Fans, Not Customers

I’ve been to 97 concerts in my lifetime. I know this because every ticket stub of every show I’ve ever seen since I was 12 lay under a sheet of glass on my coffee table. Some of the stubs are signed by my favorite musicians; some are tattered and torn from the pouring rain through which I stood and sung for hours. Some of the tickets aren’t even tickets! They’re napkins or flyers I stole from the venue because I just HAD to get a memento from every event.

And each day when I look at those faded pieces of cardstock, I don’t just think about some of the greatest memories of my life.

I think about being a fan.

A fan who would stop at nothing to watch his favorite bands play live – even if he’d already seen them 8 times before; even if he had to drive three hours each way; even if he had to skip school to wait in line to get tickets; and even if it meant staying out all night and failing his marketing exam the next morning.

Because that’s what fans do.

But does the term “fan” ONLY refer to a music lover, sports enthusiast or dedicated follower of a performing art? What about business?

Let’s ask Webster. It defines a fan as an “enthusiastic devotee or an ardent admirer or enthusiast.” They also have related words for fan like: addict, aficionado, buff, bug, devotee, enthusiast, fanatic, fancier, fiend, freak, lover, maniac, nut, groupie; admirer, collector, connoisseur, dilettante; authority, expert; cultist, disciple, follower, votary; backer, patron, promoter, supporter; partisan, zealot; booster, rooter and well-wisher.

Aha! Interesting. So it isn’t just painted faces and screaming audience members; it’s simply someone who “loves your stuff.” For example, maybe someone’s been to your website before. Bought your products before. Worked with your people before. Stayed at your hotel before.

Then one day they come to you and say, “You know, I just LOVE your stuff.”

If you ever hear those beautiful words come out of your customer’s mouth, congratulations – you have a fan. And fans are the most important people in your business.

Fans are better than customers because they’re devoted to you and your company. They stick with you and come back for more. And most importantly, they tell all their friends to do the same.

So the question is: how can companies create and keep their fans? Well, since the term “fan” is most often associated with music, let’s look at four great musical performers and bands – and see what they do.

FAN CLUB RULE #1: Fans crave an experience.
(See B.B. King)
FAN CLUB RULE #2: Fans will stick with you.
(See Dave Matthews Band)
FAN CLUB RULE #3: Fans will go to the ends of the earth for you.
(See The Stones)
FAN CLUB RULE #4: Fans don’t need to be sold.
(See U2)

The business world is obsessed with the word “customer.” In fact, if you type in the word “customer,” 174,906 books come up. And if you type in the word “fan,” 5,418 books come up.

My opinion? Customers, schmustomers. You need fans. Fans are people who will do your marketing for you, encourage and support everything you do, and most importantly, tell all their friends to step onto your front porch and become fans of yours too.

That reminds me: I was recently contacted by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) to give the keynote address at their 2006 convention. Right before signing the contract, I asked my newly acquired client an important question, “Why me?”

And do you know what he said?

“I love your stuff.”


How do you create and keep your fans?

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Scott Ginsberg
Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag


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Author. Speaker. Strategist. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. Gameshow Host. World Record Holder. I also wear a nametag 24-7. Even to bed.
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