|Photo: Hougang United Football Club|
One of the best ways to grow a fan base is to turn the converted into recruiters. Religion is thousands of years old and growing strong because they deciphered this marketing technique a long time ago. Jesus walking along the Sea of Galilee found Peter and Andrew casting their nets. He told them: 'come and follow me and I will turn you into fishers of men'. That was the beginning of turning of converts into evangelists (advocates).
This is one of the greatest marketing techniques ever discovered because it uses friends to bring friends, brother to bring brother and sister as well as acquaintances. In no time the following has multiplied. Nothing grows a fan base like this technique if applied properly. All religions have utilized this system since time immemorial. This explains why religions keeping growing from strength to strength. In my own neck of the woods every space in which a shop fails, a church has sprouted and they all seem to be thriving. Any team that uses this technique will grow an enthusiastic loyal fan base very quickly.
But the question is how do you turn fans into evangelists? Let us understand who customers are and who fans are. A customer is defined by the Oxford dictionary as a person you serve, protect and nurture. A fan on the other hand is everything above and he is also part of you. The major problems that keep fans away from the stadium include competing goods and amenities but more importantly the alienating of the fans by the clubs they support. Most clubs are very remote and exclude the fans. They just pay leap service to issues concerning fans and only need them when they want their custom. There lies the genesis of empty stadiums and poor merchandise sells. If your club wants to get a die hard following, then you have to walk the extra mile. This is a mile very few clubs are prepared to walk. This is a mile to increase the loyalty of your fans, bring them closer to the club, improve their experience, make the fans and the club into one and they will become evangelists.
What needs to be done to lure fans and turn them into evangelists?
- Put the fans at the heart of your football club. Your club should start seeing your fans as a major ingredient of the club and not an irritating necessity. Mould your club in such a way that it starts to be receptive to the needs fans. Every person from the Chief Executive to the last person in the club should be taught how to handle and deal with fans courteously and quickly. If a fan calls the club, regardless of the touch point he must treated with courtesy and given the necessary help quickly. This is very difficult to pull off, but possible. This is what makes your fans rave with happiness.
- Give the fans free information of what is going on in the club frequently. If you win communicate with the fans. They want to know what went right. If you lose communicate, they want to know what went wrong. If you are bringing a new player let the fans know and if you are dropping a player communicate the details. Do not use mass media to communicate use direct communication with the individual fans. It will seem cumbersome but that is the price that has to be paid to turn fans into evangelists and word-of-mouth marketers for your club. One on one communication with each fan is becoming easier with the advent of the internet and mobile technology. The more knowledge you share with the fans the more they will tell other disengaged fans about it. The more they will try to lure them to come and share in the experience.
- Continuously gather information from the fans. What do they want to happen at the club? What do they see going right or wrong? Gather the good and the bad information and communicate with the fans what your decisions are. If the advice you get from them is good adopt it and let them know. You get evangelists by doing this.
- Build word of mouth networks and train them in recruiting techniques. Let the fans know that they belong and it is their duty to recruit new fans. Each fan should continuously bring new people for games and into the fold. They should introduce these fans to the club people involved with fan relationships so that an attempt is made to relate to these fans. Reward fans who are bringing new fans.
- Create a community and empower it, this where the supporter branches come in. You have to support them with issues that they have to discuss and roles they are supposed to play. You have to send people from your office to give them a feeling that they belong. You have to train them in mass mobilization and how to work and treat each other. Reward them with experiences that they would not get from other teams. Call them to be part of open training sessions. Let them mingle with their heroes. This is a close encounter with their heroes that turns them into evangelists with the club than never before. Conclude the visit with gifts that they can hang on the walls to keep the memory going strong. Please, go on and do something different from other clubs. Turn your fans into evangelists.
- Give the fans gifts at very opportunity. The gift may actually not be expensive or tangible. It may be a visit from their beloved footballer or a personalized communication from the president of the club. These are small gifts the fans revere but hardly ever get.
- Create a cause bigger than football. Make your club focus on a cause more than football, for example you can select education as the theme of your club, good health or prosperity for all. The cause the club focuses on can be whatever you want, as long as it is a cause bigger than winning matches and then drive the people to try to achieve it with the power of football. A big cause may actually not be achievable and that is the beauty of it, because it keeps you working all through the life of the club and it attracts a lot of good press everyday for free. This cause also leads to strong emotional support for the club luring a lot of more people that would ordinarily not be interested in the club. This turns every fan into an evangelist. This is what religion does, it takes on issues that are so difficult to achieve and they keep working on these issues forever. This is what keeps them relevant and have remained so for thousands of years.
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