During the last thirty years, merchant bankers have drafted and polished to perfection the requirements for investing successfully in high-growth private companies. Lo and behold, those principles happen to be the same as the elements of tribal marketing. How come?
Like in any business riddle, the answer is already contained in the question: both venture capital firms and tribal entrepreneurs aim at a rapid multiplication of invested capital. What are the characteristics that identify the potential of a business to grow at a compound rate of 15% per year and beyond?
1.- PEOPLE IN PAIN. It is not difficult to sell dental services to someone suffering from a horrible toothache. You are bound to do well if your new product or service addresses an urgent unsatisfied need, but there are not that many of those. Failing real pain, a strong emotional desire will do. Satisfying entrenched passions is the card played by tribal marketing, which is equivalent to the old venture capital dictum of seeking customers with maximum pain.
2.- PEOPLE IN TARGET. You won't hit targets that you can't see or reach in a relatively efficient way. Before investing in a private venture, merchant bankers check if the customers of that business are, to a good extent, a homogeneous group. Is your product or service aimed at a group that you can easily reach, such as trial lawyers, paediatricians, or school teachers? Starting your own parade is an expensive marketing method. The most successful tribal marketers find an ongoing demonstration, approach protesters, and sell them T-shirts favouring their cause.
3.- PEOPLE IN TOUCH. The best markets are those where customers sell themselves. If your product or service delights ophthalmologists, they will tell their colleagues during their next conference. If you use such strategy, customers will find you on the web without your having to spend much on advertising. Investment bankers always search for this factor of “spontaneous marketing” when considering funding a new product or service. Tribal marketers often go beyond this level and they actually provide themselves an internet forum for customers to talk to each other.
4.- PEOPLE IN GROWTH. “How are you going to grow your company year after year?” is one of the toughest questions that a businessman must face when trying to obtain funding from a merchant bank. If your venture is destined to become a one-trick pony, your growth prospects will be too limited to justify a substantial commitment from professional investors. Tribal marketers use the clever approach of searching for items that can please their existing customers, instead of developing random new products which would require massive marketing efforts.
In essence, the answer is in the method. It is a matter of throwing away what doesn't work and focusing on the little cream that floats on skim milk.
- The highest barrier to success in venture capital investment is caring too much for a product, to the point of becoming blind to the market.
- The most difficult aspect of tribal marketing is forgetting about what you want and making the effort to understand other people.
[Image by dalbera under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]