Do It! Marketing Blog: Marketing for Smart People™

Marketing Coach: Build the Tribe Before the Tent

build the tribe before the tentBuild the Tribe Before the Tent

Have you ever wrestled with these problems?

  • I want more leads from my website
  • I need more subscribers to my newsletter
  • I can’t seem to generate any comments on my blog
  • I’m not getting any traction in my LinkedIn Group
  • It’s a huge struggle to fill my public workshops or events
  • I built an e-learning or video course but sales are disappointing
  • My Facebook business page is a ghost town
  • I wrote a great book and nobody’s buying it

I’ll stop there so you don’t get too depressed, OK?

We’ve all been there. And we all know that “Build it and they will come” is the last great false hope of the entrepreneurial class.

But in that statement also lies the answer.

Think about: “Build it and they will come”

Who’s “they”?

No, really - ask yourself this question.

Maybe even write down your answer on a piece of paper.


Most executives and entrepreneurs I work with who want to do a better job of marketing themselves and sell more products and services will come up with these answers:

THEY is:

  • My customers
  • My clients
  • My buyers
  • My prospects

OK, let’s take this one step further - who are your customers, clients, buyers, and prospects?

Here are some clues:

  1. They’re not strangers
  2. They’re not going to buy “sight unseen”
  3. They’re not going to buy on first contact

So what does THAT mean?

  1. They know you and your value proposition
  2. With them, you’ve built up visibility and credibility
  3. They buy (usually) based on a relationship, not on a single transactional impulse

Frankly, we all WISH buyers would buy ALL our products and services on a “transactional impulse” but that almost never happens, unless you’re running late night infomercials for knives - or insomnia cures. That one phone call - that one sales page on your website - that one email - that one postcard is almost NEVER going to make the sale.

Whatever product, service, or program you’re selling - the bottom line is simple:

You have to build the tribe before the tent.

Rather than this sequence:

  1. Invest time, money, effort, and energy (lots) to create a new product/ service/ program
  2. Offer it for sale
  3. Crickets. (Silence.) More crickets 

What if you created this sequence:

  1. Be as helpful as you can to as many people as you can as frequently as you can
  2. Build a loyal, fast-growing tribe of followers, fans, subscribers, and friends
  3. Offer value and invite engagement
  4. The next time you create something to sell, they’re lined up, credit card in hand, eager to buy the moment it’s released for sale

Who does this?

Rock stars. Artists. Gurus.


They built the tribe before the tent.

  • Your website = your tent
  • Your keynote speeches and seminars = your tent
  • Your professional services offerings = your tent
  • Your newsletter = your tent
  • Your coaching and consulting programs = your tent
  • Your blog = your tent
  • Your LinkedIn Group = your tent
  • Your workshops, conferences or events = your tent
  • Your e-learning or video courses = your tent
  • Your Facebook business page = your tent
  • Your book = your tent

At the beginning, who and what are inside these tents? Obviously - it’s you. And a small fire. Just enough to keep you warm.

Now imagine yourself running around between these ELEVEN different tents, frantically tending those eleven fires, scrounging around finding enough wood to keep each fire alive.

  • How much room is there in each of these eleven small tents?
  • How available are you to welcome visitors into any one of those tents?
  • How much of a success (or failure) would you feel like if you occasionally got between 2-3 visitors in each tent to sit down and tell you their story or enjoy a toasted marshmallow with you?
  • How much time could you spend with THEM before running out to one of the nine or ten empty tents and leave them to entertain themselves?
  • How long do you think they'll stay in that empty tent without you to serve as host and with the fire slowly sputtering out in your absence?

Hmmmmm... interesting questions, right?

Now imagine things the other way...

You have a thriving tribe...

  • You offer them value
  • You invite their engagement
  • They start to follow you around
  • First 5 people - then 10 - then 25
  • And pretty soon 50, 100, 200 or more...

At some point, these folks will want to sit down - they’ll get hungry - they’ll get cold.

So you build something for them - a tent - and they welcome the opportunity to sit down with you around a blazing fire. They’ve each brought a log. One has a lighter. Another brings out some hot dogs. Someone else brought baked beans. Others start to break out the marshmallows, graham crackers and Hershey bars - S’mores for everyone!

There’s ONE tent. It’s not YOUR tent. It becomes OUR tent. You’re the leader. The provider. The sherpa. The guide. They gladly follow you for two reasons:

  1. The experience you provide when they follow you (value, resources, stories, ideas, guidance)
  2. The community you’ve built around them (the tribe, the relationships, the company of like-minded friends)

build tribe before tent hintThis is a much larger conversation -- and it’s tied to a very exciting project that we’re working on with some of the coolest small business experts on the planet. Can’t say any more than that for now. But stay tuned and you’re sure to hear more about it soon.

But the question YOU need to ask for the moment is…

How can YOU build the tribe before the tent?

Because sitting around in a small empty tent, exhausted, cold and alone… well, that just isn’t a lot of fun, is it?

What do YOU think? What are some examples of “building the tribe before the tent” that you’ve experienced? Are there some people YOU admire whose business fits into this model? Please use the COMMENTS area below to share your thoughts and experiences…  

build the tribe before the tent

Tags: marketing for speakers, thought leadership marketing, trusted advisor marketing, marketing expert, marketing for trainers, small business coach, marketing ideas, marketing consultant, small business marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for consultants, doit marketing, do it marketing, doitmarketing, small business marketing coach