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Strictly Business: Building Your Own Fan Club
Posted Feb 1, 2007 Print Version     Page 1of 1

Years ago, when fan clubs were the rage, you could write a letter to your favorite movie star or starlet and get an 8x10" autographed glossy photo. For a buck or two, you could get an "official" fan club membership card. Heck, if you were lucky, you might even get a birthday card "signed" by your matinee idol or favorite singer. Today, if you join a fan club—and yes, they're still around, doing as well as ever—most likely you use the internet as your gateway to all types of perks. Members get invitations to private CD or DVD release parties, premium tickets to performances, "members-only" pre- or post-performance events in your area—all meant to earn and keep your loyalty. And it works. No less an authority than Pete Townshend recently remarked that in their peak years, fan clubs were really the way groups like The Who kept on top of the charts. If you had half a million rabid fans who would buy everything you'd release the day you released it, you'd always be selling gold albums!

The interesting thing about brand loyalty (and certainly, your favorite music group has your loyalty) is that research has shown us that consumers are less motivated by the products and services offered than in the social links and identities that come with buying them. Think about it: How often have you purchased a t-shirt or some other memento from a concert or performance? I would guess it wasn't the quality of the product that motivated you to pay much more than it was worth.

We all have the need for food and shelter. And once those needs have been met, we need to belong to a tribe. You can be certain that merchandisers and advertisers count on that atavistic need to belong. Canon recently sent out a postcard to promote its Printmaster Workshop series, which states, "From Concept to Print, the Professional's Choice is Canon." I don't know if Canon cares whether I'm a "professional" or not—but it certainly wants me to think that I am.

Along those lines, if you drink Coca-Cola, you're part of the tribe that drinks "the real thing." Are you a member of a Corvette Club? The AARP? The Literary Guild? These are all examples of how merchandisers work to make us feel special—part of something bigger than ourselves.

How does all of this translate to your video production business? No matter what services you provide, or how big (or small) your sales volume, your continued success depends on your customers and prospects feeling good and wise about purchasing your video services. And that's where your very own fan club comes into play—because the strongest asset you have in marketing your business is yourself!

Here are four steps to building a fan club:

  1. Begin with name recognition. Send out press releases and direct mail pieces (postcards, for instance) that get the word out about you, your expertise, and the services you provide.
  2. Be everywhere you can. At social events, gain credibility by having friends and associates introduce you to others. Depending on your business, contact wedding planners, funeral homes, chambers of commerce, and business associations. Let them know who you are and what you do.
  3. Be the expert. Give a presentation on video biographies to a retirement community. Provide special tips to wedding planners on what brides need to know about wedding video. Let your local newspaper know you're available to answer questions on topics in your area of expertise.
  4. Be friendly. You want people to want to do business with you.

Once you've established a following, how do you keep it? Aside from doing a great job and keeping your promises, here are a few things that can keep your "fans" coming back for more.

A professional website is mandatory. When a customer refers someone to you, that potential client will most likely look for you online. You want them to find you and get a sense of your professionalism. You might set aside a private page for customers that includes information specific to their individual projects. You can also include links to resources and services outside your area of expertise. Some sites provide forums where members/customers can post questions and share information. Include a way to contact you directly, whether it's an email address or phone number. Respond within 48 hours. Connect with your customers via an email newsletter that's informative and light. Include tips and links to resources and services. Talk about what's happening in your business. Offer special deals and incentives. Send it out to a select list of customers and prospects. Make it something they will want to read, not delete.

One of the best things you can do for customers is host an open house. Most people don't have a clue about how your business works. Find an opportunity to invite your best customers and prospects for a behind-the-scenes look at what you do. They'll have a chance to meet one another and will leave feeling that much more "in the know."

Remember, whether you're doing weddings, producing corporate videos, shooting live events, duplicating discs, or transferring slides, people aren't buying your equipment or your wall full of awards. They're buying you. And right now, they're your biggest fans.

Steve Yankee has more than 35 years of video production and marketing experience and is the founder of The Video Business Advisor in East Lansing, Michigan.

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