Read up on Part One of this interview here. You’ll get a better understanding of why David had this to say “I’m probably the only company owner who loves hate mail. I love it when I get tweets from people that say – Dear Sufferfest, F#@* you. Love ____”
Q. One of the Brains On Fire lessons for building movements is the idea of migrating online conversations to offline events. When I saw that I’d been invited to join the Sufferlandrian National Day Meetup, I thought it was brilliant and I wanted to ask you about how you came up with the idea.
A. This is the kind of stuff where I’m constantly amazed at how engaged people are. I was walking down the street and thought it’d be fun to do something to get Sufferlandrians together because they’re clearly a sick bunch of people. I get all kinds of emails from people saying “hey I saw someone riding down the street wearing your clothes the other day, there must be other Sufferlandrians in my town. Maybe we could do something to get together. I wonder if anyone would want to do that” So I found a Meetup that worked for them and this is what I mean by taking risks. I figured lets try it and see what happens. It turns out that it’s great! People want to do it, they want to organize. I put some stickers out there. Of course I’m learning how to do it as I go. I was trying to think of what to call the people who are organize in their cities, and called them Sufferlandrian Ambassadors. I do some stuff like post on Facebook saying that the Sufferlandrian government requests that all countries hand over the land under their bike torture chambers that it is now officially annexed as Sufferlandrian lands. You know just trying to get into this. The flags at first were a joke because I just wanted one but I had to make 10 and they ended up selling out in a day. Then people wanted more. Some guys were sending messages in saying things like “I’m going to the Tour of Flanders and I want to have the Sufferlandrian flag with me on a stick”.
I’m just kind of blown away by this stuff. I wish there was a grand master plan or strategy behind it but this is not the kind of stuff that you can grand master plan. It has to be organic, it has to be passionate, and you have to throw stuff out there to see what fits and the things that work, you go with. The things that don’t, you don’t. Then it just kind of snowballs. I’m just staying in tune with what works and what people like and I feel like I’ve got a pretty good gauge of that because if you look at my Facebook engagement (# Likes / # People talking about this) at times its at 14%. From what I’ve read that’s pretty high. People are leaving comments and trash talking each other and I can see what works and what doesn’t. I get abused on there too. I did my first race of the year and finished 8th. The Sufferlandrian community just did not think that was good enough and suggested that I start doing my own videos more often.
The Darkside clothes is another thing that just took on a life of it’s own. One of the basic principles of marketing is that scarcity creates demand. Again, I was thinking about myself. I hated wearing the same stuff that everyone else does. So I wanted to give guys a guarantee that they would be the only person in their town town wearing this kit. It just took off! Then guys started writing in asking if they could please have it because someone else has it in their city. I didn’t know how to respond to that because I wasn’t used to disappointing people. But I sometimes had to tell people no, and some people got really angry at that. I learned a lot from that.
Q. In retrospect, are there any tips that you could offer to people who want to build their own branded communities?
A. I remember reading about Nike and one of the things that made them successful was that the people working there were runners. They knew what their customers wanted because they were so engaged with the sport. I was just reading and article about GoPro and they were saying the same thing about how they hire. If you’re going do a community, you cant sit down and plan it out. You want to care intimately and be deeply involved to be able to understand the motivators of that community. I understand us. I understand what motivates us. So that’s got to be the first thing. You have to be able to understand and be a part of the community.
The second thing is that you can’t plan for it. It’s almost like Brownian motion. You got to go with the swirl. You have to throw something in to get it started. It’s got to be something interesting. You can’t go out there and just try to sell something, you have to put out an idea. Put out something that people want to share.
Be provocative. I dialed up the suffering to the extreme. Be polarizing. I would never say you should do base miles because that’s not what the Sufferfest is all about.
It is challenging to come up with ideas for Twitter, Facebook, emails. It’s a challenge thinking up of ideas to keep things fresh. If you don’t have the passion for it, you won’t find the time to work on it.
One of the other things that I see is that engagement levels of people peak and fallout. It’s easy to get really attached to some people. You have to be careful of investing too much time with a few people. You have to put effort into getting to know people. Just as they get to know the Sufferfest, you have to put effort into getting to know them.
Thank you David for spending so much time with me for this interview. Your thought’s on this topic are truely insightful and I hope others can learn as much as I have from you.
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