Inspire Your Tribe with Tribe Leadership


Tribes can easily set a business apart - just look at Apple. But creating your tribe is only part of the story. To really mobilise your tribe and inspire loyalty, it needs strong leadership. Tribe leadership is close to customer-centric leadership and it’s fast becoming the competitive advantage to separate average brands from the Apples and Amazons of the world.

In fact, Amazon is a great example of a brand that has built a customer-first culture. Likewise, Zappos is another company that’s spent years to create a culture around its customers. In fact, Zappos will even fire employees if they fail to fit in with their customer-centric ethos.

Building loyalty

Zappos Head of Customer Research, Alex Genov, suggested the following steps to help build loyalty with customers:

  • Being customer-centric and not technology-centric.

  • Understanding customers as people, not just customers or shoppers.

  • Break down organisational silos to open-up customer understanding.

  • Inform your wider business about any developments or goals.

  • Focus on building a company culture with your customers at the centre.

A positive experience

Tribe leadership marketing involves running your business in a way that provides a positive customer experience throughout. That’s before a sale, post-purchase and every step in-between. This doesn’t just drive repeat business, but also increases customer loyalty to a point where they feel moved to become part of your tribe. All that adds up to increased profits.

However, a customer-centric company is more than the service it offers. Econsultancy surveyed business leaders over their priorities when establishing a ‘digital-native’ culture. Leading the responses at 58% was to become more customer-centric.

Building your tribe leadership doesn’t happen overnight. It involves understanding your tribe, their needs, wants and ambitions, in great detail. 

Every stage

You need to connect with your customers at every stage and interaction with your company. From when they initially ‘find’ your organisation, whether that be online or happening across your brand on the high street. Then taking them through the purchasing process, a stage where they begin to ‘like’ your brand. Finally, there’s the post-sales phase when you can make them truly ‘love’ you. By doing this, you put your customers at the core of your business.

Changing the world

Tribe leadership is also about sharing a vision and inspiring your tribe to work together to achieve the impossible. 

The movement towards brands that are changing the world is highlighted through the most recent World Value Index. The #MeToo movement beats Chipotle in the rankings, whilst the  Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation beats YouTube. It highlights that movements are impacting consumers more than black and white businesses.

The economics

This perspective shift happened during the economic downturn. Customers have become more selective with the brands they use. Especially Millennials, a generation which businesses are finding tricky to target and build loyalty with. There is an increasing need for brands to show a purpose and tangible benefit in the world. Winning brands are ones which treat their customers with respect, great service, and that build a lasting relationship based on similar values.

Going digital

During the same time as the recession, social media marketing and social selling suddenly exploded onto the scene. Mobile also became a major part of the customer journey. Customers can now compare products and services in real-time and across multiple devices. Uniting bricks with clicks is a major customer experience challenge for many brands. Presenting a consistent front across all touchpoints is a crucial part of tribe leadership.

Stop siloes

That’s where organisational silos can hinder efforts. Customers who interact with stores and websites see themselves engaging with the same brand. However, behind-the-scenes there’s often a communication gap between departments that stops vital information being shared. That’s why Zappos highlights the breaking down of siloes as a key part of its customer-centric strategy.

But many departments are focussed solely on their own metrics and goals. The mindset needs to shift from convenience to embracing the organisation’s overall goals and working together. The only way to achieve this is to have strong leadership at the top - then inspiring others across teams, seniority levels and geographic areas (if relevant). 

Why tribe leadership works

Through tribe leadership marketing, you anticipate your customers’ needs in advance and can delight them with products and services that they might not otherwise have thought of - but that they will love. It’s creating products, processes, policies and a culture that supports customers. Think of the iPhone. It offers customers a great experience and helps them meet their goals.

Characteristics of tribe leaders

What sets tribe leadership-led brands apart from the rest is the following:

  • Passion: these brands live the ethos that the customer comes first. They believe that with no customers, they have no business (which is true). They live to see the world through their customers’ eyes. Marketers in these organisations focus on customer data and insights to really uncover what they want. Crucially, this information isn’t kept in marketing but communicated across the organisation.

  • Focus: the focus is solely on what the customer wants and needs - products and services are developed around that.

  • Relationships: they build relationships designed to maximise customer experience.

  • Strategy: they analyse, plan and implement a carefully formulated customer strategy that prioritises profitable and loyal customers - their tribe, in other words.

Everyone is involved

Great tribe leadership involves everyone. Every employee needs to think like a marketer, an innovator, a salesperson, a customer service rep, and much more. Every time a member of your tribe talks to your employees, you have an opportunity to meet their needs and expectations. It’s crucial to build experiences (both digital and human) that are genuine and transparent.

Your employees are the face and voice of your brand. Every interaction they have with your tribe makes a lasting impression. They must always place themselves in your customers’ shoes.

True tribe leadership

Tribe leadership builds unparalleled relationships with your customers and between your customers and employees. To become a tribe leader you need to inspire everyone in your organisation to work in a more customer-centric way. Every moment with your customer is gold. It’s the secret ingredient to building your tribe and making it last for years. 

As a true tribe leader you need to recognise that each sale isn’t just a sale. It’s a customer journey with the money that they’ve worked hard to earn. It’s achieved through listening, leading and always learning. Do it right and your tribe will stick by you through thick and thin, because you’ve earned their trust over the long term.

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Arnt Eriksen