blue Bell doesn’t just have customers. It has raving fans.

Credit to Memecrunch for this one. https://memecrunch.com/meme/3N7JY/i-has-blue-bell-ice-cream
Credit to Memecrunch for this one.

Cultivating raving fans is money in the bank. I’ve seen this with Blue Bell, and I’ve seen it in a niche market for a performing chorus whose marketing I oversee (where last weekend we again sold out Christmas Show performances and thousands of CDs and digital downloads of a brand new recording).

So what does it take to create raving fans? I think the foundational requirement is this: Consistently producing an extraordinary product over an extended period of time.

And how can you emulate a successful company to support an extraordinary product?

Blue Bell's Homemade in the Shade product announcement.
Blue Bell’s Homemade in the Shade product announcement.
  • Know what your customer wants
  • Stick with your product … be careful with changes or upgrades
  • Consistent message and brand
  • Meet your customers where they are, in the right channels
  • Always deliver exceptional customer experiences and service

When you have the loyalty of raving fans, even when things are down, they’ll support you. Raving fans will market your product for you on social media. In a crisis, local news media will often pick up the story because they’re driven to report what people want to hear or read (which drives more advertising dollars for the media).

Want to take more money to the bank? Cultivate raving fans.

Why Is Customer Loyalty So Hard to Get? And How Can You Get It Now?

Companies like Apple, Coca-Cola and Harley Davidson must have a secret formula. Customer loyalty for them goes beyond the norm. Calling the people who buy their products “customers” doesn’t do justice. “Raving fans” is a much better description. Billions of dollars are spent every year on customer relationship management in an effort to inspire loyalty. Reward programs are implemented and abandoned when the cost to maintain exceeds the return. Loyalty is hard to get and easy to lose.

Companies like Apple, Coca-Cola and Harley Davidson must have a secret formula. Customer loyalty for them goes beyond the norm. Calling the people who buy their products “customers” doesn’t do justice. “Raving fans” is a much better description.

Billions of dollars are spent every year on customer relationship management in an effort to inspire loyalty. Reward programs are implemented and abandoned when the cost to maintain exceeds the return. Loyalty is hard to get and easy to lose. This is why the companies that have it guard their brand image with a vengeance.

The benefits of good customer/company relationships are well known. When people feel connected to a company, they become lifetime customers and advocates for the brand. Some companies naturally attract loyalty because of their product appeal and exclusivity. The rest have to earn it.

Earning loyalty begins with understanding relationships between customers and companies. Loyalty is hard to get because companies are focusing on the wrong things when they try to build relationships with their customers. Transactional and service relationships are the only type that people want with companies. All of the talk in social media about anything deeper is fantasy. Trying to connect with people beyond fulfilling their needs and expectations is a waste of resources.

Social media is one of many channels that companies use to communicate with customers and prospects. It is an excellent way to share information about the company, products and events and interact with people. It is not a replacement for taking care of the basics that provide the foundation for loyalty. Trying to shortcut the loyalty process by creating viral content is ineffective. If you want an interactive social presence, start with the fundamentals that are endearing to customers.

People want simple and easy more than anything else. Life is complicated and short. They do not want to invest time in the buying process. Simplifying the buying decision and making it easy to purchase, return and resolve issues will do more to create loyalty and increase revenue than anything else. Multiple channels and a variety of tools are available that provide economical and efficient methods to improve the shopping and service experience. To fast-track loyalty for your company:

  • Clean House: Review every process, procedure and policy to insure it is necessary and as efficient as possible. The shorter the paths from initial contact to purchase and problem to resolution, the better. It makes it easy for customers and economical for you.
  • Improve FAQ’s: Answer questions before they are asked. Sometimes this means you have to anticipate the questions because people don’t always know what they need to ask. Including the questions that should be asked in the FAQ’s improves trust and reduces resistance.
  • Supercharge Emails: Add service emails to your marketing mix. Service emails educate and inform customers and prospects so they know what’s happening and how to interact with your company. Educated customers are happier and easier to serve.
  • Offer Self-Service: People don’t really want to talk to your company representatives. They find it easier to solve their own problems when possible. Providing self-service opportunities pleases customers and reduces operating costs.
  • Invite Feedback: Your customers are the best source of information on how to improve your business. Invite them to share their thoughts and make the process as easy as possible. Be sure to always respond with gratitude and information on how the suggestions will be used. It gives ownership and connects people to your company.
  • Do It Yourself: Before expecting your customers and prospects to do anything, try it yourself first. If you developed the process and cannot be objective, ask someone outside the company to do it with you watching. The pain points are quickly identified when this is done.