Making The Impossible Possible – by Dean R. DeLisle
November 9, 2009
10 Key Truths For 2008 – by Kevin Masi
November 9, 2009


Restructure your thinking to become part of your customer tribe


Traditional businesses are restructuring, moving from product managers and segment managers to business units. Business units are aimed at marketplaces. Marketplaces imply customers. Customers are human beings. To be complete, these restructuring efforts must begin and end with Tribal Intelligence®, deep insight into the needs and behaviors of their customers, if they are to succeed against stiff competition.


My agency provides marketing services for a charter jet company, which markets to both jet owners and charter customers. In the past, both client groups were mature business people, with long-time success records and upper-tier corporate lifestyles. They had assistants and mangers handling all the business details. Today, their customers include owners who are brokers and rock band members, many have come into their money in the past few years, some are still under the age of thirty. To these customers, jets are men’s toys (a few women, too) and badges of status. They want to get online themselves, check tail numbers and cabin configurations, arrange seating, limo pickup and details of the surrounding experience to be sure it comes off right for them and their entourage. To engage the changing interests of this tribe of the emerging wealthy, we are helping our client revise all their marketing rules. They are talking to customers with a net worth below $50mm in terms of smart success, efficiency and accomplishment. To those with net worth over $50mm, the priority is exclusivity, elite concierge customer service where cost is not an object, and flawless execution is imperative. A relevant partnership: sponsorship of training programs with elite pro-athlete gyms, both to connect with wealthy athletes and to offer world-class pro sports training to competitive executives.


Another client, whom we are helping restructure thought processes to better align with customer tribes, is a large cake decorating supply company. Growth has been good, but even so, the firm is warily eyeing the tribal activity showing up on various online communities, where enthusiastic cake decorators post photos, video and tell stories of delighting parties and young birthday celebrants with their multi-layer handiwork. To remain relevant to this baking tribe, the company is planning a community website of its own, to leverage their extensive reputation. They are beginning to see the potential





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business value created by conversation and excitement of their customers as they share with each other. They are learning to fear, that without participation in a community platform that allows user content generation, that their brand is at risk of being relegated to the dusty back shelves of craft stores.


These aren’t easy programs to undertake. They challenge the conventional wisdom of controlling marketing messages, of “pushing” advertising out to “target” audiences. They demand valuation and measurement of sometimes-intangible outcomes, both within the company and amongst customer audiences. However, these companies are also beginning to feel the benefit of hearing what their customers have to say, what they care about and what they want. They are learning to use search-marketing, rich content and Internet traffic analytics to make it work. They can see the potential of tapping the flow of customer tribe information as a source of new product development planning.


For these companies, the first steps into this new marketplace and Tribal Intelligence has called for restructuring of mindset and business model alike.