Paying attention to one’s core customers is absolutely essential to the life any business. Nevertheless, it can also blind us from the opportunities that sit with those on the fringe of our “tribes”.
The ones who sit on the fringe are individuals that feel affinity towards our work, but have yet to buy into our products and/or services. Most of these individuals “like” or “follow” our work, but for whatever reason have not jumped fully into the tribe. As a leader of a company or organization in our fast-paced world, it may be very tempting to overlook these individuals and even ignore their voices in the name of efficiency or focus.
Don’t make this mistake.
I’ve learned over the years that those who sit on the fringe of our endeavors can often provide some of the best, unbiased commentary of our work. As a relative “outsider”, they are not obligated to create any kind of false reality to the tribe. I’ve made it a point in our business to seek out thoughts from those who are not our core customers. While they may not have a working knowledge of the ins and outs of our company, they do offer up fresh perspectives on how we are perceived by those who are not familiar with our work.
In addition, many of our client referrals come from these individuals who are engaging us from a distance. They may never become our customer or supporter, but I do find it fascinating that many of them believe in us enough to refer a friend in their network. The reality is that many may resonate with only a few elements of our work. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that they are not being mindful of how we may more fully serve someone else they know.
You can’t do everything, but you can do something.
Time and resources may prevent most companies and organizations from engaging those who sit on the fringe of their work. Nevertheless, we can do something. In fact, we must do something. Here are some ideas:
- Start small and take time to listen to not only your core customers or supporters, but also those who are distant from your work and yet choose to engage you from time to time.
- Ask questions without a sales pitch. Ask those on the fringe to give you insights into why they feel affinity towards your work. Listen and learn. Social media might be a good channel through which you may be able to individually engage these individuals.
- Celebrate the fringe by highlighting the thoughts or work of those who cross your path from time to time. We must regularly think outside of the immediate success of our own companies.
- Articulate your desire to have people, whether customers or not, to engage your thoughts in an open manner. Give people intuitive opportunities to speak into your ideas.
There’s an untapped wealth of knowledge and networks on the fringe of any company or organization. Don’t ignore those outside of your core. Embrace the fringe.