How to Create an Inner Circle?

March 21, 2011
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An inner circle is a group of people that care about your brand. They tell you what is right, guide you when you are wrong, and stand up to support your brand. These people are brand ambassadors who provide great testimonials.
You can create an insiders club that helps promote your community by answering questions.
Why should you? A retailer redesigned their web site. They hired an agency who recruited potential consumers. The new site was phenomenal, it was built by feedback, focus groups, A/B testing, & eyeball tracking. They paid the agency $1.5 Million!
A similar sized retailer reached out to their inner circle and solicited their feedback. People were grouped into three categories – those who provided feedback for free, those who provided feedback for a whopping discount, and those who were given a gift card to spend in a certain amount of time. This retailer spent less than $20,000. The first retailer took six months to redesign their site, the second retailer took less than half that time.
Having an inner circle is vital. They are your go to group of people. It takes a little time, some effort, and honest diligence to create this group.
Here is how you do it –
  1. List a ‘tell us what you think’ on every message that you send out. Not just email but across all channels. Ask people to rank your product, rank your service, and leave them a text box for comments. Use this information to update consumer preferences, and be sure that you follow up with the consumer as soon as they respond. Thank them for their answer, be genuine, and try to engage them with an email from you or a real person.
  2. Offer more than what they have ordered. Rather than just sending them a thank you email for a transaction, ask them if they would like a sample from you. Now reach out to them after a reasonable amount of time and solicit their feedback on the sample sent. Add those that respond to your insiders club.
  3. Use intrigue to connect. ‘How much does a family of four spend on drinks if they eat out a restaurant once a week throughout a year?’ This can lead to a calculator that is then used to help the individual come up with saving possibilities. ‘How much do you spend on gas in one year? What if you saved just 5 cents a gallon? What if we can find you a location that gives you cheaper gas?’ A question like this could lead to a site where you can find the best deals on gas.
You could run a caption contest on your social media sites as well. An intrigued consumer is an engaged consumer. The important thing in all these scenarios is to connect with the respondent with a follow up message from a real person. Next, segment them into a special list, and stay in touch with them over time. Reward them with previews, sneak peeks, and exclusive discounts (if you can). Set a goal of ‘x’ number of responses per campaign and do this across channel.
A Credit Union with a member base of 200K has about 13,000 insiders. A travel company has a list of over 2 Million, and an insiders club of 60,000 names. A retailer has over 50,000 go to insiders who give them counsel. The key is that they did it one insider at a time. Many set up real time insider clubs on social media sites like Facebook & Twitter. These people are a valuable group of followers.
Just keep in mind that when you communicate with them on social media sites you are in their space and that they are not in yours. Intrigue, engage, & thank each person who responds and watch your insider list grow! It is your ticket to success in 2011.