When we think about leadership in the context of business, marketing isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. Usually, when we think about leadership in business, we think about motivating our employees. Leadership is the softer side of management. Management is about controlling the behavior of employees, and leadership is about inspiring the behavior of employees. But, for business executives, both management and leadership center around relationships with employees.
In this article, I want to take leadership in a different direction. I want to discuss, not leading your employees, but rather leading your customers. In an increasingly transparent marketplace, where the dialogue between customers and business leaders is becoming more direct, playing a leadership role for your customers is more important than ever. Marketing is no longer an ancillary function of leadership—they are now amazingly intertwined. Marketing, in today’s day and age, can simply be defined as leading your customers. Let’s talk a little bit about what this looks like in the real world …
In 2008, marketing expert Seth Godin wrote a leadership book called Tribes. The subtitle: “We Need You to Lead Us.” That’s exactly what customers are telling business leaders. Customers in a variety of industries share interests with other customers. Those with shared interests, either consciously or subconsciously, form a tribe. And they are looking for a leader—looking for someone in business to provide them with the marketplace solutions that they need and can rally behind.
“A tribe,” Godin tells us, “is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another.” Perhaps you haven’t thought much about connecting to your customers as their tribal leader. Perhaps you have separated yourself from your marketing efforts … for a long time, such a separation made sense. Before the Internet, communication with customers was less direct and business leaders could be somewhat detached from marketing efforts. Now, in an age where consumers can speak directly to business leaders, it is imperative that business leaders be willing to respond. “Leaders lead,” Godin says, “when they take positions, when they connect with their tribes, and when they help the tribe connect to itself.” Isn’t it time that you connected with your tribe?
So, what is your tribe and how do you connect with it? Well, another way of asking this question is, “Who are your customers and how do you connect with them?” In the new economy—the age of free flowing information and communication—marketing is no longer about advertising to customers. Marketing is now about connecting with customers. In other words, it is more important than ever that you the business leader play an active role in communicating directly with your customers. The time of leading your customers has come.
Does this mean that traditional advertising is dead? Have television commercials, print ads in trade magazines, billboards, radio spots, and other forms of one-way communication become ineffective in this brave new world? No, of course not … traditional advertising still serves a purpose. It isn’t dead. On the contrary, the problem is that it is far too alive.
Consumers have been bombarded with advertisements for decades and, consequently, have trained their minds to filter out most of them. Investing in your marketing efforts in new media (such as e-mail marketing, social networking, Webinars, etc.) isn’t about replacing traditional advertising. Rather, it is about rendering traditional advertising more effective. Consumers still watch TV, listen to the radio (even Internet radio has ads), and drive along the street passing billboards. Consumers are still exposed to traditional, one-way media. So, if they do run all of the media they encounter through a mental filter, what media really sticks? I believe that it’s all about trust.
Leading your customers in the new economy is all about building trust. When customers connect with you through a social network or sign up for your e-mail newsletter, they are extending their trust … they are joining your tribe. They may not ever buy anything from a link on Facebook or in your e-mail newsletter. But when they are flipping through a magazine and they see your ad, they will take notice of it even if no other ad in the magazine sticks out. If they are in the market, you can be sure that you are the one they will call. Why? Because they trust you and they are a part of your tribe. Because you are leading them.
So, let’s delve a little further into how you can use new, interactive media to lead your customers and build trust in your tribe. For the rest of the article, I want to talk about two essential components of new media, content marketing and social networking, and how they play into one another to help you be a more effective leader for your customers. First, let’s discuss content marketing …
Content marketing is all about being seen as a trusted resource for information. It isn’t a platform for talking about your products or services. Rather, it is a platform for giving advice to your current and potential customers. Who are those customers? As mortgage bankers, they are potential homebuyers. So, what kind of advice should you be sharing? Advice about purchasing homes or even ancillary advice about home improvement, increasing the value of homes, or even lifestyle commentary about creative uses for rooms in homes. Basically, you will want to provide useful information centered on customers and their homes. That’s it.
Content marketing can take many forms. Probably the oldest and still arguably the most effective is the e-mail newsletter. Create a monthly or weekly e-mail that you send to subscribers that contains homebuying tips. But make sure they opt-in to the list—that they willingly sign up. Then, you know you are providing information to potential customers who actually want it. So, how do you get people to sign up for your newsletter? That’s where a blog comes in.
A blog is part of your Web site that consists of entries (or blog posts) displayed in reverse chronological order. The purpose of the blog is much like that of the newsletter, but for a more general audience. You are providing information that anyone can get access to. Give general advice on your blog and save the best stuff for readers who sign up for your newsletter after reading your blog. The best thing to do for your blog is to take frequently asked questions and write out the answers as blog posts. When you provide useful information to potential customers, you build trust. That’s what content marketing is all about.
The second key component of new media is social networking. Whereas content marketing deals more with trying to get customers onto your website, social networking is about meeting customers where they already are. The big three social networks at this time are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. As a mortgage banker, you can leverage each of these platforms to build relationships with potential buyers and position yourself as a leader in their “homebuying” tribe.
Facebook is a “closed” social network. That means that you can only communicate with the people who have “Liked” your Facebook business page or have become “Friends” with you as an individual on Facebook. Also, Facebook tends to be more personal. I would recommend Facebook for building relationships with family and friends, making it clear to them what you do for a living. You can also use your Facebook page to interact with people you don’t know. Facebook is the world’s largest social networking platform and it isn’t going away anytime soon.
Twitter is an “open” social network. That means that you can interact with anyone on Twitter, whether they “follow” you or not. Use Twitter as a way to connect and discuss issues with potential home buyers. Obviously, you eventually want to get as many “followers” as possible on Twitter. Those are the people who will see the messages that you send out. But I would suggest starting off by interacting with people. Once you show interest in them, people will follow you.
LinkedIn, like Facebook, is a “closed” social network. You can only interact with people to whom you are connected. But, unlike Facebook, LinkedIn is more professional in nature. As someone in the mortgage banking industry, you probably have a large amount of professional connections. Use LinkedIn to solidify those relationships and position yourself as a thought leader in the mortgage banking industry.
Again, I want to reiterate that traditional advertising isn’t a thing of the past. It’s still important for building brand recognition. But, as far as building brand loyalty, you’ll want to focus on new media. In the end, people are going to do business—especially when that business is as costly as buying a home—with people and entities that they trust. Now more than ever, marketing is about building trust with your customers. Marketing is about positioning yourself as the leader of your customer’s tribe. Marketing is about leading your customers.
David Lykken is president of mortgage strategies and managing partner with Mortgage Banking Solutions. He has more than 35 years of industry experience and has garnered a national reputation, and has become a frequent guest on FOX Business News with Neil Cavuto, Stuart Varney, Liz Claman and Dave Asman with additional guest appearances on the CBS Evening News, Bloomberg TV and radio. He may be reached by phone at (512) 977-9900, ext. 10, or e-mail email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.