Steve Lawson recently posted an entry on understanding and measuring the path that fans take from simply listening to a song, all the way to ‘conversion’ into a fan.
That got me thinking about the Fan Funnel metaphor we use at ReverbNation. I am looking for feedback from Music Think Tank readers on the steps below and the process we use to enable artists to essentially operate a “Fan Funnel”. Our goal is to provide a framework for understanding the process, and to provide tools for the Artists to experiment with marketing and promotion efforts so they can see what ‘works’ for them. Here is a crash course in what the FAN FUNNEL is:
Step 1 - Exposure
People must be exposed to the content. Once exposed, there is some probability that they will either move down the funnel, or pass the exposure along to friends who may move down the funnel. People who check out the content are called ‘LISTENERS’. Certainly the quality of the content matters here. Good songs and good videos will have a higher probability of moving folks down the funnel, but for ALL artists, increasing the number of exposures will have a positive impact on their raw conversion numbers. As a result, we began to provide tools for increasing exposure for the artist (widgets that make it easy to post the music and let fans spread it, street team functions so that the Artist can encourage existing loyal fans to spread it for them, applications for social networks, etc).
Step 2 - Starting A Relationship With The Fan
Once a person is exposed to the content, it is imperative that the Artist offer up some way for them to identify themselves to the Artist as a ‘FAN’ of the music. This could be going straight to a ‘conversion’ by letting them join the street team or providing them with a purchase option, but most often it simply manifests with a person joining the mailing list or just identifying themselves as a ‘FAN’ of the Artist. We ensure that potential ‘FANS’ can do this with every exposure tool we offer. Its critical that Artists OWN this ‘FAN’ relationship for themselves, and not RENT them from the various social networks on which the relationship was created – more on the importance of this later.
Step 3 - Converting FANS Into STREET TEAMERS
Once you OWN the relationship with the ‘FAN’, you have a ‘pipeline’ of folks that you can talk to, on your own terms, and in any way you wish. This is critical to success by our observations, as this allows the Artist the most flexibility in the messaging they convey to their ‘FANS’. The next logical step, beyond asking them to buy a product (ticket, song, t-shirt), is to ask them if they want to exchange loyalty or behavior for something of value to them (something you can give away that actually deepens the relationship with them, like a backstage pass). This is the act of building a ‘STREET TEAM’. Artists that have ‘STREET TEAMS’, all else equal, find much more success than those that do not. In addition, these Artists have the ability to execute marketing and promotional programs for less money than those that do not possess a ‘STREET TEAM’, as they work for non-monetary items like being put on a guest list, etc.
Step 4 - Getting Fans To Promote You
Now that you have some ‘STREET TEAMERS’, the next step is to give them tasks to do that promote your music or add more ‘FANS’. This can take many forms, but usually involves prompting them with the right tools and clear instructions on where to post your content on the web in order to help you (something you need to OWN the relationships to do properly). Many Artists have an untapped base of extremely loyal fans who have never been engaged to actively help them grow their popularity. This is a wasted marketing asset. The most successful Artists that we have observed tap into their fans at least once per month to help them spread content, recruit new fans, or promote a specific product (we provide tools to help them do this). You are probably thinking that this can only help established Artists, but we have seen the power of this tool for even the newest Artists, and it is POWERFUL. Remember, Artists with smaller followings often have a familiar relationship with their fans (read: friends and family) where established Artists only have an affinity relationship. It is often the case that these close relationships can be the seed crystal that these Artists need to grow from obscurity to local recognition in their area.
That is the ‘FAN FUNNEL’ in a nutshell, and it is the framework with which we encourage Artists to view their business. We provide ‘FAN FUNNEL’ stats directly to every Artist that uses our site in hopes that they will use it as the framework for understanding how to approach the challenges they face at growing their popularity. It is based on the empirical evidence we have around the things that make a ‘successful’ Artist. Soon we will be able to incorporate the actual sales data that come back from digital retailers like iTunes, closing the loop on how the activities of the ‘FAN FUNNEL’ impact real business objectives like selling music.
But the ‘FAN FUNNEL’, even as it grows in scope, is deficient in some respects. It does not take into account the relative value of your content above other Artists (comparing you to standards in your genre), nor does it factor in a few other things of critical importance to understanding how you are doing, overall, at growing your fan base in both breadth and depth (especially depth). For this, we developed an overall metric of the Artists’ ability to develop and nurture fan relationships called ‘BAND EQUITY’. I will post a follow-up entry on how we look at this concept, but I’d love your feedback on the FAN FUNNEL in the meantime.