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Start with a Tribe, Then Build a Village

Our world is rapidly changing to a hyper-niche culture where consumers are searching for products or services designed specifically for their interests and lifestyle.


Gone are the days when you’d purchase a generic Rogers cable package.  Today, people with common passions and interests, tribes, are purchasing specific content packages; NHL Center Ice, The Food Network, or subscribing to their favourite YouTube channels! Why bother with all the other content you don’t care about, right?

The overload of information on the Internet, mixed with a change in consumer expectations has created the perfect storm for marketers.  The noise to signal ratio is greater than ever and growing every day.  This means as an entrepreneur you must build a product, service or messaging targeting specific tribes of consumers.

If you don’t, you’ll just be average.  As our Entrepreneur-In-Residence, Alan Quarry, would say, “Want to be successful? Be allergic to average!!”

What is a “tribe”?

87900_389x292As marketing guru, Seth Godin, explains in his book, a tribe is any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another by common interests, goals, an idea, or a leader! (If you’re not much a reader check out Seth Godins incredible TEDtalk!) We all belong to a tribe, if not many tribes.  Our tribe is a group of people or place we feel our personal identity belongs. What tribe do you belong to?

As an entrepreneur, it’s your job to find the tribe you’re going to lead – most importantly, the group of people who best fit your products value proposition!  This is the group of people you are solving problems for!

Why should you care about tribes?

Like many entrepreneurs you want to put your dent in the world, right?  Disrupt the way things are done and create change?

Chances are, your goals are big.  Really, really big! HUGE!

Well, if you’re setting out on this mission you’re probably pretty bright and realize you can’t do this yourself.  If you want to accomplish this mission, you are going to have to connect with and lead the tribes who support your mission.  Better yet, if you’re striving to reach that tipping point, enlist your tribes to help you #makeithappen.

Working with your tribe members isn’t something you start doing once you are ready to officially launch a product.  It starts from day one, the moment you start doing customer development meetings and problem-solution interviews.  Leverage the qualitative and quantitative information you gather to build your customer personas (a fictional description of your ideal tribe member).

If you take the time to segment your customers into tribes from day one you will be in a much greater position to classify prospective customers and understand which tribe or customer segment has the greatest pain points or sees the most value in your product.

We’re making it sound like quite the challenge, I know, but you’re in luck!  Thanks to the Internet, common barriers such as mountains and oceans (traveling), time (our most valuable resource), and money have been eliminated, making it easier than every to find tribes.

Much like a traditional aboriginal tribe, tribes all have chiefs aka influencers; people the tribe respects and looks to for guidance or approval!

If your product can hit home with the chief, your tribes will naturally follow because they want to! Wouldn’t that be nice?

How to create your customer persona

Assuming you’ve clearly identified the problem you are solving, it’s time to spend some quality time thinking about whom you are helping out specifically.

Put on your thinking cap and get granular.  The end goal is to create a persona personality; a story for the members of each tribe that exists within your target market.

madonnaFirst, give your persona a name.  Bill, Joey, Madonna…a name your organization can refer to this internally.  For the sake of conversation we’ll assume you’ve picked Madonna. Next, gather some background and basic demographic information about Madonna.  Where does she work?  What is her education? What life stage is Madonna going through? Gender, age, income… all the basics.

Now it’s time to get to the heart of it all.  What are some of Madonna’s goals specific to the context of the problem you are trying to solve with your business?  What passions and priorities are these goals aligned with?  What’s a day like in Madonna’s life?  What are some of the challenges Madonna faces? What products has Madonna shown loyalty to in the past?

We even recommend you attach a few real quotes from Madonna that represents her persona well for your team members to relate to!

Start with the end in mind.  What lens does your customers see through?  Take time to create and document personas for each tribe that exists within your customer base.

Check out this great template from Hubspot to help you get pen to paper: “A Marketer’s Template for Creating Buyer Personas”.

A few things to keep in mind.

After creating your persona stories ask yourself, who are the influencers for each tribe, aka the chiefs!  Who does your tribe listen to?

Where do your tribes hang out day to day?  Can you easily reach them through your communication channels?  Are the tribes large enough for you to justify allocating resources and time?

What type of language does each tribe speak? No not English, French, Spanish etc… what lingo or terminology is exclusive to the members of each tribe?  This is a crucial point to keep in mind because you are going to have to create brand messaging specific for each tribe that exists within your market.

Once you do this experiment.  Test to see which messaging works best between tribes?  Which tribe are your true believers?

Find the true believers

When you take the time to really define the tribes you are targeting, you won’t appeal to everyone, and that’s a great thing!

With content becoming hyper-niche you are far better off having 90/100 people LOVE YOUR PRODUCT, than 1000/10,000 thinks it’s alright.

Use your messaging to organize people, the true believers.  This will create the movement you’ve been waiting for and help you come closer to that tipping point every entrepreneur is trying to reach!

Start with one tribe, then build a village.



Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 12.06.10 AMDave Inglis

Entrepreneurship Community Coordinator