There is a huge gap between "loads of people interested" and "here is my money / time / commitment etc." This is why it is hard to make it happen. Really hard. The first 60% is easy, this is why you should crack some skulls there before you get to the last 40%. That 40% is where the real effort is, that is where you have to get people to put their money where their mouth is.
Tribes - we need you to lead
I am a big fan of Seth Godin, his books Tribes and Linchpin are essential reading for me, I keep returning to them and working out a little bit more. I also love Marketing Like the Grateful Dead.
I have taken a lot from these books and put it into practice. Some has worked really well, The Late Late Breakfast Show and Making Social Part of Your DNA. Other stuff has flopped painfully, I mis-read the crowd, I assumed because it worked over there it would happen over here. I thought the people I was working with wanted to build long term relationships when actually they just wanted to sell some shit to anyone who might buy it.
How to make it happen.
I firmly believe you need to build a relationship with the people near you now to make anything long term happen. Frequently I see people chasing more and more new people when everyone they need right now is around them already. It is really inconvenient to pay attention to who is there already, learn about them, see what they need - you know take the time.
Recklessly adding people to an email list is a mugs game. Assuming that because someone has liked your facebook page, follows you on twitter or signed up to that email list means they "are in" is stupid.
Matt Hodkinson is has a little game he plays called "so what?" I think it is true, no matter how cool we think our thing is there are a zillion people asking "so what?" If you can answer a never ending stream of "so what?" questions to all those people you are well on your way to making it happen.
Build Your Community Before You Need It
Somewhere inside The Cluetrain Manifesto they tell a story of a tech company in Paris that is going to launch a new product. The CMO says "lets get this out there we are ready!" The Cluetrain dude replies that no-one is interested, it won't work, you have not built a foundation of people to talk about this. The tech company says something like "but we are mega-corp" everyone knows us, we have xxxx people on a list to tell about this.
What the tech company had failed to do it REALLY build a relationship and momentum with the list. All my best results come from a few people, I have a strong relationship with a few people with whom I have really put the blood sweat and tears in with. I have an ok relationship with around 500 more, they will give me the time of day but that is about it, this group I know I need to work harder with - suppose you could say they are "my list" - if I want to do something big in June 2013 I need to start showing these people the love NOW not in May 2013 - obvious but it is amazing how often we think everyone will jump when we say.
Worst Still - kidding my own arse
Often we will get a few results and think it worked. Every time I send an Engaging People email I get work. Also I get un-subscribes, I ask people to un-subscribe because I want a small vibrant list of interested people.
So I can say I have a very large community of people that buy from me but I am kidding my own arse. What is happening tough is that my community is getting smaller and the level of response is getting higher because I am able to be more accurate.
What we should look at is "how many did not" alongside "those that did". In London Bloggers Meet Up we have 1500+ Bloggers but only 100 turn up. 100 people in a Meet Up is awesome, but that still means we are not engaging 1400+ more.
Everyone knows that it is cheaper to keep a customer than it is to find one.
If I was going to build a community right now I'd work very hard at looking after the people I have so they bring people in. I would not run around trying to find more people, ultimately those people you have will recommend new people and in the long run your whole community will be stronger.
That is how you make it happen.
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