What Agencies Can Learn From the Way Rock Stars Turn Customers Into Fans

From Johnny Cash to Taylor Swift, New Book Examines Band-Fan Relationship

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When Johnny Cash was trying to revive his stalled career in 1968, he put together a comeback tour. Cash knew that he was going to get only one chance to make it. Inmates had become huge fans of his music, and Cash embarked on a risky strategy of recording his new album at Folsom State Prison in front of an adoring audience. The resulting album went to #1 on the country music charts, and "Folsom Prison Blues" was the country music Single of The Year in 1968.

In advertising terms, we would say that Cash had looked for his fan propinquity points and found them in jail, where he then made himself highly visible.

It's just one example of what agencies can learn from Mack Collier's new book, "Think Like A Rock Star." Collier examines how rock stars turn customers into fans. A lot of what he talks about directly applies (or should) to how agencies prospect for business.

Much of it focuses on regarding your prospects as human beings with whom you can develop a personal relationship. As technology has made it easier to work with non-local agencies, I fear that this particular skill is dying a little in our industry. We're hiding behind e-mail and phone calls, instead of investing in face-to-face or at least video conferencing. We spend all of our time trying to impress prospects with our intelligence, instead of connecting with them through our shared interests and passions.

As my first boss told me, brands hire people not agencies. Rock stars get this point, and invest time and effort in creating opportunities for their fans to bond with them as people, as opposed to performers. Collier offers two great examples of the approach.

One is Taylor Swift's T-Parties, mentioned in the book; the other is Zack Brown Band's Eat N Greets, which Collier covered in a later blog post. In both cases, these rock stars create events before or after their concerts where fans can meet them. These aren't autograph and photo sessions. They're an opportunity for adoring fans to develop a personal attachment to members of the band as individuals.

As an agency owner or someone in charge of business development, you can learn from these rock stars. Understand that a greater level of interaction leads to more likability, which leads to trust, which leads to advocacy. Social-media tools make it much easier to let prospects get to know you and your agency without your having to incur the cost and effort to throw live events as Taylor Swift and Zack Brown do. Leverage these tools to help you interact with and build tighter connections with your prospects.

Rock stars understand that listeners buy an album, but fans support a band. Fans buy the music, tell their friends to buy the music and feel a sense of attachment to the band that lasts over time. It's this support over the long haul that makes fans truly valuable and turns ordinary bands into stars. Leverage a rock star approach to turn your prospects into fans. Make it your goal to develop a loyal following that not only buys your blog posts, white papers and webinars, but will vocally advocate for your agency before the next RFP is issued.

Tom Martin is founder of Converse Digital. His first book, "The Invisible Sale," is available at TheInvisibleSale.com. You can follow him on Twitter.
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